Today, 1 July 2022, marks the beginning of the Czech Republic’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Following France’s turn, Czechia will be working in a somewhat uncertain environment, dominated by major political, environmental and economic emergencies.
Starting from the ongoing war in Ukraine and moving toward the inflation rates, which keep increasing, they set the scene for a bumpy ride. And as if that was not enough, the energy crisis and the consequent worries about next winter’s gas supplies add to this climate of tension. The question at this point stands on how the Czechs will be able to deliver concretely on these matters and on what the country will be realistically able to achieve during its Presidency term.
Priorities of the Czech Presidency
Overall, the country has presented its commitment to focus on five closely linked priority areas:
Concerning environmental and climate files, last 20 June, the Czech Environment Minister Anna Hubáčková presented the country’s EU priorities under the heading: “Energy independence, climate neutrality, resilient landscapes”, defining them as “fundamental tasks of our ministry”. In this context, the Central European country has pledged to find compromises between the EU’s 27 member states on key climate and energy legislation under the bloc’s ‘Fit for 55’ package. The most pressing files under this heading are the revision of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, the new Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, legislation to cut emissions from cars and vans, and supportive measures such as the proposed Social Climate Fund. Regarding energy security, it is interesting to note that the Czech Presidency will be pushing for the role of nuclear energy to meet the EU’s climate goals. Such a topic is traditionally controversial and is now particularly under the spotlight after the European Parliament committees objected to EU’s ‘green’ label for gas and nuclear in the EU’s green taxonomy.
As of now, Prague has successfully prepared for the Presidency, although concerns were voiced from different sides that the term will unfold in a relatively low-key manner. This is supposedly due to two main reasons: the first being the fact that a new government has just been installed in December, and the main priority, for now, seems to be that of firstly stabilizing politics on a national level; and the second one, because the Presidency will run on a somewhat limited budget compared to the last time Czechia held the EU’s helm (namely, from €151.9 million in 2009 to the current €56.7 million), as a result of the decision of Czech Republic’s former prime minister, Andrej Babiš, which saw Council presidencies as “wasteful”.
In conclusion, the next six months will represent quite a challenge to Czechia. From EERA’s side, we look forward to significant advancements in key climate and energy files, ensuring that sustained progress in the clean energy transition will be crucial to overcoming several environmental, political and economic challenges. For this, the EERA community remains ready and available to provide EU and national decision-makers with outstanding advice on how clean energy research can effectively contribute to navigating these uncertain times.