Czechs unveil "Three Es" as one "E" - energy - causes crisis in Europe

Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK

The Czech EU presidency unveiled its priorities for the next six months at a packed press conference on Tuesday, a press conference that was, however, dominated by the current crisis over gas supplies to the European Union. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and his deputy for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra did, however, get an opportunity to present the EU’s priorities for the next half a year.

Mirek Topolánek,  photo: CTK
The Czech presidency sums up the three priorities as “the Three Es” – Economy, Energy and the European Union in the World, under the slogan “Europe Without Barriers”. Mr Topolánek said that the slogan was extremely relevant in these current times of economic turbulence, speaking of the “internal barriers” in Europe that needed to be removed.

He added, however, that a Europe Without Barriers did not mean a Europe without rules and borders, saying securing Europe’s external border, for example, remained a priority. Mr Topolánek stressed that the Czechs had the full support of the EU, both big countries and small, in carrying out its agenda over the next six months.

Photo: CTK
The most important event in the “Economy” area will be working on a joint European response to the current financial crisis in time for the forthcoming EU Council meeting in March. Deputy Prime Minister Vondra said short-term measures were obviously essential, but they shouldn’t be allowed to hamper structural reforms that are so vital for Europe.

On “Energy” – obviously the security of Europe’s energy supplies has been thrown into sharp relief at the moment, with the crisis over natural gas caused by Russia’s dispute with Ukraine. The Czech EU presidency, for example, plans to organise a Southern Corridor Summit which will examine ways of increasing supplies of natural gas from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia as an alternative to relying so heavily on Russia.

Finally, “the Europe Union in the World”, will see the Czechs organising an Eastern Partnership Summit of the EU27 and six states in Eastern Europe. Prague is particularly keen to keep Croatia’s accession to the EU on track and would also like to host the first meeting between EU leaders and the next U.S. president Barack Obama.