EU must focus on helping citizens overcome onslaught of crises, Czech PM tells MEPs

Petr Fiala

The European Union’s is currently facing many crises and its main task will be to mitigate their effects on EU citizens, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said in his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday. Mr Fiala highlighted Ukraine and the energy crisis as the main priorities of his country’s EU presidency. In a subsequent speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen paralleled Czech and Ukrainian experiences with invasion, saying that Czechia was assuming the rotating presidency of the EU Council at the right time.

Illustrative photo: Mediamodifier,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

Petr Fiala began his speech by praising the EU’s united reaction to Russia’s invasion. He commended the Union’s approval of six sanctions packages against Russia and also praised the decision to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova.

Czechia’s EU presidency will follow up on these efforts to deal with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which, Mr Fiala told MEPs, is the main problem Europe is facing right now.

Illustrative photo:  Alexey Hulsov,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

“Besides its conventional war, Russia is also waging a hybrid war. It is deliberately stoking a refugee crisis and using energy sources as weapons. Its targeted attacks on infrastructure are causing a food crisis.“

The main task for Czechia’s presidency will therefore be to foster EU consensus on measures that will reduce the impacts of the war on the Union’s citizens, Mr Fiala said, noting that this will entail combating not just inflation but also the food and energy crises stemming from the war. He promised that Czechia will play the role of an honest broker in negotiations and work to find crucial compromises.

Conference in Lugano | Photo: Michael Buholzer,  ČTK/AP Photo

The Czech prime minister also spoke about the need to support the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. In this regard, he highlighted the result of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano earlier this week, in which 40 countries committed to help the country rebuild from the damage caused by the war. Ukraine’s recovery should entail not just the rebuilding of homes and infrastructure, but also strengthening of the transparency of the country’s administration.

Energy security was another topic that the Czech prime minister spoke about at length. Ahead of a crucial vote, Mr Fiala urged MEPs to support the revised EU taxonomy for sustainable activities, which temporarily classifies gas and nuclear as green sources of energy. In the vote that took place later in the day, MEPs heeded the prime minister’s plea, as a comfortable majority supported the proposal to keep gas and nuclear on the subsidy list.

Ursula von der Leyen | Photo: Jean-Francois Badias,  ČTK/AP Photo

Addressing the parliament after the Czech prime minister, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that, due to its historical experience, Czechia was the ideal country to preside over the Council of the European Union in the current geopolitical situation.

“We can all bring to mind the first images of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian citizens had no weapons and stood tall against the Russian soldiers, speaking and shouting at them. Those images remind us of a different invasion and another example of resistance against oppression.

“In Prague in 1968 we saw unforgettable scenes of peaceful demonstrators taking to the streets of Prague and standing firm against Soviet tanks. Therefore I can imagine no better country than the Czech Republic to take over the rotating presidency.”

Photo: Michal Krumphanzl,  ČTK

Czechia’s presidency began on July 1 and will last until the end of 2022. Aside from facilitating negotiations on pressing topics related to the Ukrainian conflict, Czech politicians and relevant civil servants will also have to promote dialogue on thorny long term issues such as EU plans to combat climate change.

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