Minister: Success of EU presidency shifted perceptions of Czechia

Petr Fiala

Days after it ended, cabinet members publicly assessed Czechia’s presidency of the European Union on Tuesday. The Europe minister said the country’s success during six months at the helm of the EU had surprised fellow members – and improved its international image.

A special news conference on Tuesday looking back at the Czech presidency of the Council of the EU began with a glossy video.

Mikuláš Bek | Photo: Michaela Říhová,  ČTK

Images of Czech leaders in action – and visiting European dignitaries – were accompanied by swelling music.

The government’s evaluation of Czechia’s six-month stint as the face of Europe was similarly upbeat, with the minister for European Affairs, Mikuláš Bek, telling reporters that the Czech presidency had been a “surprising success” in the eyes of many EU states.

“We have been receiving major commendations from our partners.

“This is undoubtedly in part because expectations weren’t so high; the Czech Republic had a name as a Hungarian satellite, somewhere on the periphery of Europe.

“And during those six months we managed to significantly shift perceptions of the Czech Republic.

“We are seen as a country that plays an active role in the centre of European affairs.”

Prime Minister Petr Fiala said that a record number of meetings of the EU’s Energy Council had been held between July and January as the bloc tried to tackle the continent’s energy crisis.

On top of that, he said, around 300 events were organised in Czechia within the presidency – and he highlighted one gathering in particular.

Petr Fiala and Emmanuel Macron in Prague | Photo:

“A visible, important event that is still remembered in Europe was the historic first meeting of the European Political Community, which we hosted at Prague Castle.

“It was attended by 44 leaders from across Europe and saw unusual meetings, such as Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan sitting down at the same table for the first time.

“But there were numerous results, and to this day I encounter positive responses to that Prague gathering.”

Mikuláš Bek highlighted the largely unnoticed, behind-the-scenes work of Czech officials that made the country’s EU presidency go so smoothly.

He said there were two possible approaches to handling the role and that the Prague government had chosen the less showy one.

“Presidencies can very clearly declare revolutionary aims within the EU. That is the traditional role of France, for instance.

“France began all of Europe’s revolutions – which traditionally fail by the time they reach Central Europe…

Photo:  Office of Czech Government

“And we are simply not traditionally a country of great revolutions.

“We’re closer to the Central European traditional model of work. This may be maliciously dubbed the ‘salami [piecemeal] method’.

“However, within this we are very determined, which I think our negotiators showed.”

Prime Minister Fiala told reporters that Czech officials had managed to find compromises acceptable to other EU members while at the same time also defending the country’s own interests.

Author: Ian Willoughby
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