The July plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hosted a debate with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský to discuss the priorities of the Czech presidency of the Council of the European Union for the second semester of 2022.
"Europe as a Task: Rethink, Rebuild, Repower". This is the official motto of the Czech presidency of the Council of the European Union, which started on 1 July 2022 and will focus on managing the consequences of the war in Ukraine, reducing Europe's energy dependence and increasing its future strategic autonomy.
Addressing EESC president Christa Schweng and the other EESC members at the plenary session debate on 13 July 2022, the Czech Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jan Lipavský, presented the priorities of his country's EU presidency.
The delicate economic and geopolitical context has partially shifted the priorities and the war in Ukraine and its impact on Europe will guide the Czech Presidency throughout its mandate, he said.
We are at a time when there is a war going on just outside the borders of the European Union and our main task in the period ahead will be to find a united and strong consensus on measures that will mitigate the negative impact of the developments on our citizens as much as possible.
Inspired by Czech statesman Václav Havel's vision in a speech 26 years ago, the motto sums up with a strong message the five pillars of the Czech EU Presidency:
1) managing the refugee crisis and the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine;
2) increasing the EU's energy security;
3) increasing European defence capabilities and cyberspace security;
4) strengthening the strategic resilience of the European economy;
5) protecting the EU's democratic institutions and its values.
Saying that the Czech EU presidency's priorities were also the priorities of the EESC and Europe as a whole, Ms Schweng added:
The Czech Republic is taking over the rotating Council presidency at a time when the European Union is still struggling to recover from the consequences of the pandemic, while facing the consequences of the war in Ukraine. We will do our utmost to ensure that our Committee makes a powerful contribution to the activities of the Czech presidency.
During the ensuing debate, the president of the EESC's Employers' Group, Stefano Mallia, pointed out that the EU had to stick to the Green Deal but also be careful about the pace of decarbonising its industry as energy security issues were currently crucial: first and foremost, Europe needed to strengthen its energy resilience as a whole, while eliminating dependency on Russia and securing energy from different suppliers.
Oliver Röpke, president of the EESC's Workers' Group, recognised that the Czech presidency was facing daunting tasks but felt that the social dimension should also be included in its programme, which pays tribute to Václav Havel's 1996 speech. To this end, another social summit could be organised, as promised by Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala.
On behalf of the EESC's Civil Society Organisations' Group, its president, Séamus Boland, stressed that, as the Czech Presidency would need to manage the huge disruption to energy supply, its success would also depend on the willingness to include citizens and civil society organisations in designing and implementing relevant policies such as the RePowerEU package.