Government delegations from 17 EU member states, known as the “Friends of Cohesion”, are meeting in Prague on Tuesday to discuss a united position on the EU’s budget for 2021–2027. They have issued a joint declaration which states that the future EU budget should include the same level of cohesion funding, but states should be given more flexibility in how they use it.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is under fire from the opposition for the way
his cabinet is handling preparations for the country’s next EU presidency
The opposition Civic Democrats claim the prime minister is underestimating the opportunities the EU presidency affords and has failed to consult his cabinet’s plans and priorities with the opposition.
They are also critical of the fact that the government slashed the budget for the country’s EU presidency from the proposed 2.6 billion to 1.2 billion crowns. The country’s last EU presidency, ten years ago, cost 3.7 billion.
In an interview for Czech Television, Prime Minister Babiš countered that the institutions involved in preparations have hidden reserves and said he would make known his plans in due time. The prime minister said the presidency’s priorities would most likely be energy and the single market.
The Czech Republic is now ahead of Spain in terms of GDP per capita adjusted to purchasing power parity (PPP). At least according to the latest OECD data, which show the country ranked 27th among the organisation’s 36 member states, with Spain one place behind, news site Aktuálně reports. However, the country still ranks bellow the EU average.
The EU has so far promised to provide CZK 100 billion in funding through
its Integrated Regional Operational Program between the years 2021 to 2027,
a decrease of around one-fifth compared to the previous term, the minister
of regional development, Klára Dostálová of ANO, told journalists on
Monday. Meanwhile, the rate of national co-financing will increase from the
current 15 percent to 30 percent. However, Ms. Dostálová said that
negotiations are still ongoing.
In terms of overall funding the Czech Republic is expected to receive CZK 520 billion crowns, which is a 100 CZK billion increase to the current funding budget. The European Commission is asking for three-quarters of the funding to be put into the union wide Intelligent Europe and Green Europe programmes, the minister said.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) said on Thursday that the Czech
government agrees with the European Union’s condemnation of Turkey’s
ongoing military offensive in northern Syria to create a refugee zone.
Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies attacked Kurdish militia on Wednesday, pounding them with air strikes and artillery before starting a ground operation. The assault began days after US President Donald Trump withdrew American troops from the area.
Following a meeting in early September with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the United Nations, Mr Babiš had said that the Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland) supported Ankara’s intention to create a refugee zone in northern Syria.
Earlier this week, however, the Czech prime minister said that he was surprised by the situation and warned that military intervention could lead to another wave of refugees heading for Europe.
Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Social Democrats) had earlier warned in an official statement that the Turkish offensive would “only worsen the situation of civilians and refugees in the region”.
The designated Czech vice-president of the European Commission, Věra Jourová, has been approved for the European values and transparency portfolio in the new European Commission. In a three-hour hearing on Monday, Ms. Jourová was grilled by members of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committees on how she would secure rule of law and media freedom across the EU.
Věra Jourová, the European Commission Vice-President nominee, will be
asked how she can independently supervise the observance of rule of law in
the Czech Republic during her hearing in the European Parliament next
Monday, the Czech News Agency reports. Ms. Jourová, who was chosen as
European Commission Vice-President for values and transparency by the
future commission president Ursula von Der Leyen, was proposed as the Czech
candidate by the government of Andrej Babiš, who was found to be in a
conflict of interests by a preliminary EU audit in May.
Damian Boeselager, a German MEP on the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO), told the Czech News Agency that unlike some Czech MEPs, Ms. Jourová has never opposed Mr Babiš and so it must be clear that she will not disregard any criticism regarding the rule of law in the Czech Republic.
Just as for other EU Commission candidates, Ms. Jourova’s hearing will take three hours, during which MEPs will have the opportunity to ask a total of 25 questions.
The Czech Republic’s Věra Jourová, responsible for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality in the outgoing European Commission, is likely to return to Brussels in a new role and with a higher status. If her candidacy is approved by MEPs in the coming weeks, Jourová will become this country’s first Vice President as of November, and likely split the “rule-of-law” portfolio with the next EU Commissioner for Justice.
Czechs' trust in the EU and the European Parliament has seen a slow
but steady growth since 2016 when it was at its lowest since the
country’s admission to the EU in 2004, the STEM polling agency reported
According to the results of a June poll, trust in the EU in June was at 41 percent, up by 2 percent compared to the same month last year, and that in the European Parliament was up by 4 percent, reaching 34 percent.
Trust in EU institutions was at its highest at the start of the Czech EU presidency in 2009, when the EU was trusted by 60 percent and the EP by 51 percent of Czechs.
However it slid to a record low in 2016 declining to 29 and 24 percent, respectively, a phenomenon that was attributed, at least in part, to the migrant crisis.
STEM analysts say Czechs have been gradually feeling a stronger identity with Europe in the past few years. According to the latest poll some 71 percent of Czechs feel they are “Europeans”.
Efforts to keep spending down could mean that the Czech Republic does not
have enough officials to handle the country’s presidency of the European
Union in 2022, the Czech Radio news site iRozhlas.cz reported. Individual
ministries originally said they needed 600 new staff but the government
says it will not provide funding for any more than 200.
iRozhlas said neither the Ministry of Finance nor the government possessed methodology or an analysis with regard to how to calculate the number of hires necessary.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said in July that the proposed intake of staff should be adequate to handle the EU presidency. He said the government’s top priority was state budget austerity.