EU leaders are meeting in Sibiu, Romania on Thursday for a summit that was originally intended to affirm post-Brexit unity and chart a course for future development. Although member states are expected to adopt a declaration of “unity and confidence in the future”, the summit is overshadowed by uncertainty regarding the outcome of European elections, due later this month, and the many question marks surrounding Brexit.
On his way to attend the summit in Sibiu, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš outlined the Czech government’s vision of how the EU needs to reform, beginning with strong criticism of the internal workings of the alliance.
“The Czech Republic wants an alliance of strong EU member states. It should be the European Council, represented by the presidents and prime ministers of member states, that should set the course and decide on matters of importance. The European Commission is there to oversee that agreements are respected, but it cannot be a political body that often acts as if it is above the individual member states themselves.”
The Czech prime minister said it was important for the Czech Republic to have a significant influence on how it would spend EU funds, the energy mix that would be part of its long-term energy policy, guarantees that its workers would not be discriminated on the single market and that its citizens would not be treated as second-grade Europeans as a result of the existing dual quality of foodstuffs sold around the EU.
“We have persisting problems with the fact that programs for EU structural funds for a given period do not meet our needs. So we have problems drawing funds, while we lack money for kindergartens, schools, hospitals, cultural monuments or transport infrastructure. We know best where the money is needed and as regards possible reservations from net contributors, I think that given the fact that last year 12 million Euro dividends left this country to those net contributors and Germany has 6,000 firms here, they should be interested in seeing us complete out highway network and other facilities their employees use.”
Eight EU countries are demanding that the bloc commit to phasing out carbon emissions by 2050 and dedicating 25% of the EU’s next long-term budget to projects fighting climate change. Prime Minister Babiš argued that Europe could not push these goals alone, without support from countries such as the US, China or India.
“The Czech Republic is doing its utmost to protect the Planet. But we cannot be expected to ruin our industry. And I am convinced that electric-powered vehicles are the beginning of the end of car production in Europe.”
In his televised press briefing before departing for the EU summit, the Czech prime minister repeatedly stressed the importance of the upcoming European elections, asking Czech citizens to go to the polls and cast their ballot for parties which would defend Czech interests in the European Parliament.
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