Chris Koney column: Discussing Czech Presidency of the Council of European Union with Czech Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister


In his message on June 15, 2022, to accept the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Fiala, revealed the main motto of the Czech Presidency: ‘Europe as a Task: Rethink, Rebuild, Repower’.

Jiří Kozák, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic

He gave the assurance that the Czech Republic will carry it out in the interests of all citizens of the Member States of the European Union and called for unity as a solution to the several problems Europe is currently facing.

On Wednesday, July 20, 2022, I met with Jiří Kozák, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel. He was in the country for an official visit with a group of Czech entrepreneurs in the healthcare sector seeking to modernise the Ghanaian healthcare system alongside representatives of the Czech financial and insurance sectors.

Though a brief session, we discussed the priorities of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2022, steps towards post COVID-19 recovery in Africa and the prospects of the growing relationship between the EU and Africa.

He highlighted the strengthening of Europe’s defence capabilities and cyberspace security as one of the focus areas given the growing global instability. “The Czech Presidency will concentrate on reinforcing security and defence capabilities, particularly in partnership with NATO. It will work specifically on supporting the implementation of key topics within the Strategic Compass. The development of long-term cooperation on strategic military systems is essential,” he emphasised.

In addition to ensuring the necessary capacities, including supporting capacities based on existing technologies, the Czech Presidency will pay attention to cooperation and investment in reducing technological dependence, in particular with regard to new and disruptive technologies, and to ensuring the resilience of critical value chains needed for these technologies. Strengthening related industrial capacities in the EU is also top on the agenda.

According to Mr. Kozák, the Czech Presidency will address cyber threats and the geopolitical context of new technologies and space. It will also focus on the rapid development of the so-called Hybrid toolbox, the fight against disinformation and the security of cyberspace. There will be particular attention to the cybersecurity of EU institutions, bodies and to the EU space-based secure communication system.

On the Russia – Ukraine war, Mr. Kozák mentioned the management of the refugee crisis and Ukraine’s post-war recovery as a matter of urgency. “The Czech Presidency will support the EU’s efforts to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by using all instruments and programmes offered by the EU, including the strengthening of sanctions. The EU’s and its Member States’ political and military support for Ukraine is in our vital interest in order to ensure security in Europe,” he stated.

Additionally, the Czech Presidency will work in favour of reaching a consensus on the granting of candidate status to Ukraine. Russian aggression has caused the most massive refugee crisis since World War II. The EU must take all steps to help best deal with the unprecedented refugee wave, in particular of women and children from war-affected Ukraine. This will require the mobilisation of all available resources and expertise as well as their coordinated use.

The COVID-19 pandemic and Russian aggression towards Ukraine have led to an inflation shock, increased market uncertainty and have exposed the fragility of global supply chains. The Russian invasion has caused the greatest disruption of commodity markets in the last half-century. The Czech Presidency will work towards a strategic resilience of the European economy.

“The EU must drastically reduce its dependence on hostile or unstable regimes. Striving for full self-sufficiency does not seem to be an immediately viable option for the EU. In order to strengthen strategic resilience, targeted support for technological competitiveness based on own production capacities, together with the deepening of free trade with democratic nations in the world, is essential. From food, medicines to semiconductor chips, supply chains and their vulnerability need to be understood in detail and their resilience must consequently be strengthened,” Mr. Kozák detailed.

He further stated that the availability of strategic raw materials and components must be secured for European firms and particular emphasis placed on the security of IT supply chains. The Czech Presidency will work on accelerating the process of concluding trade agreements with democratic states and on deepening transatlantic cooperation in the framework of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) with a focus on strategic cooperation, including joint measures for supply chain resilience.

On the partnership between Africa and the EU, Minister Mr. Kozák listed sectors including telecommunication, water treatment, infrastructure, education and industries as common grounds for cooperation for entrepreneurship and job creation for a long-time commitment and partnership.

“We are also concerned about security and stability in the region, and we are focussed on the Sahel because of conflict in countries like Mali which is spreading to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. This can go further to more countries, and it is a worry to us due to activities such as terrorism, violent extremism, communal violence and banditry in the region. We are working on partnering with the Ghanaian government and other governments to work towards having stability in the region,” he added.

In June 2022, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs approved a new Strategy for the activities of the Czech Republic in Africa, which sets out Czech’s goals and activities in Africa for the coming years. The strategy contains a plan for working on peace and investing in the development of Africa, which will soon be submitted to the Czech Government for approval and subsequent implementation.

According to Mr. Kozák, the Czech Republic just like the EU, approaches Africa as its broader southern neighbour and will follow the discussions on the follow-up of the EU – AU summit and work on agreeing on a time for the next EU – AU ministerial meeting. He added that the future of the EU – Africa relationship looks very promising, and the EU remains committed to ensure it is enhanced for mutual benefit.

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