From 1 July to 31 December 2022, the Czech Republic will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. Following France and preceding Sweden, the Czech Republic will push ahead the 18-month programme jointly prepared by the trio of Presidencies. However, the delicate economic and geopolitical context partially shifted the priorities set out at an earlier stage. As already pointed out by Czech Minister for European Affairs Mikuláš Bek, “the war in Ukraine and its impact on Europe” will guide the Czech Presidency throughout its mandate.
The Czech Republic has set five intertwined priorities for the EU, ranging from energy security and defence to internal economic and democratic resilience. The first area of priority, “Managing the refugee crisis and Ukraine’s post-war recovery”, is entirely devoted to ensuring an appropriate crisis-management with regards to the ongoing war in Ukraine and its socio-economic aftermaths. This is in line with previous declarations of Czech Republic’s point person on the European digital agenda, Jan Míča, who explained that the economic and geopolitical crisis may risk overshadowing other less urgent files.
The digital agenda will be covered under priority four, addressing the “Strategic resilience of the European economy”. To consolidate Europe’s resilience, the Czech Presidency will try to foster domestic technological competitiveness, while deepening commercial ties with non-EU democratic countries. In this regard, the Czech work programme mentions the need to revive EU-US cooperation, notably in the framework of the Trade and Technology Council (TTC). The adaptation of the wider business environment, including research and innovation, to the digital economy will be pursued by following up on the negotiations around the European Digital Identity Wallet and the Data Act. The talks on Artificial Intelligence seem to be of particular interest to Czech representatives, who see in the new technology an “opportunity to take advantage of being the ‘first mover’” and to set global standards. If you wish to know more about the Czech Presidency’s first step on the Artificial Intelligence Act as well as the general up-to-date state of play of the file, we recommend reading our article on the topic.
As for sustainability policy, the Czech Presidency’s programme refers to the Green Deal as a chance to introduce flexibility in the use of EU funds as well as to adjust pending policy files (e.g., Fit for 55) to the current state of play. The programme also puts an emphasis on the upholding of fundamental rights in all types of relationships with third countries, including commercial ties, hinting at companies’ due diligence and reporting obligations in this field. Dependencies on external resources will also be tackled through the development of the circular economy. However, several files that are expected to drive the transition will be published by the European Commission only in the last weeks of the Czech mandate, leaving the country little leeway to push the circular agenda through.
As the voice of the digital commerce sector in Europe, Ecommerce Europe will be closely following the developments in the negotiations on the digital and sustainability files, among others, while representing the interests of our members before the incoming Czech Presidency.