The Czech Republic held the Presidency of the Council at a particularly tense time for the European Union. With the motto ‘Rebuild, Rethink, Repower’, the Czech Presidency focused on five key priorities:
- Managing the refugee crisis and post-war reconstruction of Ukraine;
- Energy security;
- Strengthening European defense capabilities and cybersecurity;
- Strategic resilience of the European economy; and
- Resilience of democratic institutions.
Tackling the energy crisis and creating a level playing field
The energy agenda of the Czech Presidency was primarily determined by the REPowerEU plan, which aims to reduce our dependency on Russian fossil fuels, and tackle high energy prices, as well as to increase the roll-out of renewable energy sources.
Several political agreements were reached under the Czech presidency as part of the “Fit for 55” package:
- Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) agreement – CBAM will set up the world’s first levy on carbon-intensive goods entering its market. CBAM aims to create a level playing field and to converge global climate ambitions.
- Reform of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the biggest carbon market in the world. The EU’s flagship climate policy instrument aims to stimulate innovation and curb greenhouse gas emissions.
- Launch of negotiations on a new global international treaty to reduce plastic pollution on land and in the seas.
The Czech Presidency succeeded in delivering on key transport priorities, such as:
- Regulation for the development of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T), a network of roads, railways, airports, and water infrastructure in the European Union. This should result in better-quality travel and more transport construction funding for applicants from Member States.
- The Presidency also made progress on the alternative fuels infrastructure Regulation (AFIR), which aims to increase the recharging and alternative fuel refueling points in the EU for cars, planes, and ships.
- Regulation on the use of renewable and low-carbon fuels in maritime transport (FuelEU Maritime) and sustainable air transport, (RefuelEU Aviation). Both regulations promote alternative fuels to be used in their respective transport sectors.
Under the auspices of the Czechs, remarkable progress was booked regarding several key digital files:
- The Council adopted general approaches on the European Digital Identity – the digital wallet that can be used to identify, authenticate or verify certain aspects such as age in any other EU country – and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act, which aims to introduce a common regulatory and legal framework for artificial intelligence;
- Furthermore, significant strides were taken regarding the Data Act, a key measure for making more data available for use in line with EU rules and values; and
- The Cyber Resilience Act, published by the Commission in September, which aims at setting common cybersecurity standards for connected devices and services.
These developments were also part of the Czech drive to develop a strong and unified (transatlantic) approach to digital policy. Whether it will lead to a convergence of standards to improve the ease of transatlantic trade remains to be seen.
Overall, we can say that the Czech has made several steps to make the European economy more resilient by promoting the use of alternative fuels, and thereby less dependent on Russian fossil fuel imports. Through the introduction of CBAM and the revisions of the ETS, it also aims to promote a level playing field and stimulate innovation to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
If you are interested to understand how these new policies will impact your business operations, do not hesitate to contact us.