Speeches

13. 9. 2017 22:19

Prime Minister B. Sobotka’s commentary on EC Juncker’s recap speech on the state of the Union

I welcomed that this year's speech by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker focused on areas that the Czech government has been promoting for a long time. It is a clear signal for me that it makes sense to have a clearly formulated and active European policy. It is evidence that, if we engage in dialogue and cooperation with others, we can do much in Europe and take part in deciding on its future shape.

President Juncker endorsed the key principles and values ​​that form the actual Union and are the common ground on which European cooperation is based – freedom, human rights, rule of law and democratic legitimacy are the key values ​​that we cannot do without.

Firstly, I am very glad that Jean-Claude Juncker today supported the unity of the Union, including that it is excluded that Europe would have two categories of citizens. Of course, there are real differences in the living standard and they will still be some time, but convergence supporting the cohesion of the EU must be our common goal. We must strive for Europeans to receive a comparable remuneration for the same job in order to eliminate unfair practices such as dual quality food. The deepening of the gaps, whether real or rhetorical, between the West and the East, the North and the South or between the old and the new Member States, these are problems that the Czech Republic and its partners from the Visegrad Group have been pointing out for a long time.

It was just the Czech Republic that helped to launch a debate on deepening security as a prerequisite for a better Union. I therefore also agree with the President of the European Commission on stressing the need to strengthen European defence and security. Secure Europe and a strong Europe is one of the key topics of Czech and European foreign policy. We are ready to actively participate in all initiatives, including cooperation in defence industry and ongoing structured cooperation. We will continue to deal actively about their concrete form with other Member States and EU institutions.

I appreciate a strong economic line the Juncker’s speech was based on – strong trade policy, investment issue, support for European industry, completion of the internal market, including digital economy issues – these are key issues for the future prosperity of the EU and its Member States.

As far as migration is concerned, our policy does not change. I am therefore glad that this time President Juncker has been more focused on the areas and instruments that link us, not on those that have been considered inoperative since the beginning by a number of Member States, including the Czech Republic. We are also talking about a functional return policy, good border protection, cooperation with third countries, streamlining of asylum policy and the possibility of different forms of intra-Union solidarity.

Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union was an important topic of Juncker’s speech today. The Czech Republic has pledged to adopt the common currency already within its entry in the EU. Until we take this step, it is crucial for us to be involved in any debate about the further fate of the eurozone. I see the today’s proposals by President Juncker as evidence that the Commission understands our fears of alienating eurozone members and non-members. The steps in this deepening must not consist in creating parallel institutions, swift changes to primary law and threatening the EU internal market.

I am also glad that President Juncker has supported the cohesion of the Eastern and Western Member States as well as convergence within the EU.

Summarised and concluded: Today’s EU state report in a number of areas has strongly taken into account the priorities of the Czech Republic and the V4 and at the same time showed how significant impact our region has on the debate on European Union future.

Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

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