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20. 3. 2015 23:35

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka discusses the Energy Union at the European Council meeting

Společné foto lídrů osmadvacítky, 20. března 2015. Zdroj: Evropská rada.
Joint photo of leaders of the EU28, 20 March 2015. Source: European Council.
On Thursday, 19 March and Friday 20 March, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka attended a meeting of the European Council in Brussels. The meeting of heads of state and heads of governments of member states focused mainly on the Energy Union project. EU leaders also discussed the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and economic support.

The main item on the agenda of the Thursday meeting of EU leaders was the proposed Energy Union, which the European Commission proposed at the end of February. From the Czech Republic's point of view, the Energy Union will mainly lead to greater security and reliability of energy supplies, more extensive interconnection and better capacity of energy networks. Emphasis will be placed on thorough adherence to existing rules and greater responsibility for decisions regarding energy at the national and cross-border levels.

"I consider the Energy Union project to be an important step towards achieving a modern, competitive and diversified energy sector. I also welcome the fact that the conclusions that we have reached today will help ensure energy security and ensure that consumer protection is not forgotten either," said Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who at the meeting of the European Council also supported a proposal for transparency of contracts for natural gas supplies.

The Czech Republic also managed in cooperation with partners from the Visegrad Group to achieve major revisions to the existing proposal for the Energy Union. Those revisions call for boosting of energy infrastructure with an emphasis on affordable energy for households and industry, with the aim of preventing energy poverty and supporting the competitiveness of European companies.

The Czech Republic welcomes the agreement reached by the European Council and believes that IT will contribute to securing energy supplies and help protect the domestic energy grid. However, the Czech Republic will continue to insist on its own energy mix, which will include atomic energy.

The conclusions of the European Council regarding the Energy Union project will be worked in the months to come into specific legislative proposals. As Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has emphasised, energy will also be one of the key priorities of the Czech Republic's upcoming presidency of the Visegrad Group, which begins this July.

The prime minister also held talks with European partners regarding the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and about the future of EU sanctions against Russia. EU leaders agreed on a proposal that the Czech government fully supports as well. Whether or not sanctions against the EU will continue to be imposed will depend fully on whether the Minsk agreements are fulfilled by the end of this year. The European Council will decide at its meeting in June regarding potential extension of the sector sanctions that are set to expire at the end of July.

Other topics discussed at the meeting of the European Council were the European Semester and the the EU's current economic situation. The good news is that the economy is gradually rebounding in all member states, including the Czech Republic.

As far as the European Semester is concerned, it is important for the May recommendations for individual countries to take properly into consideration the political and economic reality in the Czech Republic and thereby to help advance the government's reform efforts. From the Czech Republic's point of view, the topics of macroeconomic stability, improving tax collection and energy efficiency are the most important topics for dialogue with the Commission. The Czech Republic is also convinced of the need to carry out structural reforms, which are crucial for economic growth.

At the meeting in Brussels, the Czech Republic expressed support for quick finalisation of the ambitions Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Agreement. It is also important to hold open discussions about the contents of that key agreement, including in relation to consumer protection and social standards.

One the sidelines of the summit, a meeting was held devoted to the current situation in Greece. An important conclusion was the confirmation of Greece's obligation to continue with reforms and cooperation with its partners.

 

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