From 1 July 2022, the Czech Republic holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The role of the Council Presidency is to set the agenda and priorities of the Council of the EU, lead its meetings, broker compromise between the interests of individual Member States and, above all, represent the Council in negotiations with the European Commission, the European Parliament and external partners.
The greatest success was achieved by Czech negotiators at the end of July. They succeeded in negotiating an agreement on gas demand reduction in a record six days from the presentation of the Commission’s proposal. It was approved almost unanimously by EU energy ministers at an extraordinary meeting. According to the agreement, the fifteen percent gas savings are only voluntary for now, but they will become mandatory if there is an acute shortage. The goal of the adopted Council regulation is to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian gas, which is being used as a weapon to divide the EU-27.
Assistance to war-torn Ukraine is a priority of the Czech Presidency. Therefore, under Czech leadership, the ambassadors of the Member States approved the seventh sanctions package. This should further weaken Russia economically and thus support Ukraine in its struggle. The expanded measures include, inter alia, a ban on the import of Russian gold into the EU, freezing the assets of Sberbank, and imposing sanctions on other individuals and entities actively supporting the Russian aggression. At the same time, in their conclusions on foreign information manipulation and interference the EU Member States agreed to step up their activity in the fight against hybrid threats to the EU, not only from Russia.
In addition to sanctions, the EU Council also approved additional macro-financial assistance to Ukraine of EUR 1 billion. The war-torn country will also receive military materiel worth another EUR 500 million. Ukraine has received a total of EUR 2.5 billion for its defence since the end of February. Thanks to Czech diplomacy, it has also been possible to approve, through an accelerated procedure, a measure that allows the continued use of driver documents issued in Ukraine. In practical terms, this will simplify the daily lives of both millions of refugees and also the authorities, who will not have to issue them with new driving licences.