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13. 6. 2017 23:53

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka spoke at the Prague European Summit conference

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka took part in the Prague European Summit on 13 June 2017.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka took part in the Prague European Summit on 13 June 2017.
On Tuesday, 13 June 2017, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka took part in the Prague European Summit, held in the Lobkowicz Palace. The third year of the event was focused on global challenges.

The three-day summit was also attended by Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek, Digital Agenda Coordinator Ondřej Malý, Czech National Bank Governor Jiří Rusnok and a number of foreign guests.

The key objective of the summit was to discuss the future of the European Union among senior political representatives, government officials, representatives of businesses, academics, as well as journalists from both the Czech Republic and abroad.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s speech at the Prague European Summit

Dear members of the diplomatic corps,

ladies and gentlemen, dear guests,

I am honoured to welcome you on behalf of the Government of the Czech Republic to the launch of the Prague European Summit, a conference held under the auspices of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic – for the third time.

Let’s not deal with internal disputes; there are real problems to tackle

In the past two years of the conference, we largely focused on internal problems of the European Union. A discussion was held about its internal arrangement, about the status of Member States in the European Union, about the Brexit and the required reform of the functioning of the European Union. This year’s event is different, because it focuses more on issues where Europe can succeed as an independent actor.

Of course, we cannot overlook the consequences of the referendum about the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. We also need to perceive the fact that elections are held in a number of European countries, including the Czech Republic, this year. These elections are going to determine who will set Europe’s future direction. They are going to determine whether a rational political approach will prevail, or whether people will prefer leaders and movements whose typical feature is that they give a simple and likable answer to any question.

The existing election results in the Netherlands, France and eventually also the United Kingdom have shown that populism and nationalistic movements are not enjoying majority support. I am glad for this and wish that rational politics will also prevail in other election battles that Europe is yet to face this year.

It is the rational approach that can help us address the challenges we are facing as a result of economic, technological and social developments, along with globalisation. We will discuss many of those challenges as part of this conference.

Global challenges on the conference agenda: digitisation, energy security, Industry 4.0

Digitisation is becoming an urgent technological and social challenge. On the one hand, it is great hope for the competitiveness of European industry but, on the other hand, it will also require extensive changes in social and educational policies. In any event, Europe has to agree on rules of the functioning of the digital single market.

The energy sector is also closely related to digitisation, because the Internet of Things and the concept of Industry 4.0 make different demands on energy utilisation. All the more so, we need to deal with how to ensure energy security and how to guarantee stable production and energy volume. This should be included in our consideration even now, and we also ought to ask this question in the context of meeting the climate and energy objectives of the European Union.

Remark one: The Paris Convention is a good example of global cooperation; the objectives apply

In this context, allow me to make one remark regarding the climate agreement. Later, you will discuss the relationship between Europe and other global players, such as Russia and China, as well as the transatlantic partnership, here. I believe that it is important for us to be able to distinguish between a legitimate interest of one party and the effort to address the global challenges which really nobody alone can cope with.

In this regard, the Paris Agreement is, for me, an example of broad international efforts to address a global risk, to mitigate the global climate change. Signatures by 194 countries from all over the world are evidence that the goal of the Agreement is right. I strongly believe that the United States will also endorse the Paris Agreement objectives in the future.

Remark two: International terrorism requires a global reaction; the EU has to be a global player

I believe that international terrorism and addressing its underlying causes are the most essential and certainly the most current global challenges we have to face. The Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State has been operating for a third year, with nearly all European countries, including the Czech Republic, participating in its activities. In recent years, however, we have witnessed numerous brutal terrorist attacks on the very territory of Europe within the European Union.

We have also seen the break-up of states in the Middle East as a result of their internal disputes and armed conflicts, and we have also seen a migration crisis, significantly accelerated by those developments. All of that puts huge responsibility on us as the European Community, in particular in managing our own security and defence policy.

If the European Union is to be a real global player, it has to participate effectively in addressing global problems, including the security ones. Historically, our security has been guaranteed by the NATO, and this is still true of military and defence cooperation. Nevertheless, even as part of the NATO, Europe ought to be an operational partner, who can manage the safety of its citizens on its own territory. This is why we helped to initiate a debate on strengthening the Common Defence and Security Policy of the European Union.

DESCOP also produced practical outputs

We as the Czech Republic were one of the countries that actively supported this topic as early as during the preparations of the Rome Declaration of March this year. I am pleased that the European Commission has fulfilled its role and reacted to this topic very soon. An EU Defence and Security Conference took place here in Prague last week. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, presented the Commission’s latest proposal there, summarising three variants of where European countries can go in the future towards their greater capacity for action and greater efficiency of their defence and security policies. What I consider to be a very beneficial proposal in particular is that we should create a common European Defence Fund to be used, inter alia, for the targeted promotion of the development and innovation in the defence industry.

Such practical proposals to cooperate and achieve our common objectives are what we need now. A pragmatic approach can be very honest, because all parties to the pragmatic agreement have a clear idea of what they can expect from each other. I believe that this is a good foundation for achieving confidence and partnership, although pragmatic proposals are not always as impressive as great ideologies and values. Nevertheless, I believe that Europe is not seeking its identity today, Europe is seeking instruments how to practically live and implement it in today’s globalised world.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the attention you have paid to these few suggestions of mine for your discussion. I wish this year’s conference success. Thank you.

Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

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