Press Advisories

22. 3. 2019 19:40

Prime Minister Babiš highlighted the need to complete the single internal market at a meeting of the European Council in Brussels

European Union leaders gathered on 21 and 22 March in Brussels to discuss key EU issues at the European Council summit.
European Union leaders gathered on 21 and 22 March in Brussels to discuss key EU issues at the European Council summit.
On Thursday and Friday 21 and 22 March 2019, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš attended the European Council meeting in Brussels. The main topic of the first meeting was Brexit and the postponement of the UK’s departure from the European Union. On the second day, the EU27 leaders dealt with economic issues, such as trade relations with China and the US.

Brexit and British Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal to postpone it were the central issue of Thursday’s European Council. EU leaders and the British Prime Minister eventually agreed that if the UK parliament approves the current draft Brexit agreement the following week, the EU27 would agree to extend the Brexit deadline to 22 May. If the British Parliament did not vote or voted against the agreement, Member States agree to a postponement until 12 April. So no later than on 12 April, the UK would have to submit its proposal on how it intends to approach this agreement.

“I think that all Member States are aware of the seriousness of this decision. Of course, we have taken measures and laws in response to the potential hard Brexit, that is, a no-deal Brexit, but the internal market is the main thing that we cannot agree on. What would happen in the case of the hard Brexit, all the chaos... no one can predict that in advance”, said Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

In his view, EU countries behave more responsibly in their approach to Brexit than the UK, where this issue is subject to domestic political fights. “In this respect, we understand the complications of the British Prime Minister. Therefore we were very flexible, and despite some initial uncompromising attitudes, we came to a better and more generous solution in the discussion”, the Prime Minister said and appreciated the united position of EU leaders. “We all realize that the worst solution would be the hard no-deal Brexit. I think we all have an interest in really reaching a deal, and that is why we decided to extend the deadline so that Prime Minister would have the opportunity to convince the British Parliament”, he added.

The European Council meeting continued on Friday 22 March. First, the EU27 met with the Prime Ministers of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein and the Kingdom of Norway to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the European Economic Area Agreement.

The EU27 leaders then dealt primarily with economic issues – internal market issues, trade policy, economic relations with China and the US, and cyber security issues related to the planned construction of 5G networks.

“The issue of the internal market is extremely important for our country. The European Union resolved to complete it 30 years ago and the market is still not functioning. We are still faced with unnecessary barriers for our companies, our business owners, our transport companies, our citizens, and our competitiveness within the EU”, said Prime Minister Babiš, referring to, for example, non-compliance with European rules, fragmentation of regulation and practice, and a lack of mutual recognition of documents, standards and insurance contracts.

With regard to EU trade policy, in particular in relation to the US, the Czech Prime Minister believes it is necessary that the European Union give Commissioner Malmström a clear formal negotiating mandate to start negotiations as soon as possible. “There is a risk that once the US and China come to an agreement, it may make our position worse than ever”, said Andrej Babiš.

According to the Czech Prime Minister, China is an important but very complicated partner. He says the forthcoming EU-China ministerial summit on 8 April will be important. He pointed out to his colleagues in the European Council that most EU countries, including the Czech Republic, have a negative trade balance with China.

There was also talk of cyber security as a global problem. “I have called on my colleagues to work together on the approach to 5G network security, because I think cyber security is a problem for all of us in the use and operation of new technologies, networks and infrastructure”, said the Prime Minister. “I informed colleagues that the Czech Republic is organizing a conference on security within these networks and technologies, and I invited them to send their experts to the conference”, he added.

The last item on the agenda was the EU’s climate strategy and the fight against climate change. EU27 representatives have not yet found a consensus. “There have been tendencies from some Member States to go beyond the Paris Agreement. And I say on behalf of the Czech Republic that we cannot constantly increase our targets unless the world’s largest emitters become involved”, said Prime Minister Babiš. “Of course we want to tackle climate change, but we want climate policy to be a global issue, not just European. What good will it do if we save EU emissions here when these emissions emerge in another part of the world within a month. If we fail to find a common ground with the biggest emitters, our activities will have little impact, and their impact on our competitiveness will be very negative”, he added. As an example, the Czech Prime Minister referred to the automotive industry, which is being pushed into the corner by tightening European regulations and is at risk of being crushed by, for example, production from China or South Korea.

At the beginning of the European Council, the Prime Ministers and Presidents held a minute of silence for the victims of the terrorist attack that took place in Brussels just three years ago.

Prior to the summit, the Prime Minister, along with the V4 prime ministers, met with Cecilia Malmström, the trade commissioner, to discuss developments in the forthcoming EU-US trade agreement.

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