Czech Prime Minister calls for a less bureaucratic and free-trade Europe at the transatlantic conference in Prague
The opening speech by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš was one of the opening speeches of the annual conference, which brought together leading politicians and experts from the European Union as well as the United States.
In his speech, the Czech Prime Minister began by declaring that the Czech Republic is determined to remain firmly within the EU.
“However, being firmly committed does not mean that we must automatically accept whatever is developed by the Eurocrats in Brussels or by the progressive political elites in these countries. Being firmly engaged means that we are very active members of the EU and, if necessary, we will have to have the courage to be critical. “
Mr Babiš, who is currently the subject of a backlash from a European Commission audit which found him to be in conflict of interest regarding his post as Prime Minister and the main benefactor of Agrofert, the company that he placed in trust funds before becoming head of government, was particularly critical of the bureaucracy of the European Union.
The EU is a club in which each nation state fights for its interests, Mr Babiš said, highlighting the EU’s four freedoms (free movement of people, goods, services and capital} as its greater success, freedoms are not yet fully achieved, according to the Czech Prime Minister.
“It is only once the single market is operating at full capacity that we should think about new areas of integration… We are in favor of less regulation and less bureaucracy. In this regard, the UK was our natural ally. We regret that the UK has left the club, but we must continue to pursue our policy with or without Great Britain. “
Besides reducing taxes and regulations, Babiš said it was also a priority for the Czech Republic to unify the outer parts of the Schengen area and integrate the states of the Western Balkan region into the ‘EU. Migration policy must be firmly in the hands of each member state, he said.
In the area of transatlantic relations, Mr. Babiš focused on trade and technology, but also on defense cooperation issues.
“In the future, Atlantic security, like all security, will be more about technology, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, data protection, etc. The success of Atlantic cooperation in the future also depends on the intensity of cooperation on all of these technologies.
Speaking after Mr. Babiš, Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček reiterated the government’s emphasis on innovation and investment in development.
Then, after a short break, the conference focused on the political dimension of the transatlantic partnership. Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek delivered a speech in which he said that security remains the most important element in relations between Europe and the United States.
“From our perspective, as a member state of the EU and NATO, the strategic triangle of the US, EU and NATO is vital. We can count on America and America can count on us, as the NATO Secretary General said the other day. The partnership between the EU and NATO is unique and essential for combining our common political, military and economic strength.
“What needs to be strengthened are the EU-NATO synergies. The last EU-US summit confirmed the willingness on both sides of the Atlantic to cooperate globally, be it on health, security, climate, trade and technology, or on rules-based multilateral order.
In the following panel on security cooperation, European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová, whose portfolio focuses on values and transparency, highlighted the challenges associated with the rise of digital technologies.
“I think it goes without saying that democracy and the rule of law are the values that underpin our relationship. They are common to both the EU and the US and are a prerequisite for anything we want to achieve. Sadly, we see that democracy in the US and the EU faces many challenges, such as the rise of far-right and far-left forces preaching authoritarian solutions, the dangers of digitalization. growing or risks to the rule of law and media freedom to name just a little. “
The conference was organized by the European Liberal Forum, a foundation and network of think tanks associated with the ALDE party in the European Parliament, of which the ruling Czech party ANO is a member. The Prague-based Institute for Politics and Society was one of the conference partners.