(Bloomberg) -- The Czech Republic will seek to use its European Union presidency in the second half of 2022 to build stronger links with the bloc’s mainstream members, counterbalancing ties with traditional regional allies Poland and Hungary that are in conflict with Brussels.
“We have a system in place for pretty close cooperation with our counterparts in the Visegrad Group” that also includes Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, Czech Minister for European Affairs Mikulas Bek said in an interview Monday. “That’s good and it has been productive for us but we need to reach beyond that and create something similar with other countries too.”
The Czech Republic sides with the EU against Poland and Hungary on issues ranging from the treatment of LGBTQ communities to the independence of the Polish judiciary, said Bek. “Our position in their rule of law stand-off with the European Union will definitely be different to theirs,” he said.
The European Commission last week handed Poland a two-month ultimatum to address “serious doubts” about the impartiality of its constitutional court, deepening a crisis after the court ruled that some EU laws contradict the Polish constitution. The commission fired a warning to Hungary and Poland in November by taking a first step toward triggering a mechanism that could ultimately deny them billions of euros.
The Polish court’s decision threatens to have a “destabilizing” effect on the whole region, said Bek, 57, who’s a member of the coalition government that took office Dec. 17.
Led by Petr Fiala, the new administration has pledged to continue cooperation with the Visegrad Four group founded in 1991 by the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland to promote their entry to the EU and NATO.
The previous Czech prime minister, the billionaire Andrej Babis, actively promoted ties with the group, saying the central European nations could wield greater influence together in the EU. Babis has also clashed with the EU, which ruled in April that he breached rules on control of trust funds linked to Agrofert business empire.
The Czech Republic could ally with Germany, its biggest trading partner, and Austria on the impact of a key European initiative to end sales of vehicles powered by fossil fuels by 2035, as it seeks to negotiate concessions on timing and possible financial assistance for the nation’s car industry, according to Bek.
It will also cooperate with France in seeking to get the EU to recognize nuclear power as clean energy in the bloc’s de-carbonisation process, he said.
“Why not join forces” with fellow EU states where there are common economic interests, Bek said. “The point is not to abandon the existing partnerships, even though we disagree on some issues, but to strike new ones with other member states too.”
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