When it comes to energy and the environment, the priorities of the Czech EU Presidency are clear: emphasis will be placed on energy security and breaking the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels, an objective considered in Prague to be more pressing than the green transition.
“We basically have a repeat of the 1973 oil shock,” said Vaclav Bartuška, the Czech Ambassador-at-Large for energy security.
“If there is a gas cut out this winter, we will burn anything we can to keep our people warm and to make electricity,” he said.
Bartuška was speaking to Brussels-based journalists ahead of the start of the Czech EU Presidency, which begins on 1 July for a duration of six months.
The Czech Republic will take over the rotating EU Council leadership from France, whose six-month stint at the EU’s helm expires on 1 July.
During its presidency, Prague intends to push the implementation of the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan presented in May, which seeks to reduce Russian gas imports by two-thirds before the end of the year.
The plan also places the emphasis on energy savings and the acceleration of the transition to low-carbon and renewable energy sources in order to reduce the bloc’s reliance on Russian gas.
In its program, the Czech Presidency states that the focus will be “especially on thorough implementation of the main short-term objective, i.e. remove dependence on Russian fossil fuels”.
According to Bartuška, diversification of gas supply can be achieved if European buyers can sign long-term contracts, which need to be vetted by Brussels.
“We talked to possible suppliers of LNG and they all wanted long-term contracts – 20 or 15 years but most of them 20,” he said.
And although the European Commission has been reluctant about long-term contracts in the past, the EU executive is now open to it, Bartuška said.
“You would not hear that from the commissioner a year ago, or half a year ago, or four months ago. There’s a clear understanding on their side that the member states need to survive, the governments need to survive the winter,” he added.