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2020 Prague European Summit: 'Real solutions, acting together'

  • The annual Vision for Europe Award (VfE) went to Federica Mogherini (left), the former high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, and Margot Wallström, former minister of foreign affairs of Sweden

The Prague European Summit 2020 took place on 18 and 19 November and featured more than 100 international speakers from the ranks of public officials, representatives of international organisations, businesses and NGOs.

In total, 46 percent of the speakers were women.

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The annual Vision for Europe Award (VfE) went to Federica Mogherini, the former high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, and Margot Wallström, former minister of foreign affairs of Sweden.

The VfE is an annually bestowed award for distinguished personalities who have devoted themselves to establishing and developing European ideals such as strengthening peaceful cooperation among European nations and making European integration more accessible to the public.

The sixth summit was the first one to take place virtually.

Global Europe

"I don't think the European Union or anybody else should ever go alone on solving crises," said Mogherini at the Prague European Summit 2020.

"I think the added value and the real solution to crises and conflicts is acting together."

Mogherini also argued that the absence of the US forced the EU into a more crucial position when it came to defending international agreements, such as the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Agreement.

The recent autonomy achieved by the EU should be used as an asset in the future to protect the EU and member states' interests and strengthen its position as a facilitator in conflicts, she concluded.

According to Wallström, the EU is already a key geopolitical actor in the world, particularly on the fronts of green transition, technology, trade and diplomacy. She highlighted that what gives the EU its geopolitical strength is the unity among the member states.

Wallström believes the key challenge for the EU in the current world is to defend multilateralism and protect human rights, areas in which the world is seemingly waning.

Role of member states

The future of the EU was also a topic of the debate of foreign ministers. They focused on the role of the current pandemic.

The EU will rise more united and stronger than ever, stated Alexander Schallenberg, minister for European and international affairs of Austria.

Although national instincts drove the initial reaction to the Covid-19 outbreak, he said, the shift toward strong solidarity among members occurred quickly.

According to his Slovak counterpart, Ivan Korčok, the EU's approach was wrong, and it is necessary to go beyond Covid-19 to understand where the EU got it wrong and what were the actual problems in dealing with it.

Czech minister Tomáš Petříček said the pandemic is an opportunity to find a proactive approach to overcome the crisis in a more supportive mode.

The three ministers agreed on the importance of dealing with the pandemic at member states level.

Anže Logar from Slovenia argued that the peace and prosperity experienced by the EU in the 2004's enlargement has been put to the test, as the amount of power delegated to the EU has risen to address the current crisis.

The matter of member states' competences was discussed by Janez Lenarčič, commissioner for crisis management at the European Commission.

"One of the lessons from this pandemic which is quite clear to me is that European citizens want more Europe in situations like this," he said.

However, he continued, health management falls under member states' competences, and the commission does not have decision-making power in this area.

The commissioner stressed the need to address this issue; not by transferring more power to EU institutions, but rather to enable the institutions to help member states in critical situations better.

Climate

Beside the pandemic and EU's global role, the Prague European Summit 2020 focused on climate change.

Masamichi Kono, deputy secretary-general of the OECD, stated the current emergency is one of the worst that economies and societies of the world have experienced, and both recovery and green policies will require substantial investments.

"Governments have to leverage public finance to improve the outcomes and draw the interest of private investors and private businesses."

The attendees also tackled the role of cities and industry, among other actors.

In a discussion with city councillors, vice-president of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Lilyana Pavlova, outlined the EIB's commitment to supporting the Green Deal and green city transition via focusing investment on sustainable infrastructure and urban development.

However, Janez Potočnik, co-chair of UN International Resource Panel, declared there would be no economic future or recovery without considering the environment.

"The economic system that we are currently living with benefits from a consumption pattern that does not consider the value chain or an environmentally friendly trade," he said.

To learn more about this year's Summit, you can watch the recordings of the full programme, or read the summary, which will be published on summit's website in December.

Author bio

Jiří Lacina studies Journalism at Charles University in Prague and works in communications at Europeum Institute for European Policy, an independent think-tank. Before, he worked as a journalist at Czech public radio's news site.

Disclaimer

This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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