Status: 01/07/2022 05:05
The Czech Republic today assumes the Presidency of the Council of the EU for six months. In an interview, Foreign Minister Lipavsky explains which topic is at the top of his country’s agenda – and what role Germany plays in it.
GDR: Europe and the world are caught in a web of problems that all seem insoluble. Wouldn’t you have preferred to take over the Presidency of the Council of the EU at another time?
Jan Lipavsky: Problems can be solved and it is up to us to work on the solutions. The Czech Republic enters with a clear vision for Europe. We face challenges that affect the areas of security and the economy, but also our moral attitude. And we stand ready to help find the solutions through our presidency.
To no one
Jan Lipavsky is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. He has been a member of the state parliament as a member of the Pirate Party since 2017.
Against the “right of the strongest”
GDR: If you had to remember one thing, what is the most important thing in the next six months?
Lipavsky: Unfortunately, nothing but the war in Ukraine. It must be over. Ukrainians are fighting for freedom, for their state, to be part of the European community. It is our moral duty to support them. The opposite would mean that the law of the strongest applies again in the world. That the violation of the UN charter prohibiting the war of aggression be legitimized. The Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU wishes to contribute to the strengthening of cooperation within the EU so that we can meet this historic challenge together.
GDR: EU membership that Ukraine aspires to – how important is it?
Lipavsky: The issue of EU enlargement is both political and practical. Today, Ukrainians are literally fighting to the death to be part of the West, of European civilization. They don’t want to be ruled from Moscow. That’s what they fight for. It is therefore good that European heads of government have agreed that Ukraine should obtain candidate status.
“Nothing is more important than ending the war in Ukraine”: Jan Lipavsky, Czech Foreign Minister
“Strengthening the foundations of the EU”
GDR: Along with the Charles Bridge, a bridge is the symbol of Prague. Do the Czechs also want to be bridge builders in the Council Presidency? Due to its size and geographical location, does the Czech Republic have a special ability to bring the West and East of the EU closer together?
Lipavsky: The Charles Bridge has existed for seven centuries; and this because it rests on solid pillars and solid foundations. The Czech Presidency will therefore strive to strengthen the pillars and foundations on which the European community, our society and our civilization rest. It is principles like the prohibition of wars of aggression and humanitarian law that are there to prevent bestiality and mass murder in Europe. On these principles, we can then build a larger building. But if we build a bridge just for the bridge, it will collapse soon, such a structure cannot work. Today, it’s really about principles.
GDR: And do you also address these principles to countries like Hungary and Poland when there are problems?
Lipavsky: Poland has made significant progress in the rule of law. There have been concessions on the part of the Polish government and on the other hand the European Commission has also reviewed its position on a certain number of points. The situation has improved markedly. And the atmosphere has also changed within the Visegrad group. There is no longer a Polish-Hungarian tandem, neither in questions of the rule of law, nor in policy vis-à-vis Russia. But at the same time, it must be said: Hungary, whatever its role, is a full member of the EU. Hungary supported the sanctions packages and is also an active member of NATO – so let’s not make the differences worse than they really are.
“Explain the reasons for inflation”
GDR: Inflation in the Czech Republic is 16%. Gas and electricity prices have skyrocketed for many consumers. Do you see a risk that, under this pressure, people will turn away from the hitherto broad support for Ukraine? How much longer will the government be able to drag the population with it?
Lipavsky: There is only one cause of high inflation, and it was Vladimir Putin, who manipulated Europe’s energy supply, who unleashed the most terrible war on the European continent since the end of the Second World War, which allowed massacres to be perpetrated and cities to be destroyed, which caused a food crisis and put the whole world in difficulty. This must be said and we must explain it to the citizens. If we don’t support Ukraine, Russia will soon dictate to us how we should live and we cannot accept it. We must not renounce our values and that is why I call on other European states to actively engage in the maximum possible support for Ukraine. Because it is in the interest of the whole European continent.
GDR: Germany is the most populous and economically powerful country in the EU. Is it also assuming enough political leadership and responsibility, or would the European neighbors want to get more involved?
Lipavsky: I would like Germany to be more active, to also use the capabilities it has – in terms of personnel, technology, know-how, finances. That this great capital and potential is available to support Ukraine. For Ukraine’s European future, for humanitarian aid, but also for military support, because unfortunately war is fought with weapons. And the alternative to that is for the Ukrainians to submit to Russia, and that cannot be in our interest. We cannot wish Poland and Slovakia to become Russia’s neighbours.
“Germany can do more”
GDR: Does this mean that, in your opinion, Germany has not yet done enough?
Lipavsky: Germany could give more. It does a lot, but it could do more. And above all, we should do more together. We should look for more solutions to the energy crisis and more ways to support Ukraine militarily. Unfortunately, Ukraine cannot defend itself without arms.
GDR: There is a discussion: Should we talk to Putin or not? What is the position of the Czech Republic – and will you, as President of the Council of the European Union, be on the phone with Putin in the near future?
Lipavsky: What should we discuss with Putin? What should be the outcome of such discussions? It leads to nothing. Above all, the talks with Putin must not weaken our support for Ukraine and the eastern wing of NATO.
The interview was conducted by Danko Handrick, ARD Studio Prague