Europe 1 with AFP 11:45 a.m., June 30, 2022, modified at 11:46 a.m., June 30, 2022

The Czech Republic takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union on Friday, at a time of "bad weather" in Europe, when all eyes are on Ukraine.

Prague has promised to put aid to Ukraine at the center of its presidency, from the refugee crisis to the reconstruction of the country at war, but also European energy security.

This presidency, which the Czechs inherit from France and will pass on to Sweden, "is not planned for good weather, it is planned for bad weather", warns Pavel Havlicek, of the Association for International Affairs , based in Prague.

On Friday, the Czech government will receive the European commissioners in a castle for talks followed by a concert, in this country of 10.5 million inhabitants which joined the EU in 2004.

At the center of his presidency: aid to Ukraine

Prague has promised to put aid to Ukraine at the center of its presidency, from the refugee crisis to the reconstruction of the country at war, but also European energy security.

The Czech Republic, a strong supporter of sanctions against Russia within the European Union, has taken in nearly 400,000 Ukrainian refugees since the start of the conflict in early 2022 and provided financial and military assistance.

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Right-wing Prime Minister Petr Fiala, a former political analyst who co-wrote a book on the EU, recently said he would try to arrange a summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Western Balkan countries, whose EU candidacy promoted by Prague and other Eastern European countries has stalled, would also take part in this event.

But this summit, which would propose a sort of Marshall plan to Ukraine, would only be held if the war is over.

The director of the University of New York in Prague, Jiri Pehe, considers this project unrealistic.

"The conflict will hardly end before the end of the Czech presidency," he told AFP.

"The Czechs will just try to organize a summit on Ukraine" and "convince others to continue to help this country".

Czechs can 'hardly offer leadership'

Pehe says the Czechs are in a bad position to lead a debate on economic recovery or energy security because, faced with high inflation, the country has still not joined the euro zone and depends on nuclear energy, rejected by some EU members, including Germany.

"He can hardly offer leadership" in these areas, criticizes Mr. Pehe.

Czechs are traditionally Eurosceptic, and a March poll by the STEM agency shows that only 36% of them are happy with the EU.

Mr. Fiala's government is less Eurosceptic than some of its predecessors.

But analysts question his ability to distance himself from Budapest and Warsaw, with which he has close ties within the Visegrad group, which also includes Slovakia.

Hungary and Poland have fallen out of favor with Brussels because of their positions on the rule of law.

European Council Vice-President Vera Jourova, who is Czech, recently urged the government to take a clear stance on Hungary and Poland during the presidency.

"I do not see how the Czech Republic could adopt a more critical point of view" towards them, however declared Mr. Pehe.

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