Visiting Prague this week was another important stop on the Energy Union Tour which I started last Wednesday. For me personally, it was a rather nostalgic experience to meet some prominent Czech diplomats, given that we used to serve in the same diplomatic corps in what used to be Czechoslovakia. I could even hold my meetings in my mother tongue - Slovak, given the proximity to the Czech language. But this visit was also significant because the Czech Republic can see very concrete benefits from the implementation of the Energy Union. It was therefore important for me to meet with the country's leadership, NGOs, and main stakeholders and tell them what they can expect.
For example, for a country which is highly dependent on imported gas (and therefore to supply disruptions) like the Czech Republic, better connectivity to its neighbours will have a strategic impact. Furthermore, once renewables are better integrated into the national grids, Czech consumers will have greater choice and more competitive prices when buying their energy and… when producing their own! These are some of the benefits of the Energy Union for the Czech Republic which I discussed with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, and with Members of the national Parliament. I must also say that through the tone of the discussions, I could really feel the positive change of attitude among the Czech towards the EU, as was manifested in a recent poll.
Similarly to my previous visit to the Netherlands, the reaction was very positive and we agreed to continue exchange data in order to further fine-tune the Commission's analysis. The validation of each Member State is very important in order to construct an accurate image of Europe's entire energy market and recognise the gaps towards a fully operational Energy Union.
I concluded my visit by meeting with stakeholders from civil society and delivered a keynote speech at the European Nuclear Energy Forum. I am glad that the organisers invited as keynote speakers representatives of non-industry sector, like Ms Rivas from the Nuclear Transparency Watch; and Mr Buffetaut from the European Economic and Social Committee. I had the same message to all actors: dialogue is critical. The industry must know where citizens and civil groups stand when it comes to their very own safety. And citizens and associations must know what it is that the industry is doing in this field. In that respect, if my presence helped to foster this exchange, it was well worth it!
My next visit tomorrow will focus on cross-border cooperation between Germany and the Netherlands. I'll be sure to tell you how it went on this blog.