24.07.2009
Looking back at the presidency

The Presidency of the European Union is like a relay race. You have your part of the track, at which you have to do your best, but on the other hand, the race is a collective matter and you cannot do without a close cooperation with the others. You have to takeover the relay baton and to hand it over duly as well. We were taking over the Presidency from the French and handing it over to the Swedish, and long before we started running on January 1, we had been preparing so that the run, or rather the sprint of ours - as the six months went by unbelievably quickly - was as efficient as possible.

The EGAP was delegated by the Ministry of Industry and Trade to preside over the Council Working Group on Export Credits. Based on our many years of practice we were well aware what was in store for us. We knew that we would be coordinating and coordinating again and that we would fail to achieve the desired state, in which the representatives of all twenty-seven EU member states share the same opinion on the respective matter, which would be subsequently presented by the European Commission on behalf of the European Union at the OECD meeting held to consider the rules for the state subsidy to export included in the OECD Consensus. In addition, we strictly adhered to the three programme priorities of the Czech Presidency, which were Economy, Energy and EU in the world.

We achieved high scores in all the three priorities and the highest score was achieved in energy sector although few people might have been expecting such a result at the beginning. For many years there had been a hard fight within the Council Working Group on Export Credits between supporters of improved conditions for renewable resources on the one hand and supporters of the same for nuclear resources on the other hand. They had been clinched and it had seemed that the Sector Understanding on Export Credits for Renewable Energies and Water Projects upon expiration of the trial period at the end of June would not only fail to become a permanent part of the OECD Consensus but also be cancelled completely. And so we were coordinating, negotiating and preparing a path to a compromise patiently. The path was very complicated, sometimes too narrow, sometimes it looked like an obstacle course, however, at the eleventh hour, we were able to reach the finishing tape. As from July 1, 2009, it is possible to finance both exports of equipment for renewable resources and exports of equipment for nuclear facilities by means of export credits with maturity time limits of up to 18 years as from the date of completion, with 18-month postponement of the first instalment and with a wide range of other advantages, including lower interest rates. This concerns a great and indisputable success of our Presidency.

As far as economy is concerned, it is clear that our Presidency was considerably affected by the global financial and economic crisis. In addition to the usual agenda, the Council Working Group on Export Credits deals with, it was therefore necessary to look for the most efficient methods of how to cope with the consequences of the crisis. Even in this area, we succeeded in consolidating a really wide range of opinions and to reach a temporary release of some of the restricting rules for export credits. Based on our initiative, the issues relating to trade financing were considered on the political level within the EU and subsequently at the April's G-20 meeting, the result of which was the commitment of the participating countries to support the worldwide resources intended for trade subsidy in the amount of USD 250 billion. Our contribution is the increase in support of the EGAP insurance capacity from CZK 120 billion to CZK 150 billion and the increase in the ČEB's capital by approximately CZK 1 billion.

The third priority of the Czech Presidency of the European Union on a worldwide scale resulted in our task to reach agreement with negotiators of the European Commission operating in the World Trade Organization (WTO) with respect to the "Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures", which is a corner stone of the export state subsidy system, to the intent that its wording would remain unchanged and that changes proposed by some of the developing countries, which would mean a threat to the existing mode, would be refused. This was managed as well as the commencement of preparation for negotiations with China concerning its accession to the rules of the OECD Consensus, which would mean a significant contribution to the international trade culture.

Each Presidency is assessed not only from a professional point of view but also as far as its social aspects are concerned. There is a good tradition that the presiding country holds the so-called informal meeting, which is not included in the standard agenda, and which means an opportunity to see some issues from a different point of view and in the atmosphere relieved due to other than working experiences. The main point of the Prague's meeting of the members of the Working Group was a seminar held in the Cernin Palace on the subject of the "Current impacts of the financial crisis and its consequences for export financing". The roles of the main speakers were played by Vladimír Dlouhý from the Goldman Sachs Europe Ltd. company, the Ambassador and the Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic at OECD Karel Dyba and the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the CEO of the INEKON GROUP, a.s. company Josef Hušek. All the three contributions were accepted with great interest and inspired a fruitful discussion.

In addition to the seminars, the agenda included a tour on a board of a historical street railway to the venue of the "Magic Circus" performance in the world-famous Laterna magika, a dinner party in the spirit of the best tradition of the Bohemian cuisine in Zofin Palace, a tour round state premises of the Prague Castle, which are closed to the public under standard circumstances, including the Spanish Hall, and the closing dinner, during which the imaginary sceptre of the Presidency was taken over by the Swedish. Even this two-day meeting in Prague contributed, according to the reactions of the participants, to the fact that we can count our six-month Presidency over the Council Working Group on Export Credits among our successes.

Jana Ammerlaan
Deputy Managing Director of EGAP
Head of the Czech National Delegation

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