20 Years in European Union from Perspective of Meetings Industry

20 Years in European Union from Perspective of Meetings Industry

Two seemingly unrelated things – the Czech Republic's membership in the European Union and the meetings industry – have more in common than is apparent at a first glance.

The Czech Republic, along with nine other countries, joined the European Union (EU) on 1 May 2004, and it was the biggest enlargement of the Union since the foundation of the entire association. Over the past 20 years, membership has had a significant impact on the Prague meetings industry, in several specific cases.

Czech Presidencies of the Council of European Union

Every six months, all member states take turns in the so-called Presidency of the Council of the EU. Through this, in simple terms, the presiding state ensures the smooth running of the entire Union. Which country will hold the presidency of the Council is not decided by any election, but by a regular rotation. The Czech Republic has had the opportunity to hold the Council Presidency twice during its membership. As usual, a large number of international conferences, meetings and other follow-up events were linked to both presidencies.

The Czech Republic held its first Presidency five years after its accession to the European Union, specifically in the first half of 2009. At that time, the main points of discussion were energy and the economic crisis. A total of 550 meetings and conferences took place in the Czech Republic as part of the Czech Presidency, of which 101 were official, centrally arranged, ranging from 30 to 450 delegates. It also included seven summits (e.g. between the EU and the US, China, Canada and Japan). Only 70 events of pan-European significance took place outside of Prague. During the Presidency, more than 30,000 mostly foreign delegates travelled to the Czech Republic and 3,730 journalists took part in the programme, of which more than 2,000 came from abroad. The costs for the Presidency were estimated at approximately CZK 3.25 billion, of which approximately two billion were drawn from the budget of the General Treasury Administration and the rest from the budgets of individual ministries.

As part of the rotation system, the second Presidency of the Czech Republic took place in the second half of 2022. The main event of the entire Presidency was the so-called Prague Summit – the first ever meeting of the European Political Community. It was attended by a total of 43 heads of European states and 1,200 journalists. A total of 314 events took place throughout the Czech Republic, welcoming more than 35,000 accredited participants. The vast majority of the events took place in Prague and only about fifty in other regions of the country. The costs climbed to CZK 2.03 billion.

European Institutions in Prague

However, the two past presidencies did not represent the only source of congress and conference events linked to the Czech Republic's membership in the EU. As an EU member state, the Czech Republic and Prague, can also apply for the candidacy as locations of important EU institutions. For example, the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), including the headquarters of the Galileo navigation system, and the Research and Innovation Centre for Advanced Industrial Production (RICAIP) have found their headquarters in the Czech capital. Both research centres in Prague regularly hold several expert conferences of international importance. Integration into the EU has undoubtedly helped Czech science with regard to the number of researchers. There are currently over 3,300 of them from the EU countries. On the other hand, Czech scientists are widely involved in various European projects, where, in addition to research and development, they also present the results of Czech research. They thus strengthen not only the positive perception of Czech science abroad, but also the awareness of Prague as the seat of prestigious scientific institutions and a potential venue for professional meetings.

More Accessible Options for Organizing Professional Events

With the accession of the Czech Republic to the European Union, the work of event organizers not only from the EU countries has been simplified, and organizing a congress or conference, for example, in Prague, has suddenly become a little easier for them. What specifically did the Czech Republic's accession to the EU affect?

·         Free movement of persons – there are, apart from a few situations, no internal borders between the Member States of the European Union, so the conference delegates do not have to deal with additional paperwork related to passport controls;

·         Single market – competition in the free internal market of the Union leads to cheaper prices of products and services. Efforts are also being made to complete the so-called digital market, within which, for example, roaming services of telephone operators have already been unified;

·         Monetary union – although the Czech Republic has not yet introduced the common European currency, the Euro, transactions in this currency have been made possible in Prague shortly after joining the EU;

The fact that the interest in holding international association events in Prague has increased after the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union is also evidenced by the statistics of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). According to them, in the five years before the accession to the Union, 267 international association events took place in Prague, while five years after accessioning it was already 415 events. Between these two periods, there was a 55.4 percent increase in association congresses and conferences in Prague.

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