Cabinet: British Demands Will Dominate EU Summit

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PM Robert Fico's Cabinet session. (photo by TASR)

Bratislava, February 17 (TASR) – The Cabinet at its session on Wednesday approved Prime Minister Robert Fico’s attendance at the next EU summit on behalf of Slovakia, at the same time concurring with the statement that Britain’s conditions for remaining in the EU will be the summit’s pivotal topic.

The summit is due to take place in Brussels on February 18-19. Leaders of EU-member states will try to find agreement concerning four problematic areas in the British demands. These areas concern competitiveness, the management of economic matters, sovereignty and social welfare and the free movement of people.

European Council chairman Donald Tusk submitted possible solutions to these issues on February 2. Agreement with or rejection of the British terms will decide whether British Prime Minister David Cameron will campaign for or against Britain’s EU membership in the planned referendum.

Slovakia doesn’t know yet if it will support a deal. “We’ll wait for the final version of the agreement. We want to see everything on paper,” said Fico on Monday after an extraordinary Visegrad Four (V4 – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) summit that took place in Prague. The V4 stance was communicated to Tusk by Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka.

The regional grouping views child allowances and plans to index them as controversial, above all if the child in question isn’t living in Great Britain with its parents. According to the British proposal, these allowances should be set based on the quality of life in the country in which the child resides. The V4 demands that this form of indexing shouldn’t affect pensions, for instance. “Otherwise it might become a very dangerous precedent,” said Fico.

Another condition is the so-called ‘bailout mechanism’, which should temporarily restrict access for EU citizens to certain types of social welfare in Britain if the system faces unsustainable pressure. Britain has spoken about a seven-year transitional period. The V4 requires that these measures should not be retroactive.

Migration will be discussed at the summit, as well. The participants will focus on the implementation of already approved EU measures and about identifying areas in which efforts need to be strengthened.