Strasbourg, July 6 (TASR-correspondent) – Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, speaking in the European Parliament on Wednesday, said that Slovakia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU isn’t just the first one ever but also the first that is facing the EU’s disintegration.
Fico presented Slovakia’s priorities during the presidency [an economically strong Europe, the modern single market, migration and a globally committed Europe – ed. note], emphasising that the country is glad that it has become a part of this unique integration project. He said that there is no other such project that has turned out as well as the EU, while Slovakia has become economically and geopolitically stronger thanks to the Union.
The premier went on to say that the EU has to listen to critical voices and to become more flexible and perceptive. We’ve entered a phase in which we have to overcome our fears of migration, terrorism and economic and political crises, he stated.
Fico reiterated that fear is the worst advisor, and this is being mirrored in the current upsurge of extremist and nationalist groups. The EU isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have any other alternatives. It needs a new investment impulse and trust, he said. Slovakia would like to focus on the better utilisation of financial resources and tools and on the completion of economic, monetary and bank unions.
Crises can’t be resolved via manifold individual uncoordinated national procedures but via a single joint EU-wide approach. The single voice should be partly facilitated via a new global strategy for a common foreign and security policy. Slovakia’s presidency should focus on long-term goals related to the protection of external borders as well as the Schengen area and on eliminating the causes of migration.
Fico expressed appreciation for support in setting up an informal summit of 27 EU-member states [i.e. without Great Britain – ed. note] that is due to take place in Bratislava on September 16 and will mainly tackle institutional and contractual changes.
“Europe’s cement is its history. It defines the feeling that we belong to a single family and our European identity. It is exactly this feeling that has propelled Slovakia’s integration efforts for years,” noted Fico, adding that it’s impossible to live solely off the past and there’s a need to adapt to an ever-changing world.
Slovak MEP and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party leader Richard Sulik praised the rejection of mandatory quotas for redistributing migrants that the current Government has been pushing for so vehemently, but he regretted that this didn’t make it onto the list of presidency priorities. Sulik thinks that immediate self-reflection is what the Union needs most. “Mr. [Jean-Claude] Juncker as the European Commission president is unbearable,” he stated, adding that if the EU is to be reformed, this certainly won’t happen with a man that has been around for 20 years. Sulik further believes that Slovakia will also tap into unpopular truths, such as the concept of ever closer union, which isn’t really working.
European Commission First Vice-president Frans Timmermans noted that the EU is being confronted by a divorce [following the Brexit vote in the recent British referendum – ed.note] that it has to cope with, but he thinks that Slovakia is well-prepared for the task.
Timmermans referred to the words of recently deceased Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, who said that the opposite of love isn’t hatred but indifference. Europeans should again grasp the historical meaning of the European project.