Juncker: Kiska a Real European in Head and Heart

European Commisson President Jean-Claude Juncker praised Slovakia for a "warm welcome". (Photo by TASR)

Bratislava, June 30 (TASR) – Slovakia is assuming the Presidency of the Council of the EU after many years of hard work, President Andrej Kiska said when welcoming members of the European Commission College at Presidential Palace on Thursday.

“This is a historic moment for Slovakia,” said Kiska to the eurocommissioners – headed by EC President Jean-Claude Juncker. “Our grandparents wouldn’t even be able to conceive such a thing. Not even our parents, who spent most of their lives behind the Iron Curtain,” said Kiska, describing Slovakia as a “beautiful country with awesome people and many good ideas”.

He then went on to say that he wished Slovakia to assume the EU presidency in less turbulent times, and expressed regret over the result of the British referendum on the country’s exit from the EU. Even though European integration suffered damage by the result, it isn’t the end of the world, said Kiska. Nonetheless, according to him, growing nationalist sentiments in individual EU countries are frequently being fed by emotions and myths.

Citing polls, Kiska said that a “safe majority” of Slovaks currently wouldn’t vote for their country leaving the EU. Nevertheless, they wouldn’t decide this way because they believed that the EU is a good project, but because they viewed Slovakia’s exit as too risky and costly. So, it’s necessary to revive people’s enthusiasm for the so-called European project, which is a task for political leaders.

“Slovakia will work hard to keep the Union united during the presidency and thereafter. And I sincerely wish to see the EU in a better condition and a more cheerful spirit in six months, when Slovakia will be handing over the presidency to Malta,” added Kiska.

Juncker in his following speech praised Slovakia for a “warm welcome” that allegedly isn’t commonplace. “We’re in the palace of a real European nation,” he told Kiska, describing the Slovak president as a European in both head and heart.

The Commission president described the beginning of Slovakia’s EU presidency as a historical moment that will, apart from other things, boost its people’s knowledge of the EU.