Lajcak: Presidency Unique Opportunity to Chip in More Than Ever

European Parliament Chairman Martin Schulz speaking at the Slovak National Convent (photo by TASR)

Bratislava, May 26 (TASR) – We should perceive Slovakia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU not just as an enormous challenge but also as a unique opportunity to contribute to the running of the EU more than ever, said Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajcak at the National Convention on Thursday.

The National Convention is platform for a wide public discussion about European topics.

Today’s session dealt with the upcoming presidency set to begin on July 1. Lajcak emphasised that Europe currently finds itself at a critical point. It has to cope with the threats of terrorism, the migration crisis and fear from imported conflicts that foment xenophobic, nationalistic and populistic political parties. “In addition, there’s a growing gap between the rich and the poor, estrangement of ordinary citizens from national and European elites as well as the unclear future of the Union with respect to ‘Brexit’,” said Lajcak.

Slovakia’s chief of diplomacy stressed that main topics that Slovakia will deal with during the presidency will be of economic-financial character. “The task will be to approve a balanced and flexible EU budget and to work towards completion of financial, monetary and bank unions that will offer flexible management of economic and financial shockwaves,” noted Lajcak.

Furthermore, Slovakia will also deal with the issues of direct and indirect taxes, the unified digital market and the Energy Union. “With respect to the migration crisis, Slovakia will try to push through a comprehensive approach to its resolution that will tackle all elements of the crisis at the same time. Key priorities are EU external border protection, security of the Schengen area and elimination of the crisis’s causes,” said Lajcak, adding that Slovakia will also promote the strengthening of the dynamics and credibility of the enlargement process.

European Parliament Chairman Martin Schulz, also in attendance, said that 2015 was the most challenging year he has ever experienced in his political career, but admitted that this year might be even harder. “That’s why even Slovakia’s presidency faces enormous and extreme challenges,” noted Schulz, particularly pointing to the migration crisis, Islamic State, the situation in Syria, the political situation in Ukraine and the British referendum.

Schulz stressed the need for joint and pragmatic approach towards the resolution of the migration crisis. He also expressed hope that Britain will stay in the Union. “It will be beneficial to Britain as well as to the Union. After all, it is a member of G7 and the second largest economy on the internal market,” stated Schulz, adding that Slovakia will have to cope with the outcome no matter what it will be.

Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatisation Peter Pellegrini at the convention said that there are only two options for the EU with respect to the increasing extremism, nationalistic tendencies and of euroscepticism. “Either there will be even deeper fragmentation or the Union will mobilise and search for a joint long-term solution,” said Pellegrini. He is convinced that Europe will become even stronger and more cohesive by the creation of a conducive economic and investment environment. “The investment growth, structural reforms and responsible approach to the public finance remain the pillars of the economic and social policies and their implementation create scope for economic growth and employment,” reminded Pellegrini.