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29th Jul 2016

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Slovakia keen to boost legitimacy of EU commission

Slovakia's ruling party has said it will try to boost the democratic legitimacy of the EU executive by sending the country's current commissioner to campaign in the upcoming European elections.

Maros Sefcovic, currently in charge of inter-institutional relations and administration and hoping for another stint in the EU commission, will lead the ruling party's ticket in the May vote.

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  • Maros Sefcovic: Will he be able to convince Slovak voters to go to the urns? (Photo: Vladimir Benko)

"This is proof of a new political culture," Sefcovic said on Saturday (22 February), speaking alongside the Slovak Prime Minister, whose centre-left party, Smer-SD, wants to maintain its current position and secure at least five of the country's 13 seats in the European Parliament.

Sefcovic, who is also a commission vice-president, indicated that a significant number of his prospective colleagues are likely to go down the same path.

One reason is a popular feeling that the EU is "distant and isolated from its citizens."

Another is the fact that the union's executive has become more involved in national decision-making, including the sensitive area of budgetary policy.

For his part, Sefcovic will have a lot on his plate during the campaign.

He must energise Slovak voters, infamous for their low interest in European elections. Sources say that current internal predictions suggest a turnout of 15 to 18 percent, below the 2009 turnout of 19.6 percent.

"I want us to move away from abstract talk," the socialists' top candidate said about the likely campaigning style.

Prospective centre-left MEPs will, for instance, unveil individual goals such as their "dream" committee and their specific agenda for it. "Hopefully, this will attract more voters."

The continent-wide rise in euroscepticism, likely to result in greater success for far-right and far-left movements, is another source of anxiety, Sefcovic admits.

A German style grand coalition

In response, he is backing the idea of a German style grand coalition in the European Parliament, which would foster close cooperation between the pro-EU parties.

"The time is ripe to stand against simplistic rhetoric and solutions," Sefcovic said, blaming eurosceptic parties for exploiting people's frustration over the economic crisis.

Other names campaigning on the Slovak socialists' ticket are likely to be announced at the beginning of March. But some MEPs are set to wrap up their Brussels career, with sources saying the party has reservations about their present performance.

When asked to describe his satisfaction with the current stable of deputies, prime minister and party leader Robert Fico found refuge in a brief comment: "The new list of candidates will reflect it."

EU parliament approves Juncker commission

MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

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