Monday

20th Nov 2017

Focus

Slovak EU presidency aims to take power away from Brussels

  • Slovakia will host an informal summit in Bratislava on 16 September about the future of the EU. (Photo: Miroslav Petrasko)

Slovakia is taking on the EU presidency on Friday (1 July) with a "positive agenda" and an ambition to reshape the balance of powers within the EU, in the wake of the British decision to leave.

The Slovak government, which in recent months has been at loggerheads with the European Commission and some other member states over the EU scheme to relocate asylum seekers, will seek "constructive discussions," prime minister Robert Fico said.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • "Brussels has a negative reputation in Europe," Robert Fico said to explain why EU leaders will be meeting in the Slovak capital. (Photo: Consillium)

It will "focus on a positive agenda, not on topics that divide us," he told journalists in Bratislava on Thursday.

He said migration would feature high on the presidency's agenda and that the EU would have to "refocus and redefine policies that are unsuccessful".

Fico pointed out that opinion polls showed that "a vast majority of Europeans disagree with the current state of migration policy in Europe". 



Slovakia's role as EU president, Fico explained, would be to "create a forum" to allow member states to discuss the commission's proposals.

"We have to focus on mechanisms that function, not on those that don't function," he said, referring to the relocation mechanism.

Informal summit

The Brexit and its consequences have added a new item on Slovakia's presidency agenda. An informal summit about the future of the EU, without the UK, will be held in Bratislava on 16 September.

"Brussels has a negative reputation in Europe," Fico said to explain why he asked to organise the EU leaders meeting in the Slovak capital instead of the EU capital.

Although only informal, it will be the first EU summit held outside Brussels since 2000, when the EU decided to end summits in the country holding the rotating presidency.

Fico said that Slovakia had "great expectations for this summit" because it would launch a process where all 27 remaining member states of the EU would have a say.

"Crucial decisions on the future of Europe cannot be decided by a small group of member states," referring to recent meetings of foreign ministers from the EU's six founding countries.

He said that decisions must now get the support of the "newer member states".

"It is high time to acknowledge that these countries have a unique experience of transformation," Fico said, referring to the political and economical transition since the fall of communism.

'Brexit brings a new dynamic'

The Slovak premier added that he hoped that the discussions in a 27-format would be "the standard working method for the future."

With this process, members states will reclaim the power of initiative from other EU institutions, in particular the commission.

The meeting was proposed before last week's EU referendum in the UK but was agreed only at this week's summit in Brussels.

It will be an opportunity for Slovakia to push for a more inter-governmental EU.

"The best [way] to improve the EU now is too establish strong ownership of reforms by member states," a Slovak official said and added that "Brexit brings a new dynamic."

'Citizens don't live in institutions'

Slovakia aims to change the balance of power between institutions, Fico's foreign minister Miroslav Lajcak explained.

"Citizens don't live in institutions, they live in member states," he told journalists.

He said that "policies have to be driven by member states" and that the EU administration was there "to make sure that there is no conflict between political decision and their implementation".

He said that some member states felt they were sidelined.

"When the EU council [where member states sit] agrees on something, the commission comes with proposals that are divisive," mainly referring to proposals on refugee sharing.

But the "last thing" he wanted to see was a competition between institutions.

"We don't need finger pointing," Lajcak said. "We all share the responsibility of failures and the responsibility to find solutions."

Ambivalent Slovakia prepares to take EU helm

Prime minister Robert Fico, one of main critics of EU migration policies, is about to lead Slovakia into its first presidency of the EU Council. He says he wants "normal dialogue" but will "not keep silent".

Smiles and frowns in Slovak EU logo

The Slovak EU presidency logo contains a smily emoji. But its 23 year-old designer made other faces in case things go wrong.

Brexit casts shadow on Slovak EU presidency

Whatever happens in the British EU referendum, Slovakia's first-ever EU presidency will be dominated by EU-UK relations. But no plans can be made until the vote and an EU summit a week later.

Brexit is 'not the end of the world' for EU

The Slovak presidency and the EU Commission awaits Britain's exit notification but have their eyes on a future summit that will focus on reforming the Union.

EU posted workers face hurdles

Negotiations among the EU institutions will start soon, but could be difficult on several issues - like the inclusion of the transport sector or the duration of a posting.

Supported by

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse