Saturday

18th Aug 2018

Slovakia to fight EU 'fragmentation'

  • Ivan Korcok says Slovakia can help the EU overcome an "extremely difficult period" (Photo: Slovak government)

Slovakia's main objective when it takes the EU Council presidency in July will be to avoid "fragmentation" and combat the perception of an East-West divide, its Europe minister has said.

"Buzzword number one is to tackle fragmentation," Ivan Korcok told journalists in Brussels on Thursday (12 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He said there were "many good reasons to spread defeatism across Europe", but he did not share the view of an East-West divide and insisted Slovakia regarded its role "from a positive angle".

The Slovak presidency could contribute to overcoming "this extremely difficult period for the EU development", said Korcok, a former Slovak ambassador to the EU.

Slovakia's first time in the EU chair comes at a delicate moment.

On one of the most difficult challenges for the EU, the migration crisis, Slovakia has been one of the main opponents of the European Commission and the majority of other member states.

As chair of the ministers council, Slovakia knows it will have to build consensus between the 28 member states, especially on the asylum package proposed by the commission on 4 May.

"Obviously it will be difficult," the minister said.

EU countries need "sustainable migration and a sustainable asylum policy", he said.

"Migration is not a problem as such, the problem is that with the dimensions we were confronted with last year, it became unsustainable," he said

'Building blocks'

Korcok stressed the need to strengthen control at the external borders of the Schengen passport-free area.

He said Slovakia would work to make the EU border and coast guard operational and that he expected a "very important agreement" to be made on so-called smart borders, the plan to develop electronic management of EU borders.

But the country has so far refused to welcome even the asylum seekers required by the EU relocation scheme adopted last year.

And according to a Slovak source, authorities in Bratislava consider that the commission's latest asylum proposal, which contains fines for countries that refuse to take refugees, could break the consensus countries were reaching after last year's.

However, a Slovak source said that the authorities would ask their partners in the Visegrad Four group – Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary – to tone down their anti-immigration rhetoric in order to avoid tensions with other member states.

Another risk of fragmentation Slovakia could face when it takes the helm on 1 July will be the aftermath of the British EU referendum.

If the UK votes to stay in, Korkoc said Slovakia's role will be “to implement the package that was offered to the UK” in February.

If the Brexit option wins the referendum, the Slovak presidency will reflect what EU leaders will say when they meet for a summit on 28-29 June, he said.

That is why Slovakia will wait until after the summit to publish its presidency programme so that it includes the leaders' guidelines about how to handle the referendum outcome.

In the meantime, the Slovak source said, the country was not working on contingency plans in case of a British exit.

If migration and a possible Brexit do not plunge the Slovak presidency into crisis mode, Bratislava intends to push for progress in three other areas, Korcok said, calling them "building blocks".

The first block will be financial and economic affairs. That include talks on the 2017 EU budget and on the upcoming 2021-2026 financial framework, as well as the capital market union - to ease funding of business in Europe - and the future of the Economic and Monetary Union.

The second block will be the different dimension of the single market, mainly the digital and energy unions.

The Slovak minister said that these issues were part of the need to tackle fragmentation in the EU as well as delivering results to reconcile citizens with the EU.

The third block will be the EU's external relations, including trade - mostly the EU-US free-trade talks and the question of whether to grant China a market economy status - and enlargement.

"Enlargement remains instrumental to stabilise the EU's neighbourhood," the Slovak minister said, adding that candidate countries also needed to understand that "the only way to get closer to the EU is to make clear progress" on what the EU expects.

New Slovak government in convalescence

An unprecedented left-right coalition should be sworn in this week, but the prime minister's hospitalisation for a heart surgery casts uncertainty on the country's politics.

Computer to make EU asylum decisions

The EU commission has presented sweeping reforms of the "Dublin" asylum regulation that include deferring the most painful decisions to a computer in Malta.

Focus

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".

Focus

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.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  2. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  3. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  4. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  5. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  6. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  7. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  8. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us