Monday

19th Aug 2019

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.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests
  2. Is Salvini closing just harbours or also the rule of law?
  3. No-deal Brexit would seriously harm UK, leaked paper says
  4. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  5. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  6. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  7. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  8. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us