Brexit is 'not the end of the world' for EU
By Eric Maurice
A week after the UK referendum, the bloc's leaders seem to be coming to terms with British voters' decision to leave the EU.
"Brexit is not a tragedy, simply reality," Slovak prime minister Robert Fico summarised on Thursday.
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At a press conference in Bratislava on Friday (1 July) to launch Slovakia's six-month EU presidency, Fico and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker stressed that the EU was waiting for Britain to notify its intention to exit.
"We have no time to lose, we cannot add uncertainty to uncertainty," Juncker said.
But the focus was on the next step for the EU without the UK, which will take place in the Slovak capital on 16 September when the remaining 27 leaders meet for a group brainstorming about the future of the European project.
"We want to have a discussion without any inhibition, without any pressure," Fico said.
"We wish to discuss policies where we have differences of opinion and to decide what to do in the future," adding that "the European public expect leaders to have such discussion".
Juncker for his part defended the commission's agenda, a day after Slovak officials including Fico said that powers between Brussels and member states should be re-balanced.
He said that his institution was "fighting red tape" and was proposing less legislation than the previous commission while making progress in areas like the internal market.
"We have to re-explain the reform agenda which is under way and we implement day after day," Juncker said.
He noted that "nobody is saying what kind of reforms we need in addition to those that are under way."
The organisation of the summit itself could already be a test for the relations between institutions. While Juncker told journalists he would participate in what he called the "Fico summit", the Slovak premier stopped short of confirming it and only said it would not be possible to prepare the meeting without the commission.
The discussion about how to reform the EU and improve communications to citizens will take place regardless of what happens between the EU and Britain, both leaders said.
Domestic decisions in the UK will have "no influence" on talks, Fico said, adding that the idea was to "cover a broader ground" than the consequences of the Brexit vote.
EU better with the UK
For Slovakia, however, the departure of the UK is a loss.
"We deeply believe the EU with the UK is a better EU," Slovak foreign minister Miroslav Lajcak told journalists on Thursday. He added that Slovakia "would support measures to reverse the situation" if there was such an opportunity.
Europe minister Ivan Korcok said that the UK, as "the staunchest supporter of the internal market and of removing barriers," was a close ally of Slovakia.
But as the EU has to wait until a new British government is in place and decide if and when it launches the exit process, the Slovak government has started its EU presidency as calmly as possible.
"It's not the end of the world," Finance minister Peter Kazimir said. "We'll take a breath and address the situation accordingly."