Slovak PM Robert Fico in the EP: EU citizens will be at the heart of the Presidency agenda

 Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico spoke in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday to present the priorities of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU. Slovakia is greatly honoured to have the opportunity to contribute – now more than ever before as it holds the Council Presidency for the first time – to whatever is going on in the EU and to its progress in the next six months.

‘It is essential to discuss how to make the EU better and more efficient for all of us. The European Union is for people and must be built by people’, said Mr Fico. This is also attested to by the result of the recent referendum in the United Kingdom. ‘The European Union must listen more closely to critical voices. It must become more flexible, less bureaucratic and more responsive to diversity while shedding the label of being “elitist” and incomprehensible to ordinary citizens, who often view it as too distant and detached from their day-to-day problems,’ said the Slovak PM.

Partly with that in mind, EU citizens will be at the heart of the Slovak Presidency’s agenda. One challenge facing the Slovak Presidency is to simplify communication with the general public.

‘The benefits of membership are indisputable. I am all the more saddened by the fact that we’re often unable to articulate to people where the uniqueness of the European project lies, and that we’re unable to explain that a stronger Europe isn’t in the interest of Brussels, but in the interest of all of us,’ said Mr Fico.

The Slovak Prime Minister welcomed the support for Slovakia’s initiative to organise an informal summit of 27 EU Member States on the Union’s future, scheduled for 16 September in Bratislava. He remarked that expectations will be high for the summit, which will no doubt mark the culmination of the Slovak Presidency. ‘We must use the next two months to prepare for the summit thoroughly, so as to make sure that it’s not merely an improvised exercise and an end in itself,’ said Mr Fico.

‘The Slovak Presidency hopes that the summit’s conclusions will provide a counterweight to offset extreme views on the EU’s functioning,’ he noted. There are opinions that excessive criticism of common European policies would only prove Eurosceptics and EU detractors right.

Having said that, it would be utterly counterproductive and deleterious for the European vision if the summit were to be concluded with a statement that everything is fine. ‘We know that this is not the case. Such a conclusion would only fuel more referendum movements and fragmentation of the EU, leading to enormous consequences,’ he added.

In his speech to MEPs, Mr Fico also emphasised that the fact that some facets of the EU’s functioning may not be viewed in a positive light did not necessarily mean that we should renounce all rules, policies and institutions based on common values. He also indicated that despite the rise in Euroscepticism, EU citizens continue to trust in the European project, and even if the EU isn’t perfect, it makes sense and there is no alternative to it. What it needed, however, is a fresh impetus and new trust.

‘The European Union of the 21st century is in need of a wind of change … it needs openness, honesty and simplicity, and obviously responsibility for actions and thoughts that result from it’, said Mr Fico. The Slovak Presidency will, therefore, seek to launch a profound reflection on what the EU wants to – and must – offer the European public in future.

Read more at the EU Council Slovak Presidency website