23rd May 2016
Less than two months ago, Slovakia was still focused on the results of its Parliamentary elections, one of the key concerns being that the outcome would not allow the creation of a stable government – directly threatening Slovakia’s ability to run the Presidency of EU in the second half of 2016.
As is often said, politics is often the art of the unthinkable, and after several twists and turns Slovakia finally formed a government led by previous social democrat Prime Minister Robert Fico. There was much discontent and criticism among the right-wing electorate about two right-wing parties joining Fico’s government, but this set-up is most likely the best scenario in the context of the upcoming EU Presidency. The current government consists of stable, experienced parties and politicians, so the fear that Slovakia will in some way mismanage its Presidency seems unjustified.
With political instability concerns (hopefully) out of the way, what will the EU Slovak Presidency look like?
After studying most of the priorities set out by the Slovak Government, it seems that Slovakia will continue with existing EU initiatives and projects and develop them accordingly. Like the Presidencies of other smaller EU Member States, the Slovak Presidency is unlikely to bring any game-changing decisions or launch initiatives that aim to fundamentally change the EU.
Let’s look at the key priorities of the Slovak Presidency:
In the financial area, Slovakia will try to further develop the Banking and Capital Markets Union, while paying attention to the continued fight against tax evasion. Slovakia will also aim at enhancing the environment in which small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are functioning, in line with its own national priorities.
In employment, Slovakia will focus efforts on workforce mobility within the EU and ensure that professional qualifications are properly recognised between EU Member States.
In energy, Slovakia will aim to strengthen regional cooperation to achieve increased energy security. Specific topics for discussion will be the cost and price of energy, with Slovakia pushing for a cost-efficient approach. The Slovak Presidency will also focus on recycling, and in particular the water re-use strategies and approaches.
In the area of security and justice, Slovakia will continue to prioritize finding solutions to the migration and terrorism challenges. The Slovak government will also continue working on the creation of the EU Prosecutor Office as well as on improving the efficiency of existing tools to combat fraud and criminal behavior within the EU.
In the area of foreign affairs, the Slovak Presidency will look into strengthening the EU Neighborhood Policies (ENP). EU expansion, particularly regarding the Balkan region, is a long-standing foreign affairs priority of the Slovak Government. The country will also aim to develop policies related to the Eastern Partnership countries – namely those bordering the EU to the east and south - which ties in with the fight against uncontrolled migration and transit.
The Slovak Presidency is unlikely to be a game-changer for the EU, but in the context of the country’s size and the risks following the March Parliamentary elections, if Slovakia will manage to make progress on at least some of the initiatives mentioned above, it can be surely branded as a success, which would be a good result for a small country sitting at the heart of Europe.
Peter Fecko, Managing Director, Grayling CEE
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