Ambassador Milan Lajciak of the Slovak Republic in Seoul said that the European Union will seek a strong Europe, modern single market, sustainable migration and asylum policy during the presidency of the EU by his country.
Speaking on at a meeting with the representatives of the media at the Slovak Embassy in Seoul on July 29, 2016, including The Korea Post, Ambassador Lajciak said, “These four priorities of the Presidency are a reflection of our complex ambition to increase the resilience of the EU to external and internal challenges and to restore citizens' confidence in the European project.” Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Lajciak follow:
Challenges and priorities of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of European Union:
After 12 years of EU membership Slovakia is for the first time honored to lead the European Union. The EU is our home, the Euro our currency and Schengen our area. Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU is the culmination of our integration journey, symbolic and important.
Slovakia is assuming its Presidency role in very challenging times. In the past couple of years, the Union has faced a number of serious crises and has been struggling with many unprecedented internal and external challenges - migration and refugee crisis, growing scale of terrorism, continuing conflicts in the neighborhood (Ukraine/Russia, ISIS/Syria), pertaining issue of Greek bailout and the last but not the least the UK referendum about the withdrawal from EU. All these challenges have undoubtedly impacted the overall shape of EU and also heavily subscribed in forming moods of EU population.
UK plebiscite outcome, among others, is a kind of reflection of declining trust in EU prospects. We respect the choice of UK citizens though we regret they decided to leave the European project. We are aware that the confidence of EU people in the EU has been significantly undermined but we must learn lesson and very carefully tackle this issue.
Slovak Presidency in this respect includes a lot of responsibilities. We strongly believe that the EU is the best solution for Europe and its population. However, it is essential for the Union to regain trust of citizens and to focus on long-term EU perspective. In the interest of these objectives Slovak Presidency intends to build upon the positive experience and to promote sustainable solution. Regarding positive agenda we aim to decrease barriers among Member States in the area of Single Market, which will bring tangible results to improving quality of people´s daily life and real benefits for citizens and the economy. As to the sustainable solutions, we would like in addition to providing an immediate response to recent developments to contribute into building the EU long-term perspective.
The main objective of the Slovak Presidency is to act as a fair and honest broker in fulfilling the strategic priorities of the European Union and to strive to work on three interconnected principles. 1) To be pragmatic and to deliver tangible results, that will bring direct benefits for daily lives of EU citizens. We want to demonstrate to EU citizens that joint European projects have a real impact in terms of improving their quality of life. 2) To overcome fragmentation by contribution into more close connection of EU Member States in the area of Single Market we will seek to achieve results that will help to connect Member States more closely in the Single Market while searching for solutions acceptable for all Member States and beneficial for the Union as a whole. These principles are mutually reinforcing and we believe that with (1) tangible results (2) overcoming fragmentation we can bring (3) real added value for our citizens. Focusing on people, on the needs of EU citizens, will be the centre of our attention.
The ingredients that we have to merge are three-fold - our vision, current reality on the ground and strategic EU documents. In order to achieve our intentions and goals Slovak Presidency will focus on four principal priorities: to make European economy stronger, to modernise and broaden Single Market, to work towards sustainable migration and asylum policy, to contribute to the global engagement of Europe.
1. Economically strong Europe: First priority of the Slovak Presidency is to put emphasis on the economically strong EU based on investments which contribute to economic growth and the creation of new jobs. Promoting an economy in which small and medium-sized enterprises can flourish is a prerequisite for the stability and the sustainability of public finances.
We are ready to continue the efforts in building the Capital Markets Union and move on with key legislative initiatives. A true single market for capital would unlock new sources of cross-border funding. It would make life easier for businesses heavily dependent on the banking sector.
We will also deal with the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework and the EU Budget 2017. We are aware that the EU budget, as our main investment tool, must reflect the Union's priorities and have the necessary capacity to handle unexpected challenges.
Furthermore, we will work on the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union. The sooner we close remaining gaps, the better for all. Only then we will finally secure stability, prosperity and full credibility of the Euro zone.
2. Modern Single Market: Single Market is one of the biggest EU success stories. Yet we believe that it needs to be enriched by two new pillars ? Digital Single Market and Energy Union.
Digitalization and e-commerce open up a completely new pool of opportunities. However, the market potential is still untapped. The Slovak Presidency will diligently work on its effective implementation of a Digital Single Market package. Removing the barriers of data portability, geographic blocking and international roaming will be our focus.
Our other ambition is to significantly contribute to building a reliable and competitive Energy Union, because security of supply plays an important role in achieving energy resilience for Europe.
Promoting sustainable growth also requires a significant improvement of natural resources governance. Therefore we will support measures directed towards the circular economy. Circular economy is essential to reduce waste production and protect the environment, but also to transform how the economy functions, from production and consumption to waste management and the secondary materials market.
3. Sustainable migration and asylum policy: Even though migration represents a long-term historic phenomenon, Europe has been dealing with unprecedented migration flows only since last year. They put immense pressure on EU´s external borders as well as the asylum systems of EU Member States. We can resolve it only through joint EU wide efforts.
Crisis management is not enough, we are looking for comprehensive solutions linking up all relevant internal and external aspects. We must return to a proper functioning of the Schengen area. In this respect, it is essential to make the European Border and Coast Guards operational.
Furthermore, the effective cooperation with third countries of origin and transit also needs to be established. The EU-Turkey agreement remains one of its crucial parts. Besides that, we will also tackle the issue of legal migration. Our Presidency will also put a lot of effort into the smart borders package.
4. Globally engaged Europe: Significant changes in the geopolitical reality. These changes have made increased global commitment within the EU an indispensable element in promoting peace and stability. Therefore our Presidency strives to contribute to global engagement of Europe.
Free trade is a significant contributor to internal and external stability of the EU. Slovakia is an open economy supportive of soundly negotiated free trade agreements.
TTIP is a major opportunity for the EU. We stand ready to support the EU Commission to reach an ambitious, comprehensive and balanced agreement. We should take seriously the critical voices and have an open discussion about the consequences. The final text must safeguard the high level of EU standards.
The new European global strategy for common foreign and security policy should become our tool to co-shape rapidly changing world. Our key objectives are protection of international order, strengthening security and facilitating peaceful and durable solutions to crises.
At the same time, we will remain a vocal advocate of more effective and preventive European Neighbourhood Policy. To the East, we wish to make strong emphasis on stabilisation and reform processes. To the South, we would like to focus inter alia on countries contributing to migration flow to Europe.
Given our own experience, the enlargement policy is one of the most effective transformation tools. It is thus a key instrument for stabilizing our neighborhood. Therefore our Presidency will seek to maintain the momentum of the accession process.
These four priorities of the Presidency are a reflection of our complex ambition to increase the resilience of the EU to external and internal challenges and to restore citizens' confidence in the European project. Our mission is to achieve such solutions as are truly acceptable to all Member States and beneficial to the EU as a whole.