On 1 July, Slovakia assumed the presidency of the European Union. It is the first time for the country of about 5.5 million to lead the block of 27+1 countries in its 12 years of membership. Bratislava will steer the Union in challenging times following the Brexit vote and in light of the still unresolved migration policy, which has been challenged by the Visegrad countries themselves.
Therefore, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was quick to soothe the impression that there are rising tensions among Member States to repatriate powers at the expense of Brussels-based institutions. Mr Juncker and Slovak Prime Minsiter Robert Fico met in Bratislava and confirmed that they had had “a very open and very frank debate” about the alleged hints that Slovakia was seeking to bring power back to European capital cities. Following the debate, Mr Juncker commented that “I didn’t feel that it is the intention of the Slovak government to enter into war with the European Commission.” In a similar tone, Mr Fico said that President Juncker was a friend of the Slovak Republic, who has helped the country in turbulent times.
One of Slovakia’s flagship events during its presidency will be the summit on the future of the EU, which will take place on 16 September. There are huge expectations from the summit as some Member States expect a radical overhaul of the EU’s basic legal acts and treaties. Addressing such calls, Mr Fico assured that Slovakia was not in favor of such radical moves but he also said that “business as usual was not an alternative either.” He argued that the EU needed to get better at communication with its nationals and work on its branding “to successfully sell the European project to our citizens”.