Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met last week with the new Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini on the occasion of Slovakia’s upcoming presidency of the Visegrad Four group. There are hopes that the Slovak presidency will lead to a deal to reform the EU’s system on asylum. Mr. Pellegrini took office following PM Robert Fico’s resignation after the murder of the investigative journalist Jan Kuciak. Slovakia will take over from Hungary and lead the Visegrad between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2019.
The Visegrad countries – namely Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – have been widely seen as troublemakers when it comes the EU-mandated system of migrant quotas. Mr. Pellegrini said the mandatory quotas were “not fair”, but emphasized that there were other ways Slovakia could contribute, referring to a project under which his country hosts asylum-seekers while they await the decisions on their applications in neighboring Austria. “If we want to maintain peace and solidarity in the union, I’m sure it is not a good idea to boost tensions”, he said, according to translation. “I will do everything I can so that there will be no stalemate”, he added.
President Juncker said there were very few Western Europeans who were aware of the activities the Visegrad countries are pursuing to help refugees from Libya. He said that the four Visegrad countries provided Italy with €35 million – “an effort others didn’t do” – Mr. Juncker said. “As Slovakia is the incoming Presidency of the Visegrad Four, starting on 1 July, I’m convinced that relations between the Visegrad Four and the Commission, which are not as bad as they are described, will further improve”, he added.