On 1 July Slovakia took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) for the upcoming 6 months. This transfer marks the first time Slovakia has held the Presidency and the second phase of the current rotation, the Presidency having previously been held by the Netherlands and still to be held by Malta for the first 6 months of next year.

Slovak Presidency Briefing

On Tuesday, 19 July 2016, European Movement Ireland held its 10th Presidency Briefing. The Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to Ireland, H.E. Mr Dušan Matulay, and the Minister for European Affairs, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Dara Murphy TD, were in attendance to provide an overview and discuss the priorities of the new Presidency.

The Ambassador acknowledged that challenging times lie ahead for the EU, particularly stemming from the UK’s referendum decision last month. However, H.E. Mr Matulay stressed that Slovakia is well placed to assist in the mediation of future negotiations between the EU and the UK, and that this critical juncture should be used to consider how the bond between citizens and the Union can be deepened. H.E. Mr Matulay went on to detail the key ambitions of the Slovak Presidency to bring about tangible results.

Minister Murphy echoed the Ambassador’s call for the EU to foster a united front in the face of current challenges. He also underscored the need for national politicians to acknowledge the role that national governments play in creating EU policies.

At the event, the Ambassador and the Minister launched EM Ireland’s six-month Slovak Presidency Calendar. Download your copy here.

Presidency Priorities

The Slovak Presidency will focus on four key priorities:

Economically Strong Europe

The Slovak Presidency will advocate the need for the EU to foster innovation and competitiveness in a bid to stimulate job creation, through the removal of barriers to investment and the pursuit of structural reforms and responsible fiscal policies. The Slovak Presidency will also push for progress on completing the Economic and Monetary Union, as well as the Capital Markets Union. Further to this, the Presidency will promote an economy in which small and medium-sized enterprises can prosper, by encouraging alternative sources of funding away from banks.

Modern Single Market

In adapting to today’s realities and removing unjustified barriers that hamper its functioning, the Slovak Presidency will be at the forefront of the EU’s continuing effort to strengthen, deepen and modernise the Single Market. The Presidency will particularly focus on the Digital Single Market and the Energy Union, alongside a forward-looking climate policy in line with the COP21 Agreement reached in Paris in December.

A Sustainable Migration and Asylum Policy

The Slovak Presidency will strongly advocate the need to develop tenable, sustainable policies which maintain the freedom of movement ensured by the Schengen Agreement while also maintaining control over EU external borders. Measures promoted by the Slovak Presidency will include the European Border Guard and legislation on Smart Borders, encouraging greater dissemination of border information.

Globally Engaged Europe

Another key component of the Slovak Presidency’s objectives is to bolster and sustain the EU’s position in the world, in line with the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy. The Presidency will pay particular attention to ongoing accession negotiations with candidate countries where a clear European perspective is key to economic and political stability. The Presidency will also advocate the need to continue with negotiations to establish strong trade links with global economic actors.