European affairs ministers and state secretaries underlined the need to bring tangible improvements to the daily lives of EU citizens
The meeting in the evening of 24 July brought together candidate countries' delegates from Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU and the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn. The discussions focused mainly on assessing the enlargement process in the context of the current situation and on exchanging ideas, i.e. what are the EU's expectations of candidate countries and vice versa, and how can the EU institutions help the candidate countries to meet the accession criteria.
"We need an open dialogue with citizens and their feedback."
On the second day of the meeting, a discussion on the implementation of EU's strategic priorities took place in the presence of Frans Timmermans, the First Vice-President of the European Commission, and chaired by Ivan Korčok, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and Government Plenipotentiary for the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU. When assessing progress in the implementation of the priorities of the Strategic Agenda for the Union in Times of Change, the ministers emphasised the progress achieved in some of the important areas, such as the Digital Agenda and the Energy Union, but at the same time agreed on the need to speed up the process when it comes to areas with an impact on the daily lives of EU citizens.
'The Strategic Agenda for the Union in Times of Change represents a key political document which should guide the joint efforts of EU institutions and Member States until 2019. Substantial progress has been achieved in many areas, but, undoubtedly, we need to step up our efforts elsewhere. Therefore, I consider today's open and often critical evaluating discussion as an important and right step forward,' observed the State Secretary Ivan Korčok after the meeting.
He added that the Slovak Presidency will try to affirm its pragmatic character by using the observations presented during the discussions. 'The results of today's meeting will also help us to do as much as possible over the coming months to achieve progress where it can bring concrete positive changes for Europeans,' said the State Secretary Ivan Korčok.
Besides assessing the successes and shortcomings of the implementation of the Strategic Agenda's priorities, the ministers and state secretaries discussed the timeliness of established priorities in the context of dynamic development and the new challenges that the EU has been facing two years after its adoption.
In the second part of the informal meeting, the ministers and state secretaries highlighted the need to improve communication on the results of European cooperation in relation to its citizens. 'Communicating means more than just providing information. We need an open dialogue with citizens and their feedback. Everybody wants results. In times when the EU is being widely criticised, it is not enough to achieve these results, we need to sell them and communicate them to the general public,' remarked the Government Plenipotentiary for the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU, Ivan Korčok.
The ministers and state secretaries agreed on the need for efficient communication. The first precondition is to realise that the European Union is made up of institutions as well as citizens and Member States. 'Brexit serves as an example of a failure in communication and our inability to name things correctly. However, our goal today was not to come up with a new communications strategy, but to reflect on what all interested parties can do to resolve this situation,' emphasised the State Secretary Ivan Korčok. The informal meeting proved to be an appropriate platform for debate on this cross-cutting topic.