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12 July 2016
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Minister Lajčák on the Slovak Presidency's priorities, presented to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament

Brussels (12 July 2016) – 'We have intensive work ahead of us to make Europe stronger, more united and more capable of dealing with the current challenges', stressed the Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Mr Miroslav Lajčák, at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels, where he presented the priorities of the Slovak Presidency.

'We recognise and appreciate the work of the European Parliament and we know that in order to be successful in fulfilling our priorities, we need the support and understanding of the EP and its committees,' said Mr Lajčák after the discussion with the MEPs.

Before that, at the beginning of his speech, he had reminded his audience that Slovakia was taking over the Presidency of the Council of the EU at a critical, unprecedented time due to Britain's plans to leave the EU and a combination of other challenges that the EU is currently facing.

'Naturally, our Presidency does not have a formula to heal all Europe's pains. But we are focusing on citizens, on what they have to say, and we want to be pragmatic and unifying.'

Miroslav Lajčák.

'The current situation is testing both the EU's capacity to be a community of states as well as the core of the European identity. Therefore we need even more empathy, willingness to reach a compromise and ability to listen to what the citizens are saying,' Mr Lajčák reminded MEPs. And that is why the Slovak Presidency intends to focus on agendas and topics that can bring tangible results for citizens.

'Naturally, our Presidency does not have a formula to heal all Europe's pains. But we are focusing on citizens, on what they have to say, and we want to be pragmatic and unifying,' stated Mr Lajčák.

He also mentioned the situation brought about by the UK's EU referendum.

'Brexit is not a British phenomenon. It's symptomatic of something deeper. We are witnesses of a widening of the gap between ordinary people and the European elite. People's fear of losing their jobs, cultural identity and of lower security is based on their concerns that we as leaders will fail to solve their real problems,' said Mr Lajčák. That is why European politicians must try to regain public support and trust.

When presenting the four Slovak Presidency programme priorities in the EP's Foreign Affairs Committee he placed particular emphasis on the last one – a globally engaged Europe and its relations with its neighbouring countries.

'Our current situation merely underlines the importance of integration and close cooperation with Turkey and Western Balkan countries. This region has always played a key role in shaping the EU's stability and security,' stressed Mr Lajčák and added that the enlargement policy is the most effective tool to promote necessary reforms and strengthen the stability in the Balkans.

He then briefly commented on how Slovakia perceives the progress and integration chances of individual candidate countries and potential candidates for EU membership. With regard to the situation in the Eastern region, he observed that the Eastern Partnership policy had lost some of its dynamics. He suggested that the EU should work on a new vision for these countries in order to regain the initiative. A concrete first step should be visa liberalisation for Georgia and Ukraine.

'I am pleased that the members of the EP's Foreign Affairs Committee reacted positively to our priorities. They appreciated our focus on the enlargement agenda and relations with Eastern partners. Although the EU enlargement process is not among the most popular topics today in the EU and its Member States, the MEPs have shown their understanding and support,' said Mr Lajčák after the discussion in the EP.

Full speech and photographs are available for download on www.mzv.sk.

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