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07/12/2016

Visegrad group to table proposals at Bratislava summit

Future EU

Visegrad group to table proposals at Bratislava summit

The V4 leaders meet with Ukrainian PM Volodymyr Groysman in Krynica on 6 September.

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Four eastern European countries will stake out a joint position at next week’s  Bratislava summit on the EU’s post-Brexit future, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło said yesterday (6 September).

The so-called Visegrad Group has “enormous potential… (and) a recipe for the EU,” Szydło said.

The European Union requires reforms “to bring it closer to its citizens,” Szydło said, without elaborating.

Prime ministers from Visegrad members Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland – all EU states since 2004 – met on the margins of an economic forum in the Polish town of Krynica and discussed the impact of Britain’s vote on June 23 to leave the EU.

The consequences of the referendum will feature in an informal summit of 27 countries – the entire bloc, minus Britain – in the Slovak capital of Bratislava on 16 September.

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Nationalists in central and eastern Europe argue that Britain’s shock vote shows citizens are disenchanted with the bloc, seeing it as aloof or driven by a federal political agenda.

Some of these figures have clashed with the European Commission, the EU’s powerful executive, on migrants and human rights.

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One of those critics, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, said Brexit “offered the opportunity to correct mistakes by the EU,” which he described as “rich but weak”.

Slovakia, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, will host the summit. Its prime minister, Robert Fico, said the meeting will “launch a major process, a diagnostic on the health of the EU” and defining “a remedy to cure it”.

Slovakia advocates returning EU power to capitals

Speaking to Brussels journalists on a press trip to Bratislava, the Slovak premier, and his foreign minister, shed light on their ambitions for steering the Union for the next six months, and laying the groundwork for a rethink of the EU, following the shock of the UK referendum.

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The Visegrad leaders also met in Krynica with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, expressing support for Kiev’s European goals, with Fico and Orbán also calling for visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainians.

“It’s a moral issue,” said Orbán, adding that the EU had promised to take steps to bring Ukraine closer to the bloc.

“But over the past two years, nothing has happened,” he complained.