Juncker upbeat on Slovak presidency of Visegrad

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker greets Peter Pellegrini on 12 April 2018. [Commission]

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who received yesterday (12 April) the new Slovak PM Peter Pellegrini, made optimistic remarks on the upcoming Slovak presidency of the Visegrad countries, and the prospects of a deal to reform the EU’s system on asylum.

Pellegrini took office after long-serving PM Robert Fico resigned after the murder of the investigative journalist Jan Kuciak.

Slovak PM quits after journalist's murder but coalition stays in power

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico resigned on Thursday (15 March), as the governing three-party coalition seeks to cling to power after the murder of an investigative journalist provoked the country’s biggest protests since the fall of communism.

The Visegrad countries (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) have been a hard nut to crack when it comes to sharing the burden of the refugee crisis. The current holder of the rotating Visegrad presidency is Hungary. Slovakia will take over from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019.

Speaking to the press alongside Juncker, Pellegrini said the mandatory quotas were “not fair”, but stressed there were other ways his country could contribute, mentioning a project under which Slovakia hosts asylum-seekers while they await the decisions on their applications in Austria.

Slovakia promotes Gabcikovo camp as answer to refugee problem

Slovakia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, has showcased the Gabčíkovo camp near Bratislava as an example that intergovernmental solutions can work better than the Commission’s relocation system based on mandatory quotas.

He also reminded that Slovakia supports the Trust fund for Africa, designed to alleviate the burden of incoming refugees. He said that as negotiations to reform the Dublin asylum system progress, his country would come up with constructive proposals.

“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.

Juncker said there were very few Western Europeans who were conscious of the contribution of the Visegrad countries in assisting refugees from Libya. He said that the four Visegrad countries made available €35 million to Italy, in his words “an effort others didn’t do”.

“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 said.

An agreement to reform the Dublin system is expected in principle by June.

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