The 27 member states that attended the Bratislava summit all had different priorities. Austria seems to have left Slovakia without any real movement on any of theirs, as little has changed regarding Turkey’s membership bid and CETA. EURACTIV Germany reports.
One of the most interesting aspects of the summit was the changing political axes at work. Two weeks ago, it seemed like Germany, France and Italy were set to band together, but with Prime Minister Renzi’s refusal to toe the party line, the alliance has been short-lived; Renzi was visibly upset that Merkel and Hollande had held a press conference without him.
Renzi, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern now want to build a new “red axis”, taking inspiration from the legendary social democratic triumvirate of Willy Brandt, Olof Palme and Bruno Kreisky. Their main target is to break with the austerity policy of championed by Angela Merkel and to return to injecting government money into the economy.
President of the European Forum Alpbach and former European Commissioner for Agriculture Franz Fischler told euractiv.de that the EU doesn’t need a “new definition”, just a consolidation of its current policies, which are “moving apart”.
Austrian Chancellor Kern was mostly unsuccessful in bringing the issue of killing Turkey’s EU membership bid to the table in Bratislava. The bloc seems content to continue with business as usual and has even suggested the possibility of opening new accession chapters in the near future. Furthermore, Kern is on thin ice when it comes to the EU’s free trade deal with Canada, CETA, as Austria risks becoming isolated in its opposition to the agreement.
Given the venue, the Visegrád 4, who are making life difficult for Brussels, were to the forefront of the summit. Karl Schwarzenberg, a doyen of Czech politics, committed Europhile and regular critic of the Prague government told euractiv.de that he could not understand many European politicians’ criticism of the Visegrád group.
On the proposal to set mandatory refugee quotas, he said, “Enforcing something with violence and not tolerating debate is not reasonable and it’s against the spirit of the Lisbon Treaty.”
The dual national Schwarzenberg, who holds both Czech and Swiss passports, refuted the idea of Czech President Miloš Zeman and Austrian Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer that Austria should join the V4.
Austria, as well as Slovenia, has long been courted in certain sectors as potential members of the Central-Eastern European bloc. But the historical background of the six countries means that Austria, with its closer ties to the Germany and its former status as an imperial power, convinced Schwarzenberg that an expansion would “only harm” the group.