Slovak diplomat recycles famous Chirac sentence

Jacques Chirac at a summit in 2003. [European Union]

The Slovak ambassador to Belgium told an audience today (7 September) that older EU members shouldn’t “miss the opportunity” to listen the messages of the Visegrad Group (V4) at the forthcoming Bratislava summit on the future of the EU after Brexit.

Speaking at the Brussels Press Club, Slovak Ambassador Stanislav Vallo made reference to the famous sentence by former French President Jacques Chirac, who said at a 2003 EU summit that the Eastern European members who supported the US action in Iraq, had “missed an opportunity to shut up”.

This statement was perceived as offensive by then candidate countries and had triggered angry reactions. Vallo said that in the same way, now Western countries should not miss the opportunity to listen to the message of the Visegrad Four, consisting of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary.

Slovak diplomats said that the 16 September Bratislava summit, the first of its kind after the 23 June Brexit referendum, would be a “frank discussion”, to discuss “the diagnosis” of the problems the EU is facing. The summit is expected to lead to more concrete ideas for the summit on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty, in March 2017.

Preparation for Rome Treaty anniversary to begin in Bratislava

The Bratislava summit on 16 September will launch a reflection on what needs to be done to overcome the problems the EU faces, which could result in a clearer vision to be formulated in March 2017 – the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty – the Slovak Presidency said.

Yesterday, it became clear that the V4 have the intention to present a joint position in Bratislava.

Visegrad group to table proposals at Bratislava summit

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 V4 have their own ideas on dealing with the migration crisis, as well as to return powers to the capitals, after the European Commission arguably overplayed their hand pushing for relocations, which proved to be largely ineffective.

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. asked the ambassador if he was comfortable with the comparison between Chirac’s phrase and the current situation with the V4 messages, because France proved to be right that in the context of the Iraq war. Another question was if Slovakia could reconcile its role as an “honest broker”, as holder of the rotating presidency of the Council, with tabling tough positions.

Vallo said he wouldn’t call the Slovak positions tough, but “pragmatic”, and that other countries also had tough positions, albeit hidden behind “political correctness”.

Regarding Chirac’s phrase, he said he was a fan of his foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, who stated that the Americans could win the war in Iraq, but that they could not win the peace.

The event was co-organised by CIDIC, the European Diplomatic, Economic and Academic Centre, a think tank close to the Belgian Royal family, which describes itself as a tool for diplomatic representatives to support the economic measures undertaken by their governments.

In Slovakia, on 12-13 October, the CIDIC is organising “Diplomatic, Economic and Academic days”, aiming to bring together university and business circles, and promote “business incubators”.

The CIDIC will follow up with similar activities under the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, in the first half of 2017.

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