Slovakia is today becoming the new President of the Council of the European Union (EU) for a period of six months. It is following The Netherlands and part of the Trio with Malta – who will hold the Presidency as of January 2017 – which means the three countries have agreed to a common programme and main priorities. It will be the first time for Slovakia to take up the Presidency and it will have to deal with a political crisis.
Slovakia will have to show strong leadership at the head of the Council which might prove tricky, given that its current government is a young coalition formed just three months ago. The decision by the United Kingdom to leave the EU on the eve of its presidency has already complicated its mission. In addition to that, Slovakia will have to face an unstable and uncertain economy as well as the migration crisis. The main priorities of the Presidency consequently will be to reinforce the EU economically, to modernize the Internal Market, to review and harmonize migration and asylum policies and to remain a strong player at the global level.
Faced with a weakened Europe Slovakia has to come up with solutions on how to strengthen the European project and to decide with the Member States which direction the project should take. With Brexit adding to the uncertainty, the future of Europe itself looks its most precarious since the project’s inception. But one thing is sure: in the context of Brexit, the European Union, the way it has been built, its purpose and how it is governed will have to be rethought. Brexit is a strong signal for the EU that the European project has apparently lost the support of its citizens, and the course that it has taken must be fundamentally altered. But what do European citizens seek? Slovakia will have to reinforce the EU’s efforts in rebuilding the citizens’ trust, something the EU has been trying to do for the last decades. Brexit is the proof that it has failed. Lack of trust, lack of transparency, lack of understanding are core issues that the EU must face and solve, or else it stands on the brink of an existential crisis.