Slovakia on Brexit: Challenge for presidency

European people refuse migration and economic policy of the EU, fundamental change needed, says Fico.

British PM David Cameron (l) and Slovak PM Robert Fico in June 2015British PM David Cameron (l) and Slovak PM Robert Fico in June 2015 (Source: TASR)

“It’s not a tragedy, it’s reality and the remaining 27 member states must react quickly,” Prime Minister Robert Fico said in his first reaction to the results of the Brexit referendum.

After the results of the referendum were confirmed on Friday morning, making it clear that the UK is set to leave the European Union after decades of membership, reactions started pouring in from Slovak politicians. Most of them spoke along the same lines as the prime minister urging that a calm and timely reaction is needed. They say they respect, but do not welcome the result.

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“We respect and regret their decision,” Ivan Korčok, the Foreign Ministry’s state secretary, tweeted, and called on UK representatives to “speak clearly on further steps.

Tough call for Slovak presidency

Prime Minister Robert Fico reiterated that the Slovak government respects the decision of the British voters and said that no comments were necessary. Timely reaction is needed now.

“It would be a big mistake if the reaction of the 27 countries was the same as the  policy of the EU has beenso far,” Fico said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

Fico stressed that “the giant part” of people in Europe refuse the migration policy of the EU and is discontented with the economic policy too.

“It’s up to us to say that the fundamental policies of the EU must go through fundamental changes,” Fico said.

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Read also: Slovak presidency: All about Brexit? Read more 

As the prime minister of the soon-to-be presiding country of the EU he offered to launch an informal discussion on the future of  Europe with his European partners. He believes “a more attractive approach to topics that are perceived negatively” is needed.

Fico called on the opposition to “stop destruction and hate” against his government that is now facing tough tasks ahead of the presidency and in the aftermath of the vote.

It is very important that Slovakia handles its presidency well, the coalition Most-Híd wrote in its official statement.

“No other presiding country has ever faced such a tough task,” the statement reads. Every politician in Slovakia will be responsible “so that we manage the next six months in a way that the EU doesn’t lose even more”.

Timely follow-up expected

Smer MP and head of the parliamentary European affairs committee Ľuboš Blaha sees three risks that Brexit might bring for Slovakia. Firstly, it might affect Slovak nationals who live and work in the EU and “might become second-class citizens”. Secondly, Slovakia will lose an ally in the issue of migration and refugee quotas. And thirdly, similar referendums might be initiated as a result of the British vote, in France, the Netherlands, or Denmark, he told the SITA newswire.

At the same time, Blaha stressed that it is much more probable that the UK’s departure will strengthen federalist forces within the EU “that have been long blocked by the UK”.

Read also: The day after Britain said no Read more 

As the presiding country Slovakia must make sure that the main issues around the Brexit should be clear as soon as possible, Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) MP Veronika Remišová said for the SITA newswire.

“Nothing is worse than uncertainty, particularly for our people living and working in the UK,” she said, adding she hopes the freedom of movement will be preserved “even though it is in contrast with the referendum promises in Britain”.

Slovakia as the presiding country will also face the challenge to initiate discussion on how the EU should be reformed in order to be able to respond to the current problems better.

“It would be a shame if we returned to mutual competition and hostility,” the MP said and opined that this could make Europe “a victim of the ever-stronger China and Russia”.

Read also: Geist: Euroscepticism is on the rise in Slovakia too Read more 

Former government minister Ivan Mikloš, who currently serves as an advisor to the Ukrainian government, said the referendum result was a surprise and a cause for concern.

“It’s a step back and into the unknown,” he said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. He stressed the EU should focus its efforts to prevent any threats to European integration and the common market.

Mikloš deems the referendum result a challenge for the Slovak presidency, as it will play a major role in the talks that will follow the Brexit decision.

A well-functioning EU is in the vital interest of Slovakia, three independent MPs Miroslav Beblavý, Katarína Macháčková, and Simona Petrík wrote in a joint statement as quoted by SITA.

“Therefore Slovakia should do everything so that its presidency contributes to successfully overcome the consequences of the British referendum results, but also to the wider solution of the European crisis,” the statement reads.

Sas: Black day for Europe

Today is a black day for Europe, the foreign policy expert of the opposition Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) Martin Klus said as quoted by the TASR newswire. He went on talking about the loss of trust in the European integration among the population, which he called “very dangerous”.

The decision of the Brits to exit the EU opens a “new era of the European project, an era that bears the colours of disintegration, potential increase of separatist tendencies in member states and a number of economic questions”.

SaS, whose leader Richard Sulík is known for his eurosceptic views, respects the decision of the voters but deems the result very serious and a warning against attempts to speed up  European centralisation “that annoys significant part of the population”.

Some European politicians have already announced they would attempt similar referendums in their respective countries, which is bad news for the Slovak presidency, Klus said.

“The British referendum will doubtless be the number one topic [of the presidency],” he said, as quoted by TASR.

Anti-system forces rejoice

Meanwhile, the anti-system parliamentary opposition movement Sme Rodina’s head Boris Kollár in a video statement applauded the results of the referendum and congratulated the UK on the decision to exit the EU. He labelled it an act of patriotism and pride.  

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