Pellegrini to MEPs: My government is pro-European and committed to NATO

Slovak PM spoke in the European Parliament, faced criticism that lessons have not been learned in Slovakia

PM Peter Pellegrini at the European Parliament session in Strasbourg.PM Peter Pellegrini at the European Parliament session in Strasbourg. (Source: TASR)

Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini spoke to the members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on March 12, during a debate about the future of the European Union.

In his speech, he called for social and economic cohesion in the EU, mitigating the negative effects of globalisation and the tax avoidance of companies.

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Pellegrini agrees with Macron's vision

"We must take action to unify our forces and increase capacity-building in defence," Pellegrini told the few MEPs who attended the session. Slovakia supports Permanent Structured Cooperation in Security and Defence, while ensuring complementarity between the EU and NATO, the prime minister added. Back home in Slovakia, there is currently discord among the ruling coalition about accepting a US grant in the defence department, with the junior ruling coalition SNS opposing it.

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Pellegrini, however, stressed the pro-European orientation of Slovakia under his leadership. He also said that he appreciates the vision for the future of the EU as articulated by French President Emmanuel Macron. He reiterated that the EU first needs to define where it sees itself in five to ten years, and then talk about a budget.

MEPs voiced press freedom and corruption concerns

While Pellegrini focused on a vision for the European Union and the need to explain to citizens, particularly ahead of the European Parliament elections, about how important the union is in their everyday lives, some of the MEPs present in the room returned to the events in Slovakia after last year's murder of a journalist. They raised concerns about press freedom and corruption.

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MEP Esteban González Pons told Pellegrini that he worried about "the contradiction between your warm words and what your government is doing".

MEP Sophie in 't Veld, who repeatedly visited Slovakia over the past year as the chair of the Rule of Law Monitoring Group of the EP, told Pellegrini that he holds the key to the future of Slovakia as well as the EU.

"You are at the fork in the road. Do you want to join and strengthen the ranks of those who are wrecking the European Union, those who put short-term electoral gains or even material gains before the general interest, or worse the ranks of those who are corrupt, even connected to organised crime? Or do you want to go down in history as a statesman, somebody courageous and wise in difficult times who led this country forward, making it a role model for others?" she asked the prime minister. She also advised Pellegrini to break ranks with Smer leader and his predecessor Robert Fico, whom she called "old Slovakia," while he can represent the "new Slovakia."

She even asked Pellegrini to reverse the changes to the media law.

Pellegrini responded by saying that he will stand "on the right side."

Read also: Peter Pellegrini to become new prime minister. Who is he? Read more 

"I will always be on the side of those who defend the thoughts and ideas set out in my initial speech. I believe this is the right decision for my country," Pellegrini said.

He stressed that it was a big decision for his predecessor to step down.

Pellegrini said that there might be mistakes in the distribution of agriculture subsidies in Slovakia, but "that does not mean the whole system is malfunctioning."

"I would like to ask you when talking about Slovakia, not to generalise and not to base your judgement on minor problems," Pellegrini said. "I would not do such a thing and judge your country based on some minor problems. This really wouldn't be fair."

In his responses the Slovak prime minister again reiterated that under his leadership his government is pro-European and committed to NATO.

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