Juncker: I am still a great fan of enlargement

The leaving European Commission President spoke exclusively to four V4 media.

EC President Jean-Claude JunckerEC President Jean-Claude Juncker (Source: AP/TASR)

This article was first published in the Sme daily on April 29.

Jean-Claude Juncker is stepping down as the European Commission’s president this autumn after five years. He met with four media from the Visegrad Group countries before the European Parliament elections: the Sme daily (from Slovakia), the Hospodářské Noviny daily (the Czech Republic), the HGV weekly (Hungary), and the Rzeczpospolita daily (Poland).

In this interview, Juncker discusses:
-Whether the big enlargement of the EU 15 years ago was a success
-How the murder of a journalist changed Slovakia's image abroad
-Whether he would still opt for the quota if he was to decide now
-If the V4 countries will be able to join the EU now, considering the problems they are dealing with
-If it's realistic to expect the UK to remain in the EU in the end

The biggest enlargement of the European Union took place fifteen years ago. How would you assess it now?

Let’s start at the very beginning, in December 1997. Luxembourg then held the Presidency of the European Union and as Prime Minister I was chairing the European Council. We were discussing enlargement and I was defending it. Some Member States were strongly against opening negotiations with some countries, in particular with Slovakia. Vladimír Mečiar was in charge at that time, but I pointed out to my colleagues that it was not about the Slovak government, but about the Slovak people. In August 1997 I visited Bratislava, met with Mečiar and left with a good feeling. That was why I insisted on negotiating with Slovakia too. The discussions in the Council went on for hours. Therefore, whenever the division between the East and the West is mentioned, I have a clear conscience. Not for one single second did I consider abandoning those countries and I always thought that it was a big moment in history. Some people are saying it was a mistake, but in my view it was a unique opportunity offered to us by history. It was also thanks to the courage of the central European countries that we managed to re-unify Europe. I am still a great fan of the enlargement.

Have your expectations been fulfilled? Relations have not always been the best.

Most expectations linked to the enlargement have been met. These countries have fulfilled the expectations in terms of economic growth, which has been remarkable, put into place the necessary economic reforms and aligned their legislation with EU law despite the huge effort required not only from the governments, but also from the people.

The rest of this article is premium content at Spectator.sk
Subscribe now for full access

I already have subscription - Sign in

Subscription provides you with:
  • Immediate access to all locked articles (premium content) on Spectator.sk
  • Special weekly news summary + an audio recording with a weekly news summary to listen to at your convenience (received on a weekly basis directly to your e-mail)
  • PDF version of the latest issue of our newspaper, The Slovak Spectator, emailed directly to you
  • Access to all premium content on Sme.sk and Korzar.sk

Get daily Slovak news directly to your inbox

Theme: Viktor Orbán

Read more articles by the topic

Top stories

Tuesday news digest: Coronavirus import statistics and new rules for travelling in parliament

Controversial abortion law advanced to the second reading, Kičura remains behind bars.

Education Minister Branislav Gröhling is said to be another politician, within a short period of time, who plagiarised his dissertation in the past.

Home of the Bloody Countess (from our archive)

Erzsébet Báthory was a barbaric torturer who drained virgin girls of their blood and then bathed in it.

Čachtice Castle

UPDATED: Education Minister’s thesis raises plagiarism questions too

Branislav Gröhling insists his thesis is in accordance with then-valid conditions. His university supported him.

Branislav Gröhling

Pandemic has shown us how important it is to keep borders open in the long run

Slovakia will be expected to come up with innovative and sustainable projects financed from the EU recovery fund, says the German Ambassador to Slovakia as Germany takes over the EU Council presidency.

German Ambasdsador to Slovakia Joachim Bleicker.