Text was presented as Opening Speech during European Conference 2023 organized by the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA) in cooperation and with the support of the International Visegrad Fund, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic. The conference took place on May 23, 2023.
During the last months, as a result of Russian aggression, the discussion on the future of Europe almost stopped. The war in Ukraine has changed everything - our understanding of security, our views on the Union and us /our citizens/ too.
This is understandable because the overall context is completely different from the situation until February 2022.
Having said this, I don't have a simple answer to the question how the future of our Union will/ or should / look like. Nevertheless, I have three points we should keep in mind when starting this discussion:
First, there is no future of our Union with closed doors
Couple of weeks ago, the Swedish Presidency started a discussion on the EU capacity to absorb new Member States. In other words, what would be the impact of future enlargement on the EU?
Therefore, we can expect that at a certain point, the discussion on the future of our Union will merge with changes that could be required by the enlargement process.
This process will be crucial for the future of the European Union because it will cover everything – from institutional reform, through changes in European policies, to budgetary impacts.
It won't be an easy discussion but we should keep our doors open to those countries wishing to join the EU and meeting all the criteria.
Second, there is no future of our Union without cooperation in Europe
I agree with those saying that new challenges require new formats. It is obvious that membership in NATO and the EU are key for Slovakia but we are also open to new formats, such as the European Political Community.
First summit of the European political community in Prague last year confirmed that there is a strong political will to bring together countries sharing the same political, economic and security concerns about Russia and to build partnerships aimed at restoring peace and stability in Europe.
When it comes to the 2nd summit of the European Political Community, which will be held next week in Moldova, we do have similar expectations – strong political signal that all European Countries resolutely stand behind Ukraine and that Europe is united as never before.
Last but not least, there is no future of our Union if the lies prevail
Since the Russian aggression against Ukraine has started, Slovakia resolutely sided with Ukraine and has provided Kyiv with military, humanitarian and political aid. I have to say that we are on the right side of history. However, this approach was not met by a public support - Quite the contrary.
This could be partially assigned to the fact that Slovak citizens rank among the highest in the EU when it comes to pro-Russian stances and various conspiracy theories.
At this moment I can only say that we are aware of that problem, therefore the fight against disinformation is "the" priority of this ministry and of a newly appointed government I am member of.
I also appreciate that the fight against disinformation is one of the main topics of today's conference.
As I said, it won't be an easy task to define the future vision of our Union. Maybe, we will never find an answer, still, in my view, the journey is at least as important as the destination.
Author is Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic.