The European Union has woken up from its summer slumber. Two weeks ago, everybody’s attention was focused on the German federal elections. The successful re-election of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union was viewed as a vote for stability inside the EU’s largest and most economically influential state. Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron outlined his proposals for the Future of Europe. His speech followed Jean-Claude Juncker’s recent ‘State of the Union’ address in Brussels.
The President of the European Commission highlighted some of the challenges the EU will face over the coming years: strengthening the Eurozone, creating a cybersecurity authority, an increased focus on trade deals, and developing a social pillar. However, Europe might also be ready for its first draft of new initiatives since the financial crisis of 2008.
So, why is the time right for reform? Part of the answer can be traced to Macron’s landslide victory over Marine Le Penn in May’s presidential election. By opting for a centrist candidate, France joined Austria and the Netherlands in rejecting nationalist politics. After fending off a similar challenge, Angela Merkel is now in a position to begin talks with the French President and other European leaders regarding the acceleration of European integration. The fate of Europe is increasingly in the hands of its leaders rather than its institutions. Slovakia must play its part in determining the future of the EU.
The EU economy is bouncing back after years of stagnation.
In addition, fears that Brexit and the United States’ new policy outlook could prompt the disintegration of the European project have not materialised. Indeed, Brexit has inspired calls for the type of reforms that will only make the EU stronger. Finally, the EU economy is bouncing back after years of stagnation. More Europeans are in employment and GDP growth has been stable.
Now is not the time, however, for the opening of basic treaties or thinking about grand visions for a new constitution. What’s needed are patient and programmatic reforms within existing frameworks that will make Europe more efficient and less bureaucratic. Negotiations regarding a defence union, the Multiannual Financial Framework post-2020, among others, will commence in the coming months. President Macron has just revealed his detailed proposals for deepening integration, migration policy, fiscal and social convergence, and more. Inevitably, the changes will create a type of multispeed Europe.
Once the United Kingdom leaves the EU, approximately 85% of Europe’s GDP will come from the Eurozone making it the de facto largest driver of the continent’s economy. Slovakia must not only reap the economic benefits but also assert itself as a leading partner. More importantly, for the citizens of Slovakia a stronger Eurozone, with deeper cooperation, will not only bring increased economic growth but also stability and protection during volatile times. It is in our vital interest to be involved in decision-making processes that will lead to the creation of a new Eurozone. We should also support our Visegrád Group (V4) partners in their preparations to join, whenever they are ready to do so. It is important that we continue to advance our common interests together within EU frameworks.
In 2018, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will celebrate 100 years since the proclamation of the independence of Czechoslovakia.
Meanwhile, as the EU and UK prepare to part ways, it is in the interest of both parties to maintain close and beneficial ties. While emotions can run high, political pragmatism must prevail. In 2018, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will celebrate 100 years since the proclamation of the independence of Czechoslovakia. Both countries have been able, on an admittedly much smaller scale, to mutually benefit from the separation. Perhaps some inspiration can be derived from our combined efforts.
Slovakia has chosen its place in the new multispeed Europe. The Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kažimír’s recent speech at the influential Bruegel Institute clearly demonstrated that the country has plenty of realistic ideas regarding closer financial and political union. At this month’s GLOBSEC Tatra Summit, Slovak and European leaders will continue to outline their visions for a new Europe. It is at this juncture that Slovakia rightfully is choosing not to self- isolate itself but to instead accept the responsibility as a leader and central player in negotiations. We want to decide our own fate and be at the table rather than on the menu.