On 27th-28th of October 2016, a meeting of Slovak and German national reflection groups took place in Bratislava within the project New Pact for Europe. The meeting was attended by 16 Slovak and 15 German National Reflection Group members. Its purpose was to understand agreements/disagreements on state of the Union, challenges and policy proposals as well as to develop joint suggestions and inspire each other to rethink national narratives. Most participants agreed that a lot of common ground had been established between the Slovak and German national groups on several key EU issues. Joint discussions generated a lot mutual understanding in how to tackle those problems, in particular on the economy and the Eurozone. It also offered perspective on how Germany is perceived in smaller members states of Central Europe. In the end, several members on both sides were reassured that a common vision on the EU still exists, and were leaving less pessimistic about the future. National positions and experiences on migration proved to be more apart but even on this issue, there was a very constructive discussion with plurality of views expressed from both national groups. The Slovak-German debate also illustrated that the EU’s East-West divide tends to be over-emphasized in the media. Participants agreed that national narratives now need to be told with more passion and emotions, avoiding legal and technocratic language.
Slovak participants also expressed a preference for a Union that will try to opt for politically acceptable and economically sustainable solutions. There is a need to create a Union where the Member States and EU institutions will concentrate more on win-win situations. The German leadership question was also discussed. The new power-political status quo in the EU has put Germany in a position of a reluctant hegemon. In the majority of issues Slovak group appreciates German leadership, but there are certain issues (such as migration) where national interests differ. German participants voiced a preference for more German leadership in terms of becoming a benign hegemon in the economic domain or a chief facilitating officer in security policy. However, there have been concerns regarding Germany’s willingness to play these roles on the one hand and acceptance by other member states on the other.