In his first meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker only weeks after a political crisis toppled the government of his controversial predecessor Robert Fico, Slovakia’s new Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini fully committed his country to the EU and is prepared to send more money to the bloc’s budget if required following Brexit cuts.
With the Finance Minister Peter Kazimir in tow, Juncker and Pellegrini talked about a constructive dialogue between the European Commission and Slovakia on a number of topics including migration, European financial perspectives, and an enhanced cohesion policy. Pellegrini suggested that Slovakia is prepared to raise the contributions to the EU budget by as much as 1.1 to 1.2% of GDP.
Repeating that his country remains against mandatory migration quotas, but has other proposals that it will present as alternatives to help alleviate the current situation regarding the flow of immigrants coming from war-torn nations in the Middle East and Africa. “You can rely on Slovakia,” said Pellegrini, adding that even when a Member State disagrees with the Commission, it will be “with a clear voice”.
Juncker suggested that Slovakia needed to join the rest of European mainstream regarding its stance on migrants to show “solidarity” with its fellow EU neighbours. Undeterred, Pellegrini repeated his cherry-picking solution regarding refugees, saying Bratislava remains committed to relocating only Christian Syrians for the time being.
Pellegrini passed on his view to Juncker that the Commission should hand over greater flexibility to the member states regarding the bloc’s budget on whether to decide on their own priorities outside of the EU level and suggested that the Brussels needed a long-term plan for how Europe will be run in 2020-2050.
Both Pellegrini and Juncker stressed that a decision on the 2020 EU budget needs to be finalised before the upcoming May 2019 elections, with Juncker stressing that if a deal cannot be reached, up to 5,000 research jobs could be lost and Europe’s popular Erasmus educational programme could be frozen.
Juncker singled out Slovakia’s Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič for praise saying he had done an exceptional job with the Brussels’ energy portfolio.
Pellegrini became Slovakia’s prime minister in March after mass protests forced Fico from power following the murder of Jan Kuciak, a young Slovak investigative journalist, and his fiancée after Kuciak uncovered evidence that the Calabrese mafia operated lucrative illegal businesses in the small East European country, some which were tied to members of Fico’s administration.
Asked whether Kuciak’s murder was brought up during Thursday’s discussion, Juncker said Pellegrini had provided details that the Commission had requested.
“It is not up to me to lecture (Slovakia’s) judicial authorities and police. We discussed this in a serious and sometimes sentimental manner,” said Juncker.