Finalising TTIP and adopting CETA are among the top trade priorities of the incoming Slovak six-month rotating EU presidency. But Bratislava’s plans will be overshadowed by the fallout of Brexit.
“Slovakia takes over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1 at one of the most difficult times in the bloc’s history”, BNE Intellinews’ Robert Anderson writes in an in-depth piece on the challenges Bratislava will face at the helm of the EU in the coming six months.
While Slovakia puts progress in the digital single market, the strengthening of the EU’s external borders, the energy union and finalising TTIP among its top priorities, it will in practice have to handle the fallout of the British vote to leave the EU. “It will run its first EU presidency under a weakened government, and has long had a rocky reputation in the rest of the bloc. “It would have been extremely difficult even with a vote to remain,” a Slovak diplomat told our partner BNE Intellinews. “Now….”
Slovak foreign minister Miroslav Lajčák, a seasoned diplomat, has said he sees the successful conclusion of a “balanced and ambitious” TTIP agreement as a top priority at a time when Brussels and Washington scramble to finalise the deal under the outgoing Obama administration. “’TTIP light’ is not an option”, Lajčák said, citing the need to have a lot of substance in the agreement. Lajčák has also praised the quality of CETA, the flagship trade agreement with Canada. Slovakia wants to see through the likely rocky ratification process of the deal in the coming months.
The EU’s decision (or not) to grant China market economy treatment in antidumping is also set to take place under Slovakia’s time at the helm of the Council. Given that Central Europe’s steel industry is currently under pressure from cheap imports from China, this matter will be challenging for Bratislava.
Will Slovakia’s presidency be handled properly?
Robert Anderson writes that “in fact it is the European presidency itself that seems to be keeping [Bratislava’s ruling] coalition together, alongside a lack of alternatives; an unsavoury ragbag of populists, eurosceptics and fascists sit on the opposition benches”.
Whereas many remember with dismay the badly handled Czech presidency in 2009, the recent presidencies of Baltic countries Latvia and Lithuania have shown that these six-month marathons can be very well-run operations, and a great opportunity for small EU member states to raise their profile in the bloc. It looks like Slovakia is trying to do just that.