Kiska to the European Comission: We need to get people excited

Kiska to the European Comission: We need to get people excited

One day before the Slovak Presidency in the Council of the European Union, president Andrej Kiska met with the members of the European Comission together with its president Jean-Claude Juncker.

"Dear President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker,

Distinguished Commissioners,

First of all, let me welcome you all most sincerely and warmly here in Slovakia. Beautiful country with great people and a lot of good ideas.

We are only hours away from taking over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. For Slovakia, this is a historical moment. Our grandparents could have never imagined something like this. Neither our parents, living behind the Iron Curtain for most of their lives. We have travelled a long journey to get here and we see the Presidency as a result of many years of hard work.

We will do our best in the expected role of a honest broker and a true, emphatic mediator between the member states and their interests — for the benefit of the whole. The virtue of respecting each other, the ability not only to listen but to actually hear each other, is the way forward. There is no room for giving lessons and boasting who is a better European. Or whether we want more or less Europe in our daily lives.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

In our delicate Presidency task we will certainly rely on you — on the support of the European Commission and the other EU institutions.

However, I wish this meeting and our Presidency would happen in more favorable times for the European community. Personally, I’m sad about the result of British referendum. It's not the end of history, our integration is not defeated, but it’s surely hurt.

In this room, we all believe in strong, united Europe. The European project — a space of peace, stability and prosperity for hundreds of millions of people on our continent — is the single most important, the single most exciting idea in the history of Europe. It is ultimately modern and progressive project unthinkable some hundred years ago.

And yet, somehow, it is becoming almost old-fashioned in the face of renewed nationalistic moods in our countries. Relevant debate about improving things, about what works and what does not is often lost in emotions, myths and hoaxes.

Here in Slovakia, which benefits so much from the integration, polls show that safe majority of our people would not vote for leaving the EU today. But not because they are persuaded that the EU is a good project, project to ensure peaceful and prosperous future. But rather because in their minds leaving now would be too risky or too costly.

So I guess, it’s about time to fix and preserve our common future. We have a lot of complicated issues to solve if we want to get the EU back on track, to improve our performance in many areas of the European integration.

We have to challenge increasingly popular “blame everything on Brussels” rhetoric used by politicians whenever they feel that it serves their domestic purposes.

I also understand voices calling for deep reforms on the EU level, but it’s important to fill these words with meaningful content. Otherwise these abstract calls for a fresh restart only reinforce the image of the EU as a broken project.

And last but not least, we all need to calm down. We are in a crucial need of a genuine empathy — between the member states, between the Commission and the member states, between all EU institutions.

Winning back the hearts and minds of our people is not a technocratic task. Rather, it's a question of our own attitude, enthusiasm, honesty and political leadership. Because we need to get people excited about our European project once again. That is the only reasonable way forward.

Dear Mr. President, Dear Commissioners,

Let me conclude by assuring you that Slovakia will work hard to keep the Union united, during its Presidency and beyond. And I sincerely wish that in six months when Slovakia will be passing the Presidency to Malta the European Union will be in a better condition and more cheerful spirit than it is now.

Thank you and once again, welcome to Slovakia!"