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Brexit to overshadow Slovakia's EU presidency

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Brexit to overshadow Slovakia's EU presidency

Juncker - Fico - Photo EC

(BRATISLAVA) - The result of the UK referendum overshadowed the launch of Slovakia's first-ever EU presidency on 1 July, as the College of Commissioners met the Slovak Government in Bratislava.

The negotiations were marked by three main themes – migration, the Bratislava summit, which will be held on 16 September, and Brexit. But it was Brexit held the main focus: "The European Union must cope with the results of the UK's referendum and address the fact that the European idea is losing its popularity among EU citizens. We are aware of the challenges," said Slovak foreign minister Miroslav Lajcak.

Mr Juncker, who also had a meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, said the country was well prepared. "In this spirit, we had a very open, factual and content-rich meeting with the EC President,' said Prime Minister Fico.

They discussed the Programme of the Slovak Presidency, whose main parts he considered were in line with the European Commission programme.

The Programme has four underlying priorities: an economically strong Europe, a modern single market, sustainable migration and asylum policies and a globally engaged Europe.

For the Slovak president, Andrej Kiska, this was historical moment: "Our grandparents could never have imagined something like this. Neither could our parents, who lived 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' added the Slovak President who described Slovakia as 'a beautiful country with great people and a lot of good ideas."

For Mr Juncker, one of the most urgent challenges facing the European economy was the lack of investment, and he said the EU needed to "prolong the Investment Plan for Europe which is developing into a real success." In its first year, the Plan has already mobilised EUR 107 billion across 26 EU Member States.

He also highlighted the importance of the EU's Single Market: "We want to use, during the Slovak Presidency, all the instruments and means at our disposal […] to deepen the Single Market, to launch in a definite way the Energy Union, the Digital Single Market, the Capital Markets Union." He encouraged the Slovak Presidency of the Council also to forge ahead with the completion of Banking Union, including a European Deposit Insurance Scheme.

On the recent agreement on the new European Border and Coast Guard, President Juncker called on the Slovak Presidency to implement the agreement so that the new agency can become operational as soon as possible.

Finally, he repeated the Commission's stance on the next steps following the UK referendum, stressing that there will be no negotiation without notification of the UK's intention to withdraw from the Union. He also underlined that the Commission will forge ahead with its reform agenda.

Slovakia will hold the Council presidency until 31 December 2016, after which Malta will be the next incumbent.

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