07/23/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/24/2021 14:31
'Slovakia is a country with a significant number of so-called cross-border workers who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why, when evaluating the lessons learned from the pandemic, I have been vocal in calling for guarantees for open borders and, if possible, common European pandemic solutions for the future. In my remarks, I have also emphasized that we would become a stronger and more resilient EU only after the full integration of the countries of the Western Balkans into the EU, and by the accession of Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia to the Schengen area in a shorter term. I have not forgotten to mention that we need to further strengthen the single market, improve the business environment and protect our economic interests, based on free trade.'
This was stated by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Martin Klus, at the informal meeting of the General Affairs Council (GAC), which took place on 22 and 23 July 2021, in Slovenia. This was the first joint meeting of the Ministers and State Secretaries for European Affairs of the Member States of the European Union under the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, which began on 1 July 2021 and will last until the end of 2021.
At the beginning of the meeting, Slovenia presented the priorities of its six-month presidency, during which it wants to focus on four areas: strengthening the EU's resilience to global crises and building strategic autonomy, the Conference on the Future of Europe, the rule of law, as well as the ability to provide for the security and stability not only of the Union but also of the neighbouring countries.
'From Slovakia's point of view, it is equally necessary for the Conference on the Future of Europe to make intensive progress. We support the inclusion of the countries of the Western Balkans in this pan-European dialogue. The focus of the Slovenian Presidency on the region of the Western Balkans is fully in line with Slovakia's foreign policy priorities. In this context, we very much welcome the plan to hold an EU-Western Balkans Summit in October 2021,' stated Martin Klus, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic.
The Ministers and State Secretaries for European affairs then addressed the issue of building the EU's resilience following the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their aim was to identify ways to improve the Union's resilience, preparedness and effectiveness in responding to potential crises in the future. At the invitation of Slovenia, the partners from the Western Balkans also took part in the discussion.
'The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, in Europe, that there are always two sides to every story. On the one hand, we have often found out, painfully, where our limits are, but, on the other hand, we have been given a unique opportunity to learn so that we will be better prepared in the future and will be able to face similar challenges more effectively. And that is exactly what the EU Member States should continue to focus on. Slovakia therefore highly appreciates the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council, since they clearly respond to the current most resonant issues in the Union,' said State Secretary Martin Klus.
He also added that especially the building of resilience and economic recovery after the corona-crisis, with an emphasis on the so-called green and digital transformation, are areas that must be at the centre of our attention.
On the side-lines of the informal meeting of the General Affairs Council (GAC), a bilateral meeting was held between the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Martin Klus, and the Deputy Prime Minister of North Macedonia for European Integration, Nikola Dimitrov. In addition to bilateral issues, the partners also discussed the current state of the accession process of North Macedonia to the European Union, which Slovakia has supported over the long term.