Slovakia’s performance in the EU was marked by the continuing effort to achieve further integration into European structures. With the abolishment of checks on internal EU borders and airports at the beginning of 2008, Slovakia finalized its full-fledged accession to the Schengen area and fulfilled one of its strategic goals. Slovakia was also able to fulfil the criteria for the accession to the Euro Zone, which was one of the priorities of the Slovak government. This was completed on 1 January 2009, when Slovakia became the sixteenth member of the Euro Zone and simultaneously the first country of the Visegrad Four and the second country of Central and Eastern Europe to join the Euro Zone.
Energy and Climate Changes
Energy and climate policies belong to the most important policies of the EU. EU energy strategy is based on the fact that EU depends on external energy resources. The overall goal of European energy policy remains to ensure safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy for all, businesses and consumers alike. With the aim to speed up and secure investments on infrastructure and technology projects in the energy sector, to improve the security of supply of the Member States and to speed up the implementation of the 20/20/20 objectives for 2020, the EC accepted in April 2010 European Energy Programme for Recovery. By the end of the year 2010, the Commission aims to adopt New energy strategy for 2011 – 2020. This strategy should exploit the full potential of energy savings, the promotion of low carbon innovation, a fully functioning internal energy market, secure and sustainable energy networks and greater cooperation and solidarity within the EU.
The number one priority of climate change strategy remains the implementation of Copenhagen Accord and the preparation of the upcoming 16th conference of United Nations Framework Agreement on Climate Change starting at 29th November in Mexico. The EU has made a commitment to contribute 7.2 billion euros to a three-year global fund aimed at helping poor nations deal with climate change. Slovakia has offered to provide 9 million euros between 2010 and 2012. As the Kyoto protocol is about to expire in 2012, the EU is currently looking into the possibility to scale up its commitment to cut emissions from agrred 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to 30 percent provided that other countries contribute adaquately to the global effort.
Ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon
Reform of the bodies and institutions of the EU remained a priority of the Slovak Republic in 2008. Almost all member countries ratified the Treaty of Lisbon, which is to amend the EU founding Treaties. Once the document was approved by the National Council of the Slovak Republic, Slovakia ratified it in June 2008. However due to the negative outcome of the Irish referendum and
constitutional objections of the Czech Republic and Germany, the Treaty has yet to be ratified by all member countries. The removal of the last obstacles on the path to bringing the Treaty of Lisbon
to life is expected by the end of 2009.
The European Neighbourhood Policy is one of the fundamental priorities of EU foreign policy. Its goal is to create a stable, secure, and prosperous environment around the EU. The conflict in the South Caucasus in August 2008 gave a new dynamic to the transformation process of the European Neighbourhood Policy, which resulted in
the proposal of the Eastern Partnership concept. Along with Poland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and the Baltic countries, the Slovak Republic is one of the countries most involved in the Eastern Partnership project. It is a shift from neighbourhood to partnership and involves a greater readiness to consider each individual Eastern neighbour country of the EU in terms of their specifics and progress achieved. Slovakia also sees the Eastern Partnership as an opportunity for the creation of a common economic and value area as well as for the overall modernisation of society in the partner countries based on the EU model.
Slovak Citizens in EU Institutions
Since the accession of Slovakia to the EU, our citizens have the right to apply for jobs in EU institutions. In the interest of ensuring public awareness, in 2008 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published
a bulletin addressed to those applying for work in EU institutions. The organization of an international conference on the issue of Slovaks in EU institutions was another step in the complex activities of the MFA in the field of strengthening personnel policy in European institutions. The goal of these activities was to acquaint potential applicants with the criteria for the successful completion of the selection procedures and to familiarize them with the working conditions in EU institutions. In 2008, the number of Slovak citizens working in EU institutions exceeded 600 (of whom half were working in the European Commission). If the current trend is maintained, Slovakia should reach its quota of 279 permanent employees by 2010. At present, there are few problems filling positions in general, however, filling middle and higher management positions is more difficult.
Fulfilling Slovakia’s Priorities in the EU
As a supranational grouping of states, the EU forms a complex system of formal and informal relations. In 2004, on entry to the EU, the Slovak Republic found itself at the centre of these relations;
relations which were be profoundly influenced by the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon. Thanks to the demanding preparations and the gradual integration of Slovakia into the Union, the enormous efforts of the Slovak government led to it achieving the final abolishment of Slovakia’s borders with other EU countries as well as the adoption of the common Euro currency. So far our progress has not been as fast as we would have liked in filling higher management positions within the EU, which will remain a priority for Slovakia.