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Korčok at GAC in Brussels: “Within the EU budget we need the right balance between support for new challenges and traditional priorities.”

Korčok at GAC in Brussels: “Within the EU budget we need the right balance between support for new challenges and traditional priorities.”

14.5.2018 | Aktivity štátnych tajomníkov

The multi-annual financial framework 2021-2027, preparations for the June session of the European Council, as well as the current state of play in assessing the rule of law in Poland featured as the main topics of the meeting of the General Affairs Council (GAC) held in Brussels today (14 May); the Slovak delegation was led by Ivan Korčok, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic.

In discussing the EU budget for the future period, the ministers stated that the draft by the European Commission has not yet detailed additional data outlining the amount of resources for individual member states and that concrete figures will not be known until the end of May or the first half of June. As Korčok stressed, the current draft is lagging behind expectations in many areas. “We must firstly think of our citizens, who will feel the biggest impact of this. Slovakia is ready to contribute more, whether due to Brexit or the new challenges. However, we also need the right balance between support for new challenges and traditional priorities. It is good that the cohesion and common agriculture policy will remain the main EU policies. However, at the same time there is a question how to do this when these policies face inadequate funding cuts.  If the current draft was adopted it would be difficult to explain to people that the least-developed regions will come out as the most defeated," stated the Slovak Foreign and European Affairs State Secretary. He highlighted positives of the draft such as the reinforced focus of the programs on citizens’ security, protection of external borders and resolving migration in the countries of its origin. As for implementing new conditions for drawing the EU funds, including complying with the rule of law, the conditions must involve objective criteria. “We are open to the discussion on conditionalities; we support the link between the cohesion policy and the European semester. However, the conditionality and criteria-setting conditions for using the resources from individual policies and EU instruments must be proportional and relevant," stated Korčok.
 
The ministers also delved into preparations of the agenda for the June session of the European Council that will concentrate on migration, security and defence, as well as growth and jobs, innovations, the budget, and current foreign policy issues. Especially within migration, Korčok emphasized that the Slovak Republic does not endorse reform of the Dublin asylum system that contains a mandatory quota mechanism.  “We hold the opinion that any changes must be adopted by consensus, as also stated by the outcomes of the European Council in October 2017, and not by a qualified majority.  Slovakia promotes resolving the primary origins of migration, which is also attested to by its contributions to the Trust Fund for Africa,” he stated. 
 
Regarding the assessment of the state of the rule of law in Poland, the ministers stated that it is important to further continue the dialogue, which has in light of the recent developments proven as the best solution, so that the discussion leads to a result acceptable to everybody. 
 
The GAC lunch discussion was devoted to key topics vis-à-vis the EU in the next period, including the ways to increase participation in the elections to the European Parliament next year and to communicate more effectively with citizens. “Nowadays we are also facing a crisis of trust in the joint European project. Our response must be in promoting and communicating concrete benefits for people, businesses and the states themselves as well,” stated Korčok, who also noted the active communication regarding EU topics with the citizens of the Slovak Republic in the form of the ongoing events of the National Convention on the European Union. 
 
The afternoon part of the GAC session revolved around Article 50 and the state of play in the talks with the United Kingdom and the assessment of the existing progress and the current developments in the Brexit talks. This has been the first meeting since the March European Council where the guidelines on the framework for the future relations were adopted.  Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator of the European Commission, informed about the ongoing talks with the UK, as well as about his visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland.  The inland border between the EU and the United Kingdom on the Irish island remains one of the core open issues within Brexit.