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Europe and Central Asia
7 Jul 2016

Slovakia: a small country with big ambitions for its EU Presidency

The Slovakian Presidency began in July. Photo: Facebook
By Tatiana Nemcova

Twelve years after joining the EU, Slovakia has for the first time taken over the chairmanship of the Council of the EU.

The ambitions of this small country at the heart of Europe are high for the next six months: increasing the EU’s unity and coherence and its resistance to external and internal challenges, and restoring the confidence of citizens in the European project. This is important: the result of UK referendum is indeed an  important sign that reflection about how the EU can better listen and cater to the needs and expectations of its citizens is badly needed. Slovakia has to ensure, that the positive agenda they are planning to pursue goes beyond economics and free market.  

Protecting the environment

One of the obvious areas where the Slovak Presidency can deliver on its ambition is environmental policy, where according to polls, the vast majority of people want to see EU action. With climate change, water, circular economy and biodiversity on the list of environmental priorities for the presidency, Slovakia has the right mix to move the EU towards ambitious and mutually supportive regulation to protect our climate, ecosystems and resources.

For better biodiversity conservation – something that is particularly close to BirdLife’s heart – the Presidency should shift the discussions from “do we have the right legal framework?” to “what we actually have to do better and what extra tools we need” to turn the tide for Europe’s vanishing biodiversity. The Commission has been delaying the finalisation of the  Nature Directives Fitness check process – results that were meant to be published in the spring will now come out in autumn.

Adapting agriculture policies

The Dutch Presidency during its May informal Council initiated a debate among Member States about the future of the EU farming policy after 2020. Slovakia should provide platforms for the continuation of such debates with a wide range of stakeholders and be open to questioning even the very foundation of the current regulation.

The current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is unfair to farmers, contributes to constant crisis in the agricultural markets and is a major driver of depletion of natural resources. Bold discussions on a new model that supports sustainability, protects rural communities and creates a heathy farming sector are as crucial for Slovakia as for the EU as a whole.

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Slovakia has decided to devote one of its key events, to the topic of transition to a green economy. No doubt changing the EU’s economic model to one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while protecting natural resources would definitely be a significant step towards regaining support among citizens for the EU. Slovakia has to ensure that green economy and  sustainability do not remain a topic of a one off conference but gets in the heart of the discussions about the future of Europe.    

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.