Slovak PM Robert Fico
By Nick Gutteridge
A SENIOR European leader today made the shock admission that the EU does not work in its current form and that politicians from the member states barely even know each other.
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Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico delivered a damning verdict of Brussels’ decision making processes, saying they need a radical overhaul if the bloc is to survive.
In a forthright address he said recent meetings of the EU Council of 27 leaders showed “how little we know about each other” and bemoaned the superficial nature of European debate.
He said that fewer decisions should be taken in Brussels and more power should be delegated to regional bodies in comments which will fuel fears amongst some that the bloc could disintegrate.
Mr Fico made the remarks after the EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker proposed a meeting between the Visegrad bloc of nations and Italy to try and break the stand-off on migration.
Slovakia, alongside Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, have all refused to take part in Brussels’ refugee quota scheme saying that it presents threats to their sovereignty and security.
Yesterday the advocate general of the ECJ released an opinion stating that an appeal against having to accept migrants, launched by Hungary and Slovakia, should be thrown out.
That suggestion drew a furious response from officials in Bratislava which said it would “never” accept refugee quotas, although Mr Fico was more circumspect in his remarks today saying only that he had a “serious problem” with the programme.
However, the Slovakian leader was much more forthright on where he thinks the EU is going wrong, saying it needs to make decisions less centrally and more regionally if it wants to make progress in the future.
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He said: “If we have a general discussion, we know that it will also be a particular discussion. I’m mentioning this because the format of 27 or 28 is not a sufficient space for in depth discussion.
“We could see it at the meeting of V4 [Visegrad] and the French president or the Austrian chancellor, prime minister and myself, where it was shown how little we know about each other, how little information is there.
“That’s why I believe that this meeting…will be a meeting which will clarify lots of things, that will move things forward. The smaller formats have been lacking and we need to have more meetings in these small formats.
He added: “It has been confirmed how important it is to meet in smaller formats and not to address such delicate topics as 27 or 28 prime ministers.”
Mr Fico’s remarks offer a damning insight into how EU decision making, which is currently focussed around agreements between 28 leaders or ministers, operate in practice.
He suggests that there is little discussion of substantive issues at EU Council meetings, with leaders nodding through measures with little understanding of how their colleagues feel.
His remarks will strike a strong chord with Brexiteers, who argued that a “democratic deficit” at the heart of the European project, with little outside scrutiny, was a key reason for giving back control over lawmaking to the UK parliament.
However suggestions that regional groupings, such as the Visegrad Four and the Benelux countries, should wield more power will alarm eurocrats who feel keeping power centralised in Brussels is the best way of stopping the project falling apart.