Fico meets Merkel: What does Slovakia want from Germany?

Slovak PM Fico will meet Chancellor Merkel in Berlin. Taking into account that Slovak EU Presidency is approaching would you be so kind shortly assess what Slovakia may want from Germany and vice versa and how Germany sees Slovakia especially taking into account topics like migration crisis and Nord Stream 2? Read few comments.

Jörg ForbrigSenior Program Officer for Central and Eastern Europe, German Marshall Fund

Holding the EU presidency is a formidable task for any EU member state, and the smaller the country, the more so. Its success hinges on a number of ingredients, some of them predictable, some of them less so. The Slovak government is certainly aware that the current EU policy agenda, and the one it will have to preside over, includes more unpredictables than predictables. The migration crisis may flare up again at any moment as does the confrontation with Russia; the Eurozone crisis is hardly resolved and the outcome of the British vote on EU membership is fully open.

In this situation, PM Fico is working the predictables, and one of these is certainly the relationship with the EU’s key capitals. The central European power at the moment is, without doubt, Germany. Fico will come to Berlin to ascertain a workable relationship with Berlin. In doing so, he is fully aware that this relationship has been tested on a number of occasions recently, as Bratislava has vehemently opposed Berlin’s approach to the migration crisis, or has regularly voiced its doubt of EU sanctions imposed against Russia.

Consequently, he will try to relax these recent strains. He will impress upon Berlin that Bratislava is fully committed to EU-wide solutions to the many challenges Europe faces at the moment. He will seek to set himself apart from Budapest and Warsaw, which have recently shaped the image of a Central European bloc that resolutely opposes Berlin. He will also ask for German advise as to how critical and controversial issues, from the fallout of the Brexit vote to possible new migration waves to the difficult renewal of sanctions against Russia at the end of the year, should be approached.

In short, the visit will not be about immediately resolving any of the current policy issues, on which Germany and Slovakia take different positions, from migration quotas to Nord Stream 2. Instead, it will be about creating an atmosphere, in which Slovakia can count on Germany to navigate an EU presidency that will definitely face a very tall order. If such a reinvigorated and working climate was the outcome of Fico’s visit to Berlin, then Bratislava has a good chance of delivering a successful EU presidency.

Christian Schweiger, Senior Lecturer in Government, Department of Politics, Durham University

I would say that Fico will probably discuss the bilateral deal with Turkey with Merkel in the context of the lingering migration crisis. I would assume that Fico will want to know how Merkel envisages the future of relations with Turkey given the threats that emerged from Turkey against German MPs with Turkish background that supported the Armenia vote in the Bundestag. Merkel also needs to come clean on whether she really intends to grant Turkish citizens visa free travel to the EU and what her position is on the prospect of membership. The other issue in this respect will be refugee quotas and the future of Schengen. Merkel needs to determine here how she intends to rebuild Schengen and if she will continue to persist on introducing binding refugee quotas and potentially penalties for non-compliant member states.

The other big topic they are likely to discuss is how to handle the UK’s future position. Fico is most likely to ask Merkel how she would deal with a Brexit vote in the UK. In this respect it will be important to consider how to deal with an exiting UK – would it still be granted access to the Single Market and under what conditions and how quickly could the exit negotiations be completed? Equally should the UK choose the remain the question arises to what extent Germany will make efforts to encourage it to take a leading role in the EU. The question here is if Merkel is willing to accept Cameron as a partner in leadership in the future and also to make concessions to the British perspective (e.g. on migration).

Merkel herself will probably try to convince Fico to be more cooperative on resolving the refugee crisis and to help her to convince the rest of the V4 to do the same. I am not sure about the North Stream 2 issue but I think from Merkel’s perspective her main priority will be to try to gain Slovakia’s support on refugee quotas and the Turkey deal.

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