Slovakia took over the rotating presidency of the EU on July 1 and Fico was giving his first address to parliament. His major issues are dealing with Brexit, gaining agreement on a common immigration policy, economic stability amid troubles in the Eurozone and restoring faith in the Brussels machine, amid rising euroskepticism.
"We have arrived at a stage where we have to overcome fear. The fear of our citizens, fear of migration, (…), the fear of terrorism (…) and the fear of economic problems, [but also] fear of political leaders that we will not be able to overcome the crises, which leads to loss of citizens' confidence in the EU and strengthens extremists and nationalists in Europe", Fico told the European Parliament."
"The European Union of the 21st century is in need of a wind of change… it needs openness, honesty and simplicity, and obviously responsibility for actions and thoughts that result from it. We need a discussion on how to make the EU better and more efficient. The outcome of the British referendum is the proof of that."
"The European Union must listen more closely to critical voices. It must become more flexible, less bureaucratic and more responsive to diversity while shedding the label of being 'elitist' and incomprehensible to ordinary citizens, who often view it as too distant and detached from their day-to-day problems," Fico said.
Migrant Deal 'Irrational'
Slovakia is no stranger to euroskepticism, being part of the Visegrad group — along with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland — which has been staunchly opposed to the mandatory relocation of refugees, as proposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico told reporters, as he took over the presidency: "A vast majority of Europeans disagree with the current state of migration policy in Europe." He described the Commission's proposal to fine member states US$278,000 for every refugee they refused to accept as "absolutely irrational."