Speeches

8. 6. 2016 22:46

Prime Minister Sobotka at the Prague European Summit: In Europe, the V4 group is a strong and respected player

Předsedové vlád zemí Visegrádské skupiny vystoupili 8. června 2016 na závěrečné diskuzi třídenního Prague European Summitu.
On Wednesday 8 June 2016 the Prime Ministers of the V4 group of countries appeared at the final discussions of the three-day Prague European Summit.
On Wednesday 8 June 2016 the Prime Ministers of the V4 group of countries appeared at the final discussions of the three-day Prague European Summit, with the topic: The EU in a Time of Crisis: Better Together?

Prime Minister Beata Szydlová of Poland, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia have come to the Czech Republic at the invitation of the Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka for the closing V4 summit under the Czech Presidency. Before it began, the V4 Prime Ministers appeared at the Prague European Summit conference.

The purpose of this platform is to create a space for discussion of the future of the European Union and to seek answers to current European issues. In addition, this also helps to raise awareness of how the European Union works. More at: www.praguesummit.eu.

Speech by the Czech Prime Minister at the Prague European Summit:

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed Madam Prime Minister, esteemed Sirs Prime Ministers,

In the Europe of today, the word “crisis” is very much frequented.

There is no doubt that united Europe  is passing through a very difficult period, because it is facing with fundamental challenges on many fronts, be it the civil war in Syria, terrorism, the migration crisis, and currently also the threat of the United Kingdom´s withdrawal from the European Union. All these are far-from-easy challenges with which we are confronted.

Especially the theme of migration is resounding very strongly in the European society and the media.

It could be said that the public space is literally glutted with information about migration issues.

Even though the migration crisis is a serious situation to which it is necessary to react and solve it immediately, I do not think that the European project might fail because of it, as long as we are ourselves confident of our cause.

Much greater threats for us are two things – populism in the service of nationalism, and stemming from it,  the Europeans´ distrust in the European Union.

The first pre-requisite for us to be successful in standing up to this danger must be real and evident fulfilment of the fundamental sense of European cooperation.

It lies in building up a peaceful community of states, which is the basis of European stability as the basis for growth and social development.

Europe as a political project must enable its citizens to achieve high living standard in all areas.

The means of reaching this goal are already available to us – the internal market, Schengen cooperation, high environmental standards and many others. Our task is to develop them further.

Another important sphere which must follow the material level is that of communication.

As more than once in history, when Europe was facing hard times and challenges, nationalistic tendencies are again growing and radicals appearing, offering easy solutions.

It is precisely these tendencies that are endangering the European Union at present. They also contribute to what it fatal for every democratic country – namely loss of trust on the part of the public.

If this trend continues, and we will not be able to react to it, we will soon be facing very dangerous political and social processes.

Already today a number of extreme streams and movements in Europe query the legitimacy of their national elected representatives and misuse the Union themes for dismantling the foundations of the political systems of their countries and departure from the European Union.

The offer of easy and quick solutions, together with simplified, often completely distorted description of reality, increase tension in society and help to spread fear.

It is necessary to be on guard and avoid succumbing to simple populist solutions. 

Many Europeans are frustrated by the current situation.

I am convinced that at this moment it is important to be able to balance the public debate, making sure that it will contain also the positive chapter of the story, because it is its inseparable part.

Last year we faced an unprecedented increase in the number of migrants who were entering the European Union particularly via Greece and the Western Balkan.

There were thousands of people coming daily.

A series of measures – the agreement with Turkey, closing the Balkan migration route for illegal migration, and setting up reception centres on the Greek islands – helped to manage this situation to a considerable degree.

Nowadays only a minimal number of migrants are coming to Europe by this route.

It is a success, which has not dropped from the clouds but is the result of our negotiations at European and international levels.

We have to speak not only about the challenges which we are facing, but also about our successes in coping with them, though we may stumble sometimes – but that´s life.

The ability to name the problem, to search for and find its solution, and also the ability to hold a dialogue about the solution with partners at the round table, as well as with the public – that´s the key task of today´s policy.

This task is all the more important because nowadays we are confronted with a strengthening pressure of various disinformation and propaganda, which often misuse the current problems for creating new and artificial dividing lines between the member states, but also within national societies.

This is another reason why events like the Prague European Summit are so important.

They create an open platform for a debate about the future of the European Union, help to find answers to topical questions, and last but not least, they contribute to better general awareness of the way in which the European Union and European integration function. 

I perceive today´s panel discussion as a contribution to launching a cycle of summit conferences under the motto “The future of Europe through the Visegrad perspective,” which should represent the open platform providing wide space for debate.

I believe that the organisation of these discussions clearly reflects on the one hand the joint commitment of the Visegrad Group actively to participate in the formulation of European policies, and on the other, its interest in the continuation of European  cooperation.

Now the crucial moment for the European project will no doubt will be the approaching referendum in which the British citizens will decide whether their future will or will not stay linked with the future of the European Union.

On the eve of this great decision, I am convinced that it would be an immense loss for both the European Union and the United Kingdom if the latter opted for the path of  independence and departed from the European Union.

Great Britain is a strong country, and its departure would  no doubt weaken the European project.

In any case the result of the British referendáum will have essential impacts on the European Union.

The only certainty at the moment however is marked uncertainty connected with Britain´s potential departure from the EU.

As we are speaking about the integration process, I have noticed that recently certain nostalgic reminiscences referring to the dynamics of the European project, which was developed in only six countries, are emerging also in some founding member states.

Therefore we have to concentrate in the current worried time on what unites us in Europe, and prevent the creation of even deeper chasms between the “old” and “new” member states.

Many a hard moment in European history has proven that European states can hardly face serious problems on their own.

This applied twice as much today, because the nature of the many current crises is in fact global,

Despite all the pessimism and scepticism, so often seen in Europe, I am sure that only if we stay united and continue to cooperate can we find solutions which will help us handle the current problems.

The fact that cooperation is always the better way is proved also by our joint project of the Visegrad Four, whose long-term goal is to be an active partner in searching for European solutions in the European Union.

The Czech V4 presidency, which is nearing its ends, has been for me a unique and – I have to say, a very beneficial life experience.

Throughout the Czech presidency a large number of debates took place between the V4 countries.

In general I greatly value our ability to coordinate our joint positions vis-à-vis the European Council sessions, which naturally was not always easy; but the results were evident and helped all out four countries.

The ability to formulate and defend our joint positions has also contributed to the fact that today the Visegrad Group is regarded in the European Union as a strong actor, which needs to be counted with in every case.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Czech presidency proceeded from priorities which were carefully selected and based on the two fundamental principles of the Visegrad cooperation – solidarity and mutual trust.

And it is precisely the strengthening of the trust and support of internal cohesion of the European Union which I perceive today as an important task for all European leaders.

I am sure that the countries of the Visegrad Group are doing their best for fulfilling this task, and under the forthcoming Polish presidency will no doubt do the maximum.  

Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to thank you for your attention.¨

Thank you.

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