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Czech, Slovak PMs want stronger role of member states in EU

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Prague, April 11 (CTK) – The EU is threatened with fragmentation, which it can avert only if it more respects member countries’ interests, Slovak PM Peter Pellegrini (Smer-Social Democracy) said on a visit to Prague on Wednesday.

His Czech counterpart Andrej Babis (ANO), too, said the Czechs want a stronger role of the member states at the cost of the European Commission.

“We can see the risk of a possible political and economic fragmentation of Europe,” Pellegrini said.

A split threatens to occur not only between the older and younger EU members but also between those in the north and in the south of the continent, Pellegrini said.

“Only respect for the questions of our national interests can help halt the [fragmentation] process,” he said.

He said the Visegrad Four (V4) group, comprised of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, can serve as an instrument in a stronger promotion of national interests in the EU.

Slovakia, which will take up the V4 presidency as of July, will try to push through the four countries’ joint interests within the preparation of the next EU budget and the negotiations about the EU’s new asylum rules.

The V4 countries all reject migrant redistribution quotas and emphasise the need to protect the EU external border and the aid to the countries of migrants’ origin.

Babis, too, said he considers the V4 a good instrument to promote Czech positions.

“The fight for our national interests unites us,” Babis said, referring to the V4.

He also mentioned the Slavkov (Austerlitz) format of cooperation between the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, which, he said, should help seek allies in the EU for the promotion of Central European countries’ interests.

Babis said the EU needs a reform. The most important thing is to complete the internal market, or secure the free movement of goods, services, people and capital, so that neither workforce nor companies face obstacles in foreign EU countries.

“I am saying, Europe, we have to find the four fundamental freedoms first, and only afterwards we should intensify our integration. This means fewer EC directives and more influence of the member states,” Babis said.

He and Pellegrini discussed cross-border transport, which Pellegrini called important also because Czechia is the second biggest trade partner of Slovakia and the second most frequent tourist destination of Slovaks.

In this connection, Pellegrini announced the plan to build a high-speed railway between Bratislava and Brno as a prolongation of the existing section between Prague and Brno. The new track would be a part of the European rail corridor connecting Belgrade and Berlin, Pellegrini said.

Later on Wednesday, he closed his official programme by separate meetings with Czech Chamber of Deputies chairman Radek Vondracek (ANO), Senate chairman Milan Stech (Social Democrats, CSSD) and the heads of the Senate foreign and EU committees, Frantisek Bublan (CSSD) and Vaclav Hampl (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL).

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