Bratislava summit

Over recent weeks the Brexit situation has intensified. This has also had an impact on the Community wholly. Tempers reached an all-time high when Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn urged fellow member states to exclude Hungary from the Community. This is in response to the Hungarian government’s tough stance on refugees – having built fences on the Southern border of the country. Asselborn believes that the actions of the Hungarian government damages the integrity of the Community’s core principles. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto shot back at Asselborn describing him as ‘a frivolous figure’.[1] He went on to attack Luxembourg suggesting they assist in big corporations avoiding tax.

This argument came days before a meeting between member states (bar Britain) at Bratislava– which will be chaired by Donald Tusk the President of the European Council to discuss the problems faced by the Community in areas of Security, Defence, Economy and Cooperation.  It had a clear objective which was to show the Community as a united front however, even going into this summit with Luxembourg and Hungary having a disagreement the tone was already set for the meeting.  Bratislava was meant to be a starting point for the Community to also commit to deeper integration. Deeper integration has been a traditional response by the Community to the problems they face. This can be seen through the various ratifications of the treaty seen from the Single European Act to the Treaty of Lisbon.  Tusk was faced with a large task in chairing this summit and encourage positive discussion on Community development – as proceedings were inevitably dominated by Brexit.

Community tensions and divisions further arose when Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi refused to attend a joint press conference. The press conference was meant to be alongside French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  Renzi was left disappointed with the Bratislava summit. He like many other believing that the summit was filled with declarations but provided any real suggestions on a way the Community should develop. The Community has not found the impetus to develop which many thought would be spurred on by Brexit. Moreover it can even be argued that without Britain the Community might struggle to develop. Britain was a major contributor both financially to the Community – but also in the overall development of the Community.

The summit had been dominated by the refugee crisis but amounted to little other than a commitment to protect Bulgaria’s broader with Turkey. The Community also emphasised its agreement reached with Turkey in 2015. However, this may not stand as the refugee crisis continues to intensify. Moreover the situation is exacerbated by Hungary’s kvótanépszavazás – the referendum set for 2nd October 2016 on the EU’s mandatory immigration quota, which again does show disunity between member states. It also shows how far away the Community is from an established common asylum policy.

Defence and Security was as mentioned previously was also on the agenda at Bratislava and is linked to future Community developments. This benefits France as without Britain, France is the foremost military power in Europe. With Defence playing a more important role in the future France maybe also playing a leading role in the Community in forthcoming years. However the Community’s Common Defence is significantly weakened with Britain’s absence. Moreover, if the Community wishes to develop in this area they would have to negotiate with Britain.

Bratislava also failed to make any inroads in economic integration. Many barriers still exist between member states regarding trade – many that will need to be deregulated if the Community is to progress economically. This is another area where Britain had in the past played a vital role again by the Single European Act (1986) and subsequent Maastricht Treaty (1992).

Overall the Bratislava summit despite it being seen as an urgent one required by the 27 member states – was nothing out of the norm. The Community reiterated its stance on a number of matters, and made broad statements with no specific plans. Moreover the summit did demonstrate disunity amongst the 27 which is a major negative for the Community going into Brexit negotiations.