Europe's next chapter - Main contents
The results of the UK referendum were a shock for millions who, like me, strongly believe in the European project; in its ability to unite our nation states into a multi-cultural global power, one which stands for progress, democracy, and inclusion.In fact, these are the kind of values which inspired me when negotiating Slovakia's accession to the EU, after our Velvet Revolution.
Like millions of other Europeans, I recognised that if the first half of the 20th century was marked by unprecedented destruction, the second half could see the construction of a better common future - thanks to the EU.
I considered Europe's integration to be a political miracle of no precedence in its scale; one which Slovakia should be a part of and help in shaping.
It has therefore been a week of strong mixed feelings: Days after we received the devastating results of the UK referendum, Slovakia will take the EU Presidency for the very first time in its history. One nation has regrettably chosen to part itself from the European path; another one is now given its first chance to take the lead.
It is not an easy moment to slide into the EU driving seat. Yet, Slovaks are well-aware of their share of responsibility at this difficult moment. In fact, there is a genuinesense of excitement on the streets of Bratislava about taking the EU Presidency for the very first time.
Millions of Slovaks are eager to show to our fellow Europeans how much the integration project actually means to us, to introduce them to our culture and traditions.
Video of TV spot SK PRES - Adriana Kučerová (EN)
And of course Slovakia as the only member of the Visegrad group, which is already using the Euro as its currency, has a particular mediating role in this context.I am sure the Slovak government will also take the opportunity of to bring the EU closer to Slovak citizens.
There is no room for complacency. Let us all, treat the UK referendum as our wake-up call. It is the strongest message we could have possibly received to stop, to reflect, to reassess, to see what can be done better.
We must not find ourselves criticising nor downplaying citizens' legitimate fears of globalisation but provide them with well-prescribed European answers; not populist, simplistic, or hateful solutions but ones which reflect our own European tradition of compassion and solidarity. We must ask ourselves whether Europe's success has trickled down to the benefit of all EU citizens. And we must do it now before it's too late.
I trust and hope that during this time of bewilderment, reflection, and even some (legitimate) concerns - the Slovak Presidency will show leadership and vision, provide a sense of unity among all of us, all European citizens. It has already started with a smile!