Swedish Enterprise visits the Slovak presidency of the EU

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The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise’s Brussels office visited the Slovak Presidency of the EU in Bratislava on October 3-5th. Meetings with the State Secretary of the Economy, the EU department on the Ministry of Labor, the Slovak Employers’ federation and the Swedish Embassy responsible for bilateral relations with Slovakia was on the agenda for the visit. The purpose was to deepen the understanding of the presidency’s interest in the Confederation’s key issues; trade, labor market, digitalization, better regulation and internal market with Slovak stakeholders.

Bratislava: från vänster Jens Hedström, Sophia Bengtsson, Karin Atthoff, Valérie Lefever, Emma Wiesner, Stefan Kvarfordt

Bratislava: from left Jens Hedström, Sophia Bengtsson, Karin Atthoff, Valérie Lefever, Emma Wiesner, Stefan Kvarfordt

It is clear that the CETA trade agreement is among the top priorities on the Slovak presidency’s agenda and is expected to be the biggest achievement of the presidency once it is adopted in the Council and the Parliament. The Ministry of Economy refers to the recent informal meeting in Bratislava as a turning point where many of the member states shifted towards a more positive approach to CETA. An extraordinary trade council meeting will be held the 18 October where the deal will, hopefully, be adopted, and subsequently officially signed by EU Commission President Juncker and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau on October 27th.

The Slovak government does not have a clear stand on the European Social Pillar at this point, they are investigating with the aim form a national position on the social agenda. However, the Slovak parliament was one of 11 national parliament that gave the EU Commission a yellow card for the proposal on the revised posting of workers directive. Currently holding the Presidency of the Council, Slovakia must remain neutral on this issue but the Ministry of Labor & Social affairs expressed a deep concern about the Commission’s reluctance to adjust to the yellow cards presented by 11 national parliaments.  Both RUZ, the National Union of Employers and the Entrepreneurs association of Slovakia take a critical view of the Posting of Workers Directive. Slovakia has had problems with the implementation of the existing legislation in this area and are concerned by efforts to fight illegal, foreign workers because they often put heavy restraints on Slovak businesses and causes difficulties for Slovak workers to work across the borders of neighboring countries.

Other prioritized issues for the presidency are the Digital Single Market, Energy Union, Collaborative Economy, Better Regulation and Market Economy status for China. The steel industry in Slovakia is especially concerned about the Chinese steel market and are worried that the Maltese presidency won’t prioritize this matter. Another important topic is the geo-blocking proposal, where the goal is to form a common position in the council in November, and on the services passport, where there still is an ongoing debate at expert level in the council.

The debate about the future of the Union and Brexit has also characterized the Slovak presidency. Between 100 000-200 000 Slovakian workers are in the UK and their future role and positions in the UK are of major concern. In general Slovak businesses , share a lot of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise’s views on EU policy. Additionally, approximately 80 Swedish companies with about 10 000 workers are located in Slovakia. To support a continuous open investment climate the open EU internal market is essential.

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