European Council President Herman Van Rompuy thanked Slovakia for its securing a reverse gas flow to Ukraine during meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico in Bratislava on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Van Rompuy also said that the situation in Ukraine continues to be a source of serious concern. Should the 'small reverse gas flow' approach not pan out, the European Union would need to step up pressure on Russia, he added.
Turning to economic issues, he said that the situation in Slovakia and Europe is showing visible signs of recovery. Economic growth is also an instrument to fight eurosceptic and nationalist parties, as concerns mount of their increasing influence.
When it comes to EU enlargement 10 years ago, Van Rompuy said that the process brought much more prosperity and raised the quality of life for people of Europe. "And Slovakia made use of this to the fullest," he said.
Fico gave his thanks to Van Rompuy for his cooperation and support demonstrated in his relations with Slovakia. "His (Van Rompuy's) presence at these celebrations adds even more weight to this event," said the Slovak premier. Van Rompuy is in Slovakia together with the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz to attend celebrations marking the tenth anniversary of Slovakia's joining the EU.
According to Schulz, the EU faces major challenges such as dramatic rate of unemployment of young people and rising prices. "Yes, people are turning their backs on the EU with each passing day. It was here in Slovakia where voter turnout in the past European election recorded surprisingly low figures: only every fifth Slovak went to the polling station (slightly less actually). Yet I still remember the enormous Slovak enthusiasm for Europe during the accession process. Back then, public support for the EU was enormous," he said.
Schulz places emphasis on the need to regain the trust of people, mostly by listening to and addressing their problems. "When we look back to our shared history, to all the tragedies and obstacles we've surmounted, I'm confident that we'll tackle these problems as well."
That said, he considers Slovakia to be a positive example of EU membership, a young democracy that has evolved into a stable, prosperous country and a full-fledged union member. The countries of central and eastern Europe brought new stimuli and enthusiasm to the united Europe.