The Slovenia Times

Slovenian EU presidency priorities will be resilience, economic recovery


Brussels - Slovenia's presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2021 will be a challenging task, not only due to Covid-19. The country's priorities will be boosting the EU's resilience, its economic recovery after the pandemic, promoting values based on the rule of law and a safe EU, Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan said.

Slovenia will be the last country of the presidency trio that also includes Germany and Portugal to take over at the helm of the Council in June 2021.

Relations between all three countries as well as with the next trio of France, the Czech Republic and Sweden are very good, Dovžan, who is in charge of EU affairs at the ministry, told the press on Thursday.

The priorities of Slovenia's presidency are outlined in a draft programme that will be formally adopted in June next year.

Slovenia will make an effort to promote a union of values based on the rule of law and the EU way of life as well as a safe EU as a good and reliable global partner.

As part of its efforts to make the EU more resilient, Slovenia intends to focus on a better crisis response, strengthening mutual trust and solidarity among EU member states, and on cyber security.

Key decisions concerning the economic recovery in the EU after the coronavirus crisis will be made during Portugal and Slovenia's presidencies.

The goal is not only to get out of the crisis but also to restructure the economy so that it will be based on digital technologies and will be greener, Dovžan noted.

After the December compromise solution on the recovery package, member states face a great challenge of how to synchronise their plans for drawing EU funds with the green targets.

The main topic of Slovenia's presidency will be migrations and the rule of law, including regarding the European Commission's rule of law report and a mechanism tying funds to the respect for the rule of law, Dovžan said. "We believe there will be quite a few challenges."

In autumn 2021, the Commission is expected to release the second annual report on the rule of law situation in member states, which may initiate discussion on specific issues as well. "We know that it was Germany's ambition to engage in a real discussion on the situation in individual countries," Dovžan said.

Germany's presidency and the Commission have stressed many times they expect succeeding presidencies to continue dialogue on the rule of law in line with the system that was put in place by Germany, meaning five member states would be reviewed more closely in rotating order.

Thus, the rule of law situation in Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia and Lithuania would be in the spotlight during Slovenia's presidency.

As for efforts to adopt the migration pact, Slovenia does not expect an agreement to be reached until the start of the country's turn at the helm of the Council.

The project is related to issues such as protection of external borders, the Schengen area reform and the returning of illegal migrants. "We're talking about challenging issues concerning our values as well as our views on what kind of a future we want. We expect a lot of work," Dovžan said.

Slovenia would like to see demographic issues to be at the forefront of the agenda as well. Dovžan pointed out that migrations were not a primary way of tackling this issue.

Interior Minister Aleš Hojs has recently said that in terms of interior affairs Slovenia's presidency will focus on setting up a well-functioning Schengen system, improving relations with the Western Balkans countries, and boosting powers of Europol and Frontex.

Moreover, efforts to promote a safe EU that will be a reliable global partner have been highlighted, including strengthening cooperation with neighbouring regions and striving to make the bloc an attractive destination not only for migrants.

Every presiding country strives to leave its mark on the presidency's agenda. Slovenia intends to pay special attention to the Western Balkans and European integration, for example aiming to resolve issues in the dispute between North Macedonia and Bulgaria so that EU accession talks with North Macedonia could formally start.

Slovenia cannot promise any quick solutions, but it will strive to strengthen mechanisms and incentives for countries that are on course to join the EU, Dovžan said.

During the six-month stint at the helm of the Council, Slovenia will host a number of high-level events, including an informal summit of EU leaders that would be followed by an EU-Western Balkans summit. The two back-to-back meetings are in the works, according to Dovžan.

In what shape and form the presidency events will take place depends primarily on the epidemiological situation, he said, adding that Slovenia was preparing for both videoconferences and on-site events.

This will be Slovenia's second stint at the helm of the EU after it held the presidency in the first half of 2008. The situation is different this time due to a number of factors, including because the Lisbon Treaty has scaled down the role of the leader and foreign minister of the presiding country.

Since the treaty, the presidency has mainly been of symbolic importance, however, the stint could significantly contribute to the promotion of the country.


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