Ljubljana – Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya announced her country’s support for Slovenia’s presidency of the EU Council in the second half of the year as she met Slovenian counterpart Anže Logar in Ljubljana on Thursday. The pair also talked about resilience of the EU and migrations, which are among the priorities of the presidency.
Speaking at a joint press conference after the meeting, Logar said that the focus had been on the Slovenian presidency, the priorities of which he had already presented to the Spanish counterpart as part of a meeting in Madrid last September.
Today, the two ministers talked in detail about the project and Gonzalez Laya expressed full support from Spain. “Spain will work together with Slovenia for the presidency to be as successful as possible,” she added.
According to her, resilience of the EU in healthcare and technology is very important for Spain. This is one of the priorities of Slovenia’s presidency of the EU Council and this topic was also discussed today.
Also on the agenda was the Conference on the Future of Europe, which will also be managed by Slovenia in the second half of the year. In this context, the Spanish foreign minister called for the EU to be more strategically autonomous.
Logar and Gonzalez Laya moreover talked about coordination on migration, and drafting of an European pact on migration and asylum.
Logar said that Spain was one of the key countries as it had faced migration first. “Today’s exchange of opinions is very important for the finishing touches on our presidency programme,” he said, noting that migration was one of the priorities.
The Spanish minister added that she and Logar were striving for a stronger external dimension of the pact on migration and stronger political relations with the countries of origin of migrations and the transit countries.
Important in this respect is the relations between the EU and Africa, which was one of the topics of the meeting. Gonzalez Laya said she was glad that Slovenia was interested in what was going on in the southern neighbourhood of the EU.
She also expressed hope that Slovenia would join the EU Med Group of seven southern member states as soon as possible.
As one of the priorities of the Slovenian EU presidency is also a union of values based on the rule of law, a journalist asked Gonzalez Laya whether she shared the concern by several MEPs and European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova regarding pressure on the media in Slovenia expressed during Wednesday’s debate.
The Spanish minister said the rule of law was one of the fundamental principles of the EU, which itself had mechanism for assessing whether a member state respected the rule of law.
Spain was subjected to one of these mechanisms last year and it was helpful, as the country saw where it can make improvements, she said, adding that such a mechanism would also help Slovenia.
Logar meanwhile said about Wednesday’s debate that it was a “topic exported to the European Parliament along political lines” and reiterated the invitation to the European Commission to send a fact-finding mission to Slovenia.
He declined to comment on judicial proceedings against advocates of independence of Catalonia, while the Spanish foreign minister said that the Spanish state did not prosecute citizens, but suspected criminal acts.
Gonzalez Laya welcomed the European Parliament stripping immunity of three Catalan MEPs who are facing sedition charges in Spain. This “sovereign decision” shows the respect for the rule of law and judiciary in Spain, she said.
Logar noted as an interesting fact that today’s visit was first after a while that the Covid-19 crisis had not been discussed, but challenges ahead of the EU and member states.
They were nevertheless asked about Covid-19 vaccination certificates, with Logar saying that this should be talked about, and Gonzalez Laya supporting the idea of a joint EU certificate, and calling for relevant talks also as part of the OECD.
Gonzalez Laya also met Speaker Igor Zorčič, PM Janez Janša and President Borut Pahor during her official visit in Ljubljana.
Zorčič and the Spanish minister assessed bilateral relations as friendly and excellent, but agreed there was still a lot of potential to expand cooperation, including within the EU and multilaterally. They urged enhancing economic ties, with Zorčič adding Slovenia would like to see more Spanish direct investments.
According to a release from the National Assembly, he also pointed to the potential to enhance inter-parliamentary cooperation and welcomed the planned first official visit by Speaker of the Congress of Deputies Meritxell Batet Lamana to Slovenia in early April.
Gonzalez Laya was meanwhile quoted as saying that she had great expectations from Slovenia’s EU presidency, while she believes parliaments could play an important role at the conference on Europe’s future. The pair also discussed vaccination against Covid-19.
Covid-19 and Slovenia’s EU presidency were also discussed in a meeting with Janša as the pair assessed bilateral relations as very good and friendly, a release from the prime minister’s office said.
Janša outlined Slovenia’s priorities during the country’s stint as EU Council presiding member state, while migrations and development challenges, especially in relation to Africa, were also discussed. Gonzalez Laya expressed support for Slovenia’s joining MED-7.