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Slovenia Takes Over the EU Presidency: A Challenge That the Government Is Well Prepared For; the Opposition, However, Should Calm Down

Slovenia is taking over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. According to diplomat Božo Cerar, our country is well prepared for the challenge, with all of the experience we have so far.  The presidency will be based on four main content pillars, summed up in the slogan “Together. Resilient. Europe.” Among its priorities, Slovenia put the strengthening of the European Union’s resilience, recovery and strategic autonomy in the first place, and talks related to open issues in the Balkans will also be at the forefront. Cerar also pointed out that this will shine a spotlight on Slovenia as part of the international scene, so it is extremely important that internal political divisions calm down during the presidency and that we approach this challenge in unison. 

On the 1st of July, Slovenia has taken over the presidency for the second time since joining the European Union. The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is an important and challenging task for every Member State of the European Union. Which state’s turn it is to preside over the council is predetermined by a rotation system; each state does it for a period of six months. The most important task of the Member State holding the presidency is to lead the work of the EU Council at all levels and to ensure the efficient and continuous work of the institution.

Slovenia took over its first presidency in 2008, and according to the EU and politicians in the domestic political space, it did an extremely good job. Former Slovenian ambassador to Washington, Božo Cerar, believes that Slovenia is well prepared for the presidency, just like it was in 2008. “I myself am not involved in the preparations for the presidency, but from my point of view, as a former ambassador, I believe Slovenia is well prepared for the presidency,” he explained.

The trio, or the so-called “troika” of presidencies, consists of three Member States, which take over the presidency one after another. The system of such Presidency of the Council of the EU was introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. The main guidelines and tasks are set in advance in a joint 18-month work programme, and each of the three countries prepares a detailed 6-month programme for its presidency. The countries with which Slovenia forms a trio of presidencies are Germany and Portugal. “It is also necessary to emphasise from this point of view that Slovenia has shown exceptionally good cooperation in the trio of presidencies,” Cerar pointed out.

Slovenia’s presidency will be held under the slogan “Together. Resilient. Europe.”
The presidency will be based on four main content pillars, summed up in the slogan “Together. Resilient. Europe.” Among its priorities, Slovenia put the strengthening of the European Union’s resilience, recovery and strategic autonomy in the first place. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anže Logar, Ph.D., emphasised that the Union must actively build on the lessons and experiences we have gained during the pandemic. As we strive for a recovery that should be as quick as possible, covering all industries and all parts of society, special attention will be paid to the recovery mechanism and the EU’s Next Generation instrument. The other key concepts are green and digital. “I believe that this is extremely important for Slovenia – to be able to contribute to raising awareness and strengthening resistance to the epidemics. The coronavirus epidemic definitely turned things upside down, and in the future, it will be important how well we will be able to deal with such situations,” Cerar explained.

“The success of the Slovenian Presidency, as well as of the European Union as such, depends on joint efforts by the Member States and European institutions to seize the opportunity and improve the Union’s functioning before future crises. At the same time, let us make sure that we can successfully face the current economic, social and also geostrategic challenges,” Logar said at a conference held before the take over of the presidency, about a week ago. Cerar also emphasised that in this case, it is not only that the EU efforts are important – the internal political division should also calm down during the presidency. “Presidency of the EU is not the presidency of the government, but of the country as a whole. In this case, the opposition should be aware that internal political division and exported scandals are damaging the reputation of the entire country in the eyes of the entire world public,” Cerar explained.

During the time of our presidency, we will help shape Europe’s future
Slovenia has a unique opportunity to lead a debate on the future of Europe, together with the three key European institutions. A large part of the Conference on the Future of Europe will take place during the Slovenian presidency, when Slovenia will also co-chair the conference on the side of the Council of the European Union. The debate on the future of Europe will also be the focus of the 16th Bled Strategic Forum, where European leaders will discuss the main strategic challenges for Europe, as well as the future development of European values. “We will try to stimulate a debate on what kind of Europe we want to live in in the future,” Logar said.

 During the presidency, special attention will be paid to the countries of the Western Balkans, their European future, and the credible continuation of the EU enlargement process. “We will work for the economic recovery of the countries in the region. To ensure sustainable development, we want to work with them in the implementation of the green and digital transition and improve connectivity within the region and with the European Union,” they explained on the official website of the presidency. Cerar agreed that the presidency is one of the crucial times for resolving the problems in the Balkans, especially in terms of the possible integration of Northern Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro into the EU, and last but not least, in terms of many open issues related to Bosnia and Herzegovina. “If these issues are not resolved to a greater extent during the presidency, there is a possibility that these issues will never be resolved,” he explained.

The EU wants to strengthen its position in the world
Cerar also emphasised that the EU is increasingly aware of the growing influence of major world powers such as Russia and China. “Europe wants to increase its international reputation and at the same time successfully compete with other world powers.” Cerar is convinced that Slovenia will successfully address this issue during its presidency and try to find effective solutions that will increase the competitiveness and strength of the European Union, together with the other stakeholders. Similarly, as was already pointed out on the official website, and as Cerar also said, one of the major open strategic issues during the presidency will also be the economy and the recovery after the epidemic. “The international environment has become extremely complex in recent years, with the EU trying to be a good geopolitical player.”

During the presidency, attention will also be paid to open issues related to managing migration pressures. Slovenia will strive to make progress in the negotiations on a new pact on migration and asylum and try to strengthen the role of the European Union in the field of the external dimension of migration.

Sara Rančigaj

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