Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

June 29, 2021

Dr Anže Logar, the Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU 2021. Document source: Slovenian Government.

On 1 July 2021, Slovenia will take over the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the second time. What are your goals for the second presidency, taking into account the experience as well as the current difficult circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

One of the fundamental priorities of the Slovenian Presidency will be to contribute to coping more effectively with various crisis situations, which due to their nature or scope exceed the capabilities of individual member states and therefore require a joint response at the EU level. These situations include, in particular, pandemics and various forms of threats faced by modern security, such as large-scale cyberattacks.

Among its priorities, Slovenia also highlights the EU’s economic recovery, where the main goal is the effective implementation of the Next Generation EU financial instrument and the mechanism for recovery and resilience. The main elements of the recovery will be the green transition and digital transformation.

The next priority of the presidency will be the Conference on the Future of Europe, whose constituent session was held in Strasbourg on 9 May. An active debate with citizens on key challenges, priorities and the future of Europe, in general, will take place during the Slovenian Presidency, as well as a strategic discussion at the highest level. Citizens, as well as EU institutions, national parliaments and other stakeholders, will be involved in the debate.

Slovenia will pay particular attention to strengthening the union based on the rule of law and the European way of life. We will lead the debate on the European Commission’s annual report on the state of the rule of law in the EU. We also view Schengen as a fundamental value of the EU, which directly affects the quality of life of Europeans, so we will draw attention to the need for a fully functional Schengen Area. We will continue to coordinate our positions on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. It is extremely important that member states find the right balance between responsibility and solidarity.

In the field of external relations, much attention will be paid to strengthening transatlantic relations, the strategic debate on the Indo-Pacific region and the Western Balkans. We will focus on the social and economic recovery of the Western Balkans region following the pandemic and the sustainable development and progress of the countries of the region on their path to the EU.

In the last year, not only Europe but also the whole world has gone through probably one of the most difficult crises since World War II. What do you think we have learned from this crisis in the EU and how can we strengthen its resilience?

The pandemic has taught us that we can only be successful if EU countries work together and respond in a coordinated way. In the last year, some of the foundations on which the EU has grown, such as the internal market, have been put to the test.

Therefore, during our presidency, we want to encourage further reflection on the lessons learned and experiences of the COVID-19 crisis in all the relevant EU areas. We believe that Europe’s crisis response needs to be improved, and a more coherent division of roles between the various actors at the EU and member state level needs to be defined.

Slovenia wants to strengthen the EU’s capacities, the so-called strategic autonomy of the EU, to ensure the availability of medicines and medical devices, and to accelerate research and development. We will also work to strengthen cyber resilience. The uncertain circumstances brought by COVID-19 and increased digitalisation have further revealed the possible extent of the consequences that a large-scale cyberattack can have on virtually every area of our lives.

What will be the main task of the Slovenian Presidency regarding the green and digital renewal of the European economy? Could you highlight some of the best practices in this area?

We will focus on the Next Generation EU instrument and the recovery and resilience mechanism. The main purpose is to make the best use of their implementation to accelerate the green and digital transition. Under the European Green Deal, the focus will be on the “Fit for 55” climate and energy package, which will ensure that the enhanced climate target of a 55% greenhouse gas reduction by 2030 is properly translated into EU law. An important task will be to coordinate the EU mandate for the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will be held in Glasgow in November.

The Slovenian Presidency will focus on various aspects of digitalisation, such as the regulation of digital services and digital markets, the purpose of which is to establish a global standard for online platforms based on European values. In addition to this, we will focus on digital sovereignty and artificial intelligence, an area in which Slovenia is traditionally very ambitious. We advocate a human-centric approach to artificial intelligence, based on ethical standards and human rights. A democratic world is the first to be called upon to establish an appropriate legal framework for the development and use of artificial intelligence in Europe. Otherwise, others will write the rules of artificial intelligence.

In Slovenia, we have more than 40 years of experience in the field of management, development and research of artificial intelligence. Last year, a global centre for artificial intelligence was established in Slovenia under the auspices of UNESCO. It is hosted at the Jožef Stefan Institute. During the presidency, we will hold various events to promote the progress made in the field of artificial intelligence in Slovenia, including a conference on high-level artificial intelligence.

The consolidation of the European perspective for the Western Balkan countries is also among the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency. During the presidency, you are planning to organise an EU summit on the Western Balkans in Slovenia. In your opinion, what are the key challenges facing the region and the European Union in relation to the integration of these countries into the EU?

Slovenia emphasises that the region is one of the key geostrategic priorities of the EU, so it must strengthen its activities, its presence and, last but not least, the funds for the development of the region. One of the greatest challenges of our presidency will be finding sufficient political will, both within the EU and in the region, to address even the most difficult issues in the region in a constructive way.

The fact is that the stability and development of the region and its placement within European integration processes are in the essential and vital interest of Slovenia. In this context, Slovenia will work to help the countries of the region take a step forward in approaching the EU, both in the context of the enlargement process and through the implementation of specific projects in the field of economic, energy, digital and infrastructure connectivity.

During its presidency, Slovenia will also pay special attention to the implementation of the Green Agenda in the region and to the projects that are crucial for the gradual transformation of the Western Balkan countries into sustainable and green economies.

Last but not least, Slovenia will strive to strengthen the positive perspective of young people in the region, who are the future and hope of the Western Balkan countries. In this regard, it is important for Slovenia that the countries of the region are involved in the debate on the future of Europe, as the region is in the heart of the continent and as such is extremely important for our common future.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges of the EU and their reasons, and what is your vision?

Leaving aside the full range of challenges facing the EU in the global and regional strategic environment, one of the key challenges, especially in the area of the EU’s foreign policy, is the weak or diminishing will of the member states to seek consensus. Maybe this is also the reason for other challenges reflected in the allegations of EU’s inactivity and late response, the rigidity in addressing neighbourhood and cyberspace challenges, and a lack of consensus needed for the EU’s strategic action in the world.

In this context, we have been discussing for some time the adaptation of the working methods of the Foreign Affairs Council in order to better ensure the consensual decision-making provided for in the area of the Common Foreign and Security Policy in the Lisbon treaty. Some member states may also want adjustments to qualified majority voting. In any case, the European family needs to talk openly, but at the same time I think that we could give the High Representative more power for proactive approaches in the foreign policy stage. This would make the EU more responsive and, above all, more recognisable.

In addition to the areas to which Slovenia will pay the most attention during its presidency, there is also the debate on the future of europe. How do you see it?

The debate on the future of europe is, in essence, a reflection on what kind of Europe we want in the future. In its structure, it is a multi-level forum that will involve as wide a circle of citizens as possible and will listen to their ideas.

There is great interest among citizens across the EU in participating in this debate and talks, and many suggestions from individual actors on the European stage have already been heard. All proposals and ideas will be published on a special multilingual digital platform prepared for this purpose by the European Commission.

The Slovenian Presidency will also stimulate a strategic debate on our common future. Therefore, the title of this year’s Bled Strategic Forum will be “The Future of Europe”. We will invite European leaders to present their visions of the Europe of tomorrow. We will talk about issues such as European values, institutional change, strategic partnerships, demography and strategic autonomy.

In late autumn, we are also planning a meeting of former leaders who have marked the last decades of the European policy, to discuss with them the experiences and opportunities for changing our common union. Don’t miss out on this year’s 16th edition of the Bled Strategic Forum!

Source – Slovenian Government: https://slovenian-presidency.consilium.europa.eu/en/news/coping-more-effectively-with-crisis-situations/

 

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