Prime Minister Janez Janša today attended the 32nd session of the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia. The prime minister outlined the government’s position on the EU’s 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and the recovery package.
“Many of my colleagues were addressing this subject in their own countries over the summer, and perhaps each of you heard certain information at that time. We too held several meetings on the subject, which were also attended by some of the mayors of Slovenian municipalities now present, but it is nevertheless not too late for certain additional comments,” said Mr Janša by way of introduction. He highlighted that the conclusions of the July meeting of the European Council, when negotiations were held on the multiannual financial framework and the recovery package, is “one of the most important documents that the EU has ever adopted”. “In terms of the amount alone, given that the multiannual financial framework and the recovery and resilience facility have been combined, it is by far the largest in EU history. And as far as the national position is concerned, the conclusions contain the largest amount of EU investment funding for Slovenia that we have ever seen for a specific time period,” emphasised Mr Janša. He added that Slovenia potentially has more funding at its disposal than ever before, stressing that it is a possibility, not a given, and “this opportunity we have to take”.
Mr Janša then reiterated that just over EUR 3 billion had been available in the previous 2014-2020 financial framework, but not all of it had been utilised. Moreover, certain projects were designed, but came to a halt and remained unrealised. Mr Janša revealed that under the next financial framework, together with the recovery plan, Slovenia will have just over EUR 12 billion at its disposal.
“The national recovery and resilience plan will encompass structural reforms and investment across various sectors, with a focus on green and digital priorities, higher productivity, the labour market, education and training, research and development, and social and health care,” continued Mr Janša, adding that “we want a balanced, sustainable recovery from the epidemic, and are earmarking support for green and digital transformation and support for strengthening the health system”. He was clear that Slovenia needs a very serious upgrade to its health system, which the epidemic revealed to be coming apart at the seams. “In some countries their health systems broke down, and we must never again see anything like that,” vowed Mr Janša. He added that the next weeks and months would most likely show how much we have strengthened the resilience of the health system. “We are on the brink of a second, very serious, wave,” he warned, emphasising that in healthcare many things cannot be accomplished overnight, such as building additional capacity, or training staff. “It needs several years for all of that,” warned Mr Janša.
“And so we have EUR 12 billion at our disposal, and it is important that we access and invest this money smartly. Our aim is to invest wisely, all of it, without any major delays, as soon as possible. The sooner we invest, the sooner it will be seen in public welfare,” said Mr Janša, who emphasised that business as usual would not be enough, and that for that reason two taskforces had been set up to continually examine the difficulties, obstacles and complexities in the utilisation of EU funds.
“The current obstacles that the taskforces have identified as preventing matters from progressing and therefore in need of removal are related to legislation and judicial practice, where anyone can throw a spanner in the works,” said Mr Janša, citing the example of civil initiatives. “It’s one thing to be concerned for nature and the environment, but something else to be able to set up a civil initiative in Novo Mesto that then objects to the route of the third development axis in Koroška, bringing all processes to a halt and dragging them out for years,” said Mr Janša. He also pointed out that in similar cases, differing judgments can be found. “Court proceedings often return to the very start, which can mean another year,” added Mr Janša.
“Our first priority is preparing the formal basis for utilising funding from the recovery and resilience facility and multiannual financial framework, in particular removing bureaucratic obstacles, as the 12 billion in available funding will depend on their removal,” highlighted Mr Janša. He went on to note that earlier today the chair of the strategic council for reducing bureaucracy had unveiled the first package of proposals for reducing bureaucracy and deregulating to remove economic, environmental and tax-related obstacles, the coalition having been briefed on the proposals yesterday. The vast majority of the obstacles covered by the package, particularly those concerning environmental and economic matters, are of the type that need to be removed for the EU funding to be wisely invested as soon as possible,” said Mr Janša, adding that if the package of proposals was not adopted quickly, the first years of funding, which are the most important, would be missed. “The first bureaucracy reduction package will come to the National Assembly this year, and the final decisions will be in the hands of deputies, and also in your hands,” reiterated Mr Janša.
He stressed that the conclusions of the European Council were important not only from a financial perspective, but also from the perspective of the continued existence of the EU. “Had this agreement not been reached, everything would have been called into question,” said Mr Janša, who invoked memories of events in the EU in the spring, during the epidemic, when the continent looked as it might have done in the Middle Ages.
“We vastly improved our national position relative to the proposals that were on the table in the preliminary phase, and significantly mitigated the loss of cohesion funds, which will also allow us to invest fairly in the western cohesion region,” said Mr Janša, adding that “we negotiated as hard as possible, and it is up to each country as to how they will use this funding”.
The prime minister ended his address by saying that “our main objective is removing obstacles that prevent us from investing wisely, so any support or encouragement from the National Council on this matter will be welcome, and I thank you in advance for that”.
The prime minister then took questions from councillors.