Yesterday in the European Parliament, Prime Minister Janez Janša presented the six-month programme and the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2021. The presentation of priorities is customary and takes place at the start of every presidency of the Council of the European Union. Prime Minister Janša presented the Slovenian Presidency’s priorities at a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. After the presentation, he attended a press conference together with President of the European Parliament David Sassoli and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
In his introduction, Prime Minister Janša said that the Slovenian Presidency had presented its priorities for the next six months at the plenary session that had just concluded. “We are presenting these priorities in the hope that we will see a return to normality in the next six months, to the times before the crisis, and that some of the strategic priorities, or at least discussions about them, will be put back on the agenda,” said the Prime Minister. He also thanked the German and Portuguese presidencies for their cooperation. “Over the last year, the trio has worked together on these priorities, especially on recovery and resilience. There are still some steps to be taken, the national recovery and resilience plans still need to be approved by the Council, but the Commission has already done most of the work after the historic agreement was reached last July on the Next Generation EU instrument and the resources needed to speed up the recovery,” stated the Prime Minister. He went on to say that we are encouraged by the positive economic growth forecasts for the euro area and the EU, “especially as Slovenia is at the top of the list in terms of these forecasts and low unemployment figures.”
“During the first two-thirds of this trio presidency, a lot of work has been carried out under very difficult circumstances. During this time, the EU has got back on its feet, following the chaos of the first months of last year, with the help of the aforementioned agreement on rapid recovery, the quick registration of clinical trials and vaccine use and, last but not least, the quickly concluded agreement on the EU Digital COVID Certificate,” said Prime Minister Janša, adding that we have demonstrated that the EU’s aim is to “respond unitedly and effectively to crises such as this epidemic, which has affected all the member states and the EU as a whole in a symmetrical manner”.
“The priorities of this semester lie between the recovery and resilience after the epidemic and the debate on the future of the EU and Europe at the Conference on the Future of Europe that began in May,” said the Prime Minister, expressing his hope that these six months will indeed mean the transition from dealing with the crisis and its consequences to focusing on the strategic dilemmas ahead. “It depends, however, on whether the actual achievements of European and global science, reflected in effective coronavirus vaccines, are actually used and whether, by autumn, a sufficient part of the European population will be vaccinated, so that we cannot only live normally in the autumn, but focus on key challenges,” stressed the Prime Minister. “We need a joint European campaign where reputable, famous, popular athletes, artists, opinion leaders will encourage people to use this achievement of European science, that is vaccines, which we have available in sufficient supply,” said the Prime Minister. He added that it was a miracle that we had produced vaccines and set up their production in such a short time. “It would really be a pity to be in lockdown in the autumn because we are unable to persuade people to make use of this achievement,” said the Prime Minister.
Further on, he also pointed out some foreign policy issues. “Relations with the Russian Federation, Turkey, China, the North-Atlantic Alliance, developments in Sub-Saharan Africa, where people live under the threat of terrorism, will not be on the agenda as the fourth, fifth, sixth item, but higher up, ” said the Prime Minister, adding that a strategic response to strategic challenges also means the enlargement of the EU. “We are pleased that in these six months, two important meetings of European leaders will be focused on enlargement. The first meeting will be held on 6 October in Slovenia, where the European Council will meet with the heads of state and government of the six Western Balkans candidates. Here we hope that there will be concrete breakthroughs in speeding up the integration and approximation of some Western Balkan countries to the EU. In December, the European Council also envisages a discussion on the issue of the Eastern Partnership, that is the issue of relations between the EU and the Eastern neighbourhood, where we hope that we will be able to take some steps so that we will not be the target of frozen conflicts in the neighbourhood for the next few years,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša.
“There are many challenges ahead of us, and hopefully we will be able to meet under circumstances where we will meet physically and not merely through video conferences, so that we will be able to take important steps forward,” concluded the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister also took questions from journalists during the press conference. Regarding the appointment of European delegated prosecutors, he reiterated that Slovenia was not withdrawing from the system, but that there was a complication due to domestic legislation. “The procedure is being repeated and, as far as the Government is concerned, it will be completed by autumn, but the prosecutorial council is dealing with a part of the procedure and it is up to them”, the Prime Minister stressed, adding that it would be good for all EU Member States to participate in this mechanism. “I regret that we are dealing with two prosecutors from Slovenia, whereas no one is asking why Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Sweden are not participating in this mechanism,” the Prime Minister said. He added that there are plenty of problems within the EU worth reporting on that are a thousand times more important than the appointment of two European prosecutors.
When asked about cooperation with the LIBE subcommittee and the issue of the freedom of the media, the Prime Minister said that “there were no problems or obstacles on our side for the subcommittee to come to Slovenia and examine cases related to the freedom of the media and the rule of law. We even invited the European Commission to come and check everything. I hope that the group that will come to Slovenia will talk to different people and not just to those who paint a one-sided picture.” “As far as the freedom of the media in Slovenia is concerned, this is the third time I have led the Government, and every time I have led the Government Slovenia’s ranking on media freedom indexes has risen,” the Prime Minister said, adding that Slovenia’s ranking on said indexes was higher last year as well. “However, a great deal of information about the political situation in Slovenia comes from Slovenia to European institutions where nobody speaks Slovenian and where they have to depend on what people tell them. But before you judge the rule of law and the freedom of the media in Slovenia, I invite you to come to Slovenia with a translator, live with us for a week, and you will see what the relationship between the media and the Government is like and vice versa,” the Prime minister Stressed.
As regards EU enlargement, the Prime Minister believes that EU enlargement is a strategic response to current events. “Over the last 15 years, with one exception, the EU has not been expanding, it has been shrinking; someone else has been expanding with different values, someone who is not contributing to the stability in the neighbourhood, someone who is creating frozen conflicts to keep the EU from expanding, thus more time, more resources and more energy are spent searching for tactical responses to the consequences,” the Prime Minister said. “Slovenians welcome EU membership for everyone because we achieved it ourselves, we know what it means, we are helping candidate countries for this reason too, because it is good for us, for them, for the EU, because it is a strategic response to strategic challenges in our neighbourhood,” the Prime Minister stressed, adding that enlargement has not been a priority for the last fifteen years, “because we have been dealing with crises, but the EU can take great steps forward in the area we are all focusing on”.