The European Commission gave the green light to Slovenia’s plan for resilience and recovery. This was message brought by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the College of European Commissioners to today’s meeting with the Slovenian Government, which is taking over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the second time.
Prime Minister commends the EU’s approach to managing the epidemic
At the press conference at the end of the working visit, Prime Minister Janez Janša thanked the European Commission and President von der Leyen for their quick and efficient work during the epidemic. He emphasised how crucial it was for the EU to link the issue of post-epidemic recovery to the issue of the green and digital transition, as through this correct strategic approach the European Commission will ensure that the epidemic response keeps Europe globally competitive.
Resilience, recovery and the strategic autonomy of the EU are part of our priorities for the next six months, said the Prime Minister and thanked Portugal and Germany for the work done under the joint programme over the past year. He also mentioned the Conference on the Future of Europe as one of the common challenges and stated that Slovenia would strive for an open and inclusive debate, not only between European institutions and national governments, but also between regions, local communities, non-governmental organisations and citizens.
President Von der Leyen: You can count on my constant support
“Slovenia is taking the helm of Europe’s leadership at a turning point for our Union,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, “as we shift from crisis management to long-term recovery efforts.” According to her, the vaccination campaign is progressing quickly and the EU is cautiously reopening. The NextGenerationEU programme is the engine of recovery, said the Commission President, adding that she was counting on the support of the Slovenian Presidency in confirming as many Recovery and Resilience Facilities as possible before the summer recess, so that member states can access funds as soon as possible. “It is no less than laying the ground for our future prosperity, by setting NextGenerationEU in motion, and really implementing it now on the ground. And in this endeavour, you can count on my constant support and the College’s cooperation,” Von der Leyen added.
In the context of EU’s recovery, she also mentioned the role of a presidency on the current rule of law files – the next Rule of Law Report is expected to be published by the end July this year. She stressed the importance of trust in the period of recovery – trust in sound institutions, in an independent and efficient judicial system, as well as in free, independent and properly funded media.
“Trust that freedom of expression, diversity and equality are always respected, and that the rule of law and European values are always upheld,” said the President of the European Commission and added that political dialogue requires respect for all democratic political parties, and that the Slovenian Presidency will be decisive.
The EC President added at the press conference that the EU is committed to making progress on its enlargement process, including formally opening accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, and she welcomed the EU-Western Balkans Summit during the Slovenian Presidency.
The recovery and future of the European Union at the heart of discussions at meetings of ministers with Commissioners
The morning part of the event was reserved for meetings of Slovenian Government Ministers with the College of Commissioners with a focus on individual areas: European Green Deal, digital transformation, recovery and resilience, foreign affairs, migration, rule of law and the Conference on the Future of Europe.
Implementing recovery and resilience plans is a priority of the Slovenian Presidency
The discussion stressed that the recovery and resilience of the European Union are crucial at the moment, so the decision to set up the ‘NextGenerationEU’ fund was a historic moment for the European Union, as well as a reflection of solidarity and positive cooperation between member states and the European Commission. The member states’ recovery and resilience plans are of key importance, so the Slovenian Presidency will strive to endorse and implement them as soon as possible. The implementation of the plans must be effective in order to improve the resilience of the EU as a whole and of individual member states.
The Green Deal and the digital transition to improve EU competitiveness and innovation
The recovery will be directed towards a green and digital transition, which will improve the EU’s competitiveness and innovation.
The priority of the Slovenian Presidency on the environment and climate change is in fact to implement the European Green Deal. Over the next six months, Slovenia will strive for the rapid and ambitious implementation of the Green Deal agenda (strengthening climate ambition, biodiversity, decarbonising energy and transport, greening agricultural policy, etc.). Today’s discussion between the ministers of the Slovenian Government and the European Commissioners concerned the debate on the ‘Fit for 55’ package, which is one of the main priorities of the Slovenian Presidency. Particular attention will also be paid to international climate negotiations: Slovenia will make every effort to prepare an ambitious EU negotiating mandate to achieve the most successful outcome possible at the conference.
In the field of digitisation, reform for the digital transition and the digital package will be of key importance. The Slovenian Presidency will support the development that the European Union needs to achieve greater digital autonomy and a faster reduction of its lag behind the world leaders. One of the main issues that digitalisation needs to address is the strengthening of consumer confidence, while an appropriate legal framework must also be provided that follows the challenges of digitisation and artificial intelligence in the area of product safety. In this respect, negotiations in the Council will continue intensively under the Slovenian Presidency. “What is not allowed in real life should also be illegal online” is the common guideline in addressing the complex issues of digitalisation. Another important task for the Slovenian Presidency will be strengthening resilience and response effectivenessin the case of major cyberattacks and crises, including greater integration of the cybersecurity aspect in a comprehensive crisis response.
Migration management, strengthening of the Schengen area, rule of law
Part of the discussion was also devoted to the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU in the area of internal affairs. The focus will be on integrated migration management, where Slovenia wishes to make maximum progress in the negotiations on the Pact on Migration and Asylum, and on strengthening the Schengen area. Slovenia will strive for a fully functioning and resilient Schengen area and for a prompt agreement on a new regulation on the establishment and functioning of the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism.
6th October: EU-Western Balkans Summit
The Western Balkans region is a political and strategic priority of the Slovenian Presidency in both internal and foreign affairs.
In the context of internal affairs, Slovenia will focus on strengthening police cooperation, especially in the prevention and investigation of online sexual abuse of children and in cross-border searches for missing persons, in particular children.
In the context of foreign affairs, Slovenia will actively promote the process of enlargement of the European Union to the countries of this region. The enlargement of the European Union is a strategic decision of the Union on how to strengthen security and stability both within the Union and in the region. As the presiding country of the Council of the EU, Slovenia has particularly high expectations for the EU-Western Balkans Summit, which will take place in Slovenia on 6 October 2021.
Investment in health care at the heart of efforts for a rapid recovery
In the morning part of the programme, the Prime Minister and EC President visited the Pediatric Clinic in Ljubljana, where they presented to President Von der Leyen future plans for investments in healthcare, which will also be funded by the recovery and resilience mechanism. In their visit to the Pediatric Clinic, they were joined by the Minister of Health Janez Poklukar and European Commissioner Janez Lenarčič. The Prime Minister emphasised that resilience and recovery are priorities for the Slovenian Presidency and thanked President Von der Leyen for her firm leadership of the EU during the epidemic: “It is thanks to you that we can say that the European response to the epidemic was appropriate and that we are now better prepared for whatever our next challenges may be”.
At the end of the meeting, Prime Minister Janez Janša and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen also attended the main opening event at the beginning of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the premiere of the Povodni mož (The Water Man) ballet choreographed by Edward Clug and performed by the Slovenian National Theatre Maribor.