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Monday, April 22, 2024

The Golob Government Has Made A Very Dangerous Decision For Our Country

By: Nina Žoher (Nova24tv.si)

Slovenia appears to have joined a group of European Union Member States, led by Germany, which are advocating for the strengthening of qualified majority voting in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, arguing that this would contribute to making the EU a more effective global actor. Given that this type of decision-making also contributes to smaller countries having even less decision-making power, many people are right to wonder who it was that thought of this.

On Thursday, the 4th of May, nine EU Member States, including Slovenia and Germany, decided to set up a kind of inclusive Group of Friends, which advocates for strengthening qualified majority voting in the EU’s Common Foreign And Security Policy. They therefore advocate the abolition of unanimity decision-making in the Council on foreign and security policy matters.

The press release on this topic states that the aim of this Group of Friends is to increase the efficiency and speed of EU foreign policy decisions. “Against the backdrop of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the growing international challenges that the EU is facing, the members of the Group of Friends are convinced that EU foreign policy needs adapted processes and procedures in order to strengthen the EU as a foreign policy actor. Improved decision-making is also key to making the EU fit for the future,” they stress.

They have not specified which areas of foreign policy should be subject to qualified majority

The Group of Friends aims to make pragmatic, concrete progress in decision-making processes on foreign and security policy issues on the basis of the rules already contained in the EU Treaty, they say. “Members agreed to regularly take stock and underlined the need to work closely with all Member States of the European Union, as well as to coordinate with EU institutions,” they say, adding that membership in the group is open to any EU Member State with an interest in improving EU foreign policy decision-making processes, in particular through qualified majority voting (QMV). The joint statement published by the German Foreign Ministry did not specify specific areas of foreign policy, such as military aid or sanctions, which should be subject to qualified majority rather than unanimity.

The Group of Friends, the members of which are Slovenia, Germany, Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain, stresses that it will transparently communicate the results of its discussions to all Member States. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, welcomes the initiative, as he believes that we need to adapt our procedures to the current and future times in order to strengthen the EU as a foreign policy actor. “The EU needs to become faster and more capable and effective in its decision-making and action capacity to face an increasingly uncertain geopolitical environment,” he said, according to Euronews. “We continue to believe that greater use of qualified majority voting in the area of foreign relations could bring significant benefits and allow for faster and more effective decisions in defence of our interests and values,” he added.

Commentators believe that the support of Germany and France, the two largest and most influential economies in the bloc, undoubtedly give the campaign an important boost in terms of credibility and visibility. However, they point out that it is ironic that these nine initiating countries have failed to achieve a qualified majority, as this requires 15 Member States representing at least 65 percent of the EU population.

Another thing to point out is that the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not issued a press release on its website or on Twitter about joining this initiative. We have therefore addressed a question to the Ministry about who took the decision to join the group of EU Member States in question. When we receive a reply, we will publish it. Former Slovenian European Commissioner Violeta Bulc has criticised Slovenia’s decision, saying that it is a very dangerous decision, especially for Slovenia and countries like it. We also asked Slovenian MEPs Romana Tomc and Dr Milan Zver to comment on the matter.

Romana Tomc: Small countries will lose the most

MEP Romana Tomc pointed out that while it is true that we have had problems with consensus in the European Union recently, she believes that we should be very careful with the qualified majority because it means that certain countries will necessarily be outvoted. “As a result, it also means that some countries that have different views will not be respected. The fact is that it is the small countries that will lose the most, which is why I would never advocate, or do not advocate, for a qualified majority. I believe that this is detrimental to Slovenian interests in terms of having our position taken into account,” she stressed.

In the future, she said, the result will be that, as a small country, we will simply be outvoted by the majority. “This will also reduce our influence, our power, our relevance. Morally speaking, this goes against what we have been saying in Europe all along, that we are a community of equal countries and that it cannot happen that some big countries that have a lot of power will simply outvote the smaller ones.” “Consensus is never to everybody’s taste – since that is the reason for the consensus’s very existence, and everybody has to make some concessions, but we have the EU to seek that consensus. It is hard for us to accept that as a smaller country, we will be outvoted and will lose our clout”, MEP Tomc was clear.

There was no prior political discussion about the decision in the Slovenian National Assembly

MEP Milan Zver began by criticising the decision of Slovenia and its government, pointing out that this geostrategic decision had never even been discussed in a Slovenian parliamentary committee. “The very act of joining the first group of countries seems to me to be politically wrong, given that the veto is a powerful weapon of the smallest countries, which otherwise do not have a big role in the decision-making process,” he stressed, adding that it was possible to understand the circumstances. This group of countries was created under the leadership of Germany, which has long pointed to the ineffectiveness of our Common Foreign And Security Policy. Decisions are very difficult to make, as a lot of energy has to be invested in consensus. MEP Zver recalled that Trojan horses also occur when decisions have to be taken by unanimity, and a country withdraws its consent. He cited Hungary and Cyprus as examples. Hungary, in particular, has been heavily criticised for opposing the EU-wide ban on Russian oil imports, as well as the 18-billion-euro financial aid package for Kyiv. Hungary finally relented, but only after Budapest’s unilateral demands had been fully met. Another high-profile example came in September 2020, when Cyprus itself blocked EU sanctions against Belarus over an unrelated dispute with Turkey.

“So, one can understand the background to this, but one can in no way say that Russian aggression is to blame for this initiative coming into being,” he stressed, adding that this initiative has long been floating around. From the very beginning, when we adopted the Lisbon Treaty, there were initiatives to abolish or marginalise the veto. The background to the years-long debate on the future of Europe was precisely this issue – that in the end, one of the results of the debate would be a proposal to increase the efficiency of decision-making in the Council. “That is what happened.” But this proposal also resulted in the debate of the Strategic Compass, where they deal with how to improve the effectiveness of security and defence policy. “It was to be expected that one such group would be formed – a friendship group of qualified decision-making, not a veto group. I expected the strongest countries, Germany and France, to be involved, but I am surprised that Italy and Spain have joined, as well as the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, etc.,” he pointed out, noting that more than a third of the countries are gathered in the group. “Since the others have not joined the negotiations, the arrangements we have should be changed with a bit more caution.”

In the event of a veto override, the big countries would always be the winners

In Europe, Zver said, we have what is called a majority system of democracy, which lives in the Parliament, but we also have a consensus system, which lives in the Council, and this is also a form of democracy. “It is particularly important because it protects small countries and gives them enormous power through the veto. To just give up the veto or abolish it would be terribly bad. It would mean that the big countries would win all the time, and the small ones would be left without a significant role or power.” The veto must remain in place, Zver believes, because it forces all stakeholders to coordinate, to find a compromise. Usually, he said, decisions are of better quality when they are taken with the veto, but it is true that they take more energy and time. In the long term, it is also good to have a two-tier system of European democracy, which has two sides and tries to involve the individual citizen as much as possible, either in the European elections or through initiatives on the other side.

“I think it is politically unwise to just throw in the towel and side with the big countries, thereby supporting the interests of the powerful and the big, who will also have problems. They still have to convince six other countries to join. A qualified majority means that fifteen countries can make a decision, but only if these countries cover 65 percent of the EU population,” Zver explained, expressing his conviction that the current system can remain in place, or be modified in the part where the blockage could be circumvented. “Because, you know, the veto can also be a Trojan horse. Vladimir Putin can have one Prime Minister in the EU, blocking all important decisions. So, there should be one way out. One already exists, that a country which simply cannot support a decision, blocks itself, excludes itself, takes itself out of the decision-making process. Then consensus is reached without the country that has decided to exclude itself. We could still find a way out of the problem to prevent the blockage,” he believes.

Zver stressed that if he were in the role of Slovenian Prime Minister, he would not be in this first group of countries trying to amend the veto. The veto is a sacred matter. “It is necessary to change the model to prevent blocking of decision-making,” he said, adding that most decisions are already taken on the basis of a qualified majority, and the veto will play an increasingly minor role in practice. “To abolish or marginalise the veto would be bad for European democracy,” he stressed.

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