State Secretary Gašper Dovžan yesterday attended the regular General Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg as Chair. The debate focused on preparations for the October European Council, the state of the rule of law in the Union and the Conference on the Future of Europe. “Today, we discussed a number of issues that directly affect our citizens. As the country holding the Presidency, we are very pleased to have reached the conclusions on the Joint Cyber Unit. In doing so, we have taken an important step forward in ensuring greater cybersecurity and resilience for citizens,” underlined State Secretary Dovžan.
During the preparations for the European Council meeting in Brussels scheduled for 21 and 22 October 2021, the ministers and state secretaries for European affairs focused on energy prices and the coordination of measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. They welcomed the European Commission’s paper offering countries a range of measures to cope with rapid increase in energy prices. They also stressed that further coordination on COVID-19 must be geared towards reducing restrictive measures, particularly regarding the free movement of people. The agenda also included an exchange of views on digitalisation, trade relations, the ASEM Summit, the Eastern Partnership Summit and preparations for the international climate change conference in Glasgow (COP26) and Kunming (COP15).
In the context of the annual dialogue, the ministers and state secretaries exchanged views on the state of the rule of law in the Union based on the second annual report of the European Commission. The debate focused on the rule of law throughout the EU and recent developments in four areas — the justice system, the anti-corruption framework, media pluralism and the system of checks and balances. In view of the duration of the pandemic and the COVID-19 related measures, the Presidency proposed that the ministers pay particular attention to the role and functioning of institutional checks and balances in this specific context. Respect for the fundamental values and principles of the European Union, including ensuring the rule of law, is crucial for citizens’ trust in public institutions and a prerequisite for mutual trust between member states. “The rule of law is the cornerstone of our European project and the guarantor of the most basic everyday rights and freedoms. This is why this annual stock-taking is so important. The dialogue fully respects the principles of objectivity, non-discrimination and equal treatment of all member states, which is also promoted by Slovenia as the country holding the Presidency,” emphasised State Secretary Dovžan.
With regard to the Conference on the Future of Europe, the ministers and state secretaries agreed that the Council would continue to work towards the final success of the Conference. They were briefed on the course of the Conference, in particular the European Citizens’ Panels, holding an exchange of views on the preparations for the plenary session scheduled for 22 and 23 October. State Secretary Dovžan expressed his satisfaction that the first meetings of the European Citizens’ Panels had set into action the substantive work of the Conference on the Future of Europe. He stressed that the Conference should focus on content in the interest of European citizens. The latter play a central role in the broad debate on what the Union should be like in the future in order to meet their expectations.
The meeting also adopted Council conclusions on exploring the potential of the initiative for a Joint Cyber Unit — complementing the EU coordinated response to major cyber crises, as part of efforts to establish an up-to-date, comprehensive and clear cyber crisis management framework in the European Union. The Council conclusions reflect the Presidency’s priorities and efforts to strengthen the resilience of the European Union and improve its preparedness for future crises.
Slovenia also briefly reported on the international scientific conference entitled “Apparent reconciliation: transition processes in Central and Eastern Europe in a comparative perspective”, which took place on 23 August 2021 in Ljubljana as part of the Europe-Wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.