Prime Minister Janez Janša attended the European Council meeting in Brussels, where EU leaders discussed the current situation regarding COVID-19, crisis management and resilience, energy prices, security and defence, migration and certain issues related to the EU’s external relations. After the European Council meeting, the Prime Minister attended the Euro Summit. In accordance with the conclusions of the June 2021 Euro Summit, the state of play of the Capital Markets Union was discussed.
After the summit, Prime Minister Janša attended a press conference with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen where he presented the achievements of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
He began by thanking President von der Leyen and President Michel for their very successful cooperation, welcomed the cooperation between all European institutions and also thanked the governments of Portugal and Germany, with which Slovenia formed the Trio Presidency for the past year and a half. “Certain issues that were successfully completed during the Slovenian Presidency were started during the German or Portuguese Presidency,” said the Prime Minister.
“The Slovenian Presidency has been the fourth Presidency of the Council of the EU to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we did our best to ensure that most of the meetings were held in-person, which contributed to the successful closure of dossiers that had been waiting for this opportunity for some time. I am pleased that there have been 21 trilogues successfully concluded with the European Parliament, including some that dealt with quite challenging issues,” said the Prime Minister. He added that during the Slovenian Presidency, a number of unplanned or unforeseen events had taken place, such as the situation on the border between Poland and Belarus, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing migrant crisis, the rising prices of energy and some other commodities, and the recent tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
“One of the important priorities of the Presidency was resilience and recovery. “Important steps forward have been achieved on this front,” said the Prime Minister, adding: “The November Council conclusions have laid strong foundations for future work on strengthening the EU’s resilience. The European Commission has also done a remarkable job. Furthermore, the Council conclusions on a new contingency plan for ensuring food supply and security in times of crisis were approved in December.” The Prime Minister said that a great deal of efforts have been devoted to the creation of the European Health Union. “We successfully concluded negotiations with the European Parliament on the regulation of the European Medicines Agency and the extension of the mandate of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control,” the Prime Minister said, stressing that it was very important to conclude negotiations on the other chapters of the European Health Union as soon as possible, given that we were still in the midst of a pandemic.
“Another priority was to strengthen cyber resilience. Given that we are facing cyberattacks with increasing frequency, which is a particular challenge for our Eastern Neighbourhood partners, as we heard in our discussions with them, I am pleased that we have reached an agreement among the member states on the revision of the directive that lays down measures for the common security of networks and information systems,” said the Prime Minister.
“The coordination of approaches within the EU in responding to the daily challenges posed by COVID-19 has been extremely important, and I believe that the vast majority of responses have been timely,” said Prime Minister Janša.
He also expressed his satisfaction that 22 national recovery and resilience plans have already been approved this year. He went on to say: “In the meantime, the Commission approved pre-financing payments from the Recovery and Resilience Facility for 17 member states amounting to 13% of the allocated grants, totalling almost €53 billion. We expect the approval of the last five national recovery plans to be finalised shortly.”
On the topic of the digital green transformation, the member states reached an agreement on the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. “Both acts are an important step forward in building our digital future,” said the Prime Minister, who also welcomed the agreement reached with the European Parliament to continue mobile roaming with no extra fees.
“We also agreed on the EU’s common position for the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, where not all outstanding issues could be resolved and much more work will still be needed, but important progress has been made. We also reached a framework agreement on the revision of the Regulation on Trans-European Energy Networks, which will specifically support Europe’s climate goals,” said Prime Minister Janša.
During the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the conference on the future of Europe was also held. “I think it is important to underline that we also included in the strategic discussions representatives of the leaderships of countries that are in Europe but not in the European Union – the countries of the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership, which participated in the Bled Strategic Forum. Their contribution to the debate was important,” said the Prime Minister.
With regard to the rule of law and the European way of life, the second annual dialogue was held on the situation regarding the rule of law in the five member states whose turn it was, and an agreement was reached on the key features of a European Sports Model based on European values. “Just today, we received congratulations and praise for this achievement from the President of the Olympic Committee,” said the Prime Minister.
“In the context of the EU’s security and the situation in its neighbourhood, we have successfully reached an agreement on a unified approach for the imminent wave of migrants after the withdrawal from Afghanistan. In this regard, the EU’s reaction was organised and timely. This was also the case when we were faced with the threat of a hybrid attack by the Belarus regime, which exploited illegal migrants and their misfortune to put pressure on Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and the EU’s eastern borders. The countries responded in time and the entire EU helped. In this regard, special thanks goes to the President of the European Council, President of the European Commission, Commissioner Schinas and other Commissioners who used dialogue and soft power to contain the situation, although it has not yet been entirely resolved. This is an important message on how to address similar situations in the future,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša.
“We have continued work on the pact on migration and asylum. No major breakthrough has been achieved here. It is particularly important to reach an agreement on the Eurodac regulation that strengthens our Schengen border and our common security. However, many unresolved issues are linked to this regulation, which is why it will remain a tough nut to crack also for the upcoming Council presidency,” explained the Prime Minister.
“We are pleased that the Council concluded that Croatia fulfils the necessary conditions for the application of all parts of the Schengen acquis, which is the first formal step toward the Council’s final decision on the enlargement of the Schengen area,” noted the Prime Minister.
He added that the enlargement of the EU was high on the agenda during the Slovenian Presidency. “I personally believe that the enlargement of the EU is in the common security interest of the entire European continent. In the last decade and a half, history has taught us that, if the EU is not expanding, someone else is, but not in the name of freedom and security. We should be aware of this in the future as well,” said the Prime Minister. He recalled that, in the informal meeting of the European Council and Western Balkans countries held this October, an important signal was given, thus reinforcing the perspective of EU membership for Western Balkans partners. “Given the situation in a certain part of the region, this signal is all the more important at this time,” stressed Prime Minister Janša. He expressed his satisfaction that the Council had succeeded in adopting the conclusions concerning the enlargement and the Stabilisation and Association Process. “This was a very important step in terms of the EU showing its commitment to EU enlargement,” added the Prime Minister.
Speaking of today’s EUCO meeting, the Prime Minister found it important that sufficient time had been dedicated to discussing the current COVID-19 situation. “We are all faced with this situation and these are important messages related to the importance of vaccination and booster doses due to the latest Omicron variant, which has been spreading rapidly. Our joint action against false information and misinformation is also important, which, especially in our part of Europe, fuel an anti-vaccination sentiment that currently poses a major health risk. I believe that in this regard we have reached a high level of consensus that there is a need for coordinated action at the European level,” the Prime Minister stressed, adding that the EU leaders supported the proposal of EU health ministers, who suggested pursuing the joint procurement of therapeutics, with similar joint coordination and efforts as in the case of vaccine procurement, which has been one of the EU’s great successes in the fight against COVID‑19.
Prime Minister Janez Janša also highlighted the importance of unity expressed in support for the democratic forces in Belarus, in support for political prisoners and in the uniform condemnation of the drastic sentences handed down by the regime two days ago to those who should have been rewarded for their efforts for democracy and freedom. “In my personal opinion, these sentences reflect the weakness of the regime and suggest that it is coming to an end,” said the Prime Minister. The EU leaders also addressed the situation at the Russia–Ukraine border in depth and were clear in their views and warnings on the matter. According to the Prime Minister, their united position prevents the possibility of another surprise, such as Russia occupying Crimea.
“I believe we have done quite a lot of work, but have certainly not finished all of it. Much of what has been started is now in the hands of the French Presidency,” the Prime Minister said, adding that at the end of the meeting, Slovenia wished the French President Emmanuel Macron the best of luck, as well as the courage and determination required to meet the challenges of the French Presidency over the next six months.