By Raphael Oni
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.
In the words of the Prime Minister, “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.
Prime Minister Janša thanked the German and Portuguese presidencies for their cooperation. He said, “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,”. 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.”
The Prime Minister further states that 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. 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. According to the Minister, “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. “
“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.
On the issue of freedom of the press in Slovenia, the Prime Minister told journalists that his government operates an open policy that allows the media to operate freely. In his words “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,”. He said 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. According to him, “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. 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 added 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”.