Ensuring the smooth ratification of the EU’s new Reform Treaty, pushing ahead with ambitious energy and climate goals and stabilising the Western Balkan region, notably through the prospect of EU accession, will be among the top priorities for Slovenia as it takes over the reins of the 27-country bloc for the coming six months.
The Government of the Republic of Slovenia and the European Commission met in Brdo on 8 January for the traditional meeting that marks the start of each EU presidency in order to discuss the key challenges facing the EU in the first half of 2008.
According to Prime Minister Janez Janša, Slovenia’s presidency will seek to ensure the smooth ratification of the recently-signed Lisbon Treaty so that it can enter into force by January 2009, ahead of European Parliament elections. Janša urged member states to weigh up carefully which path they choose for ratification, as a number of countries, including Portugal, which handed over the rotating EU Presidency to Slovenia on 1st January, are still considering holding potentially risky referenda on the document (EURACTIV 14/12/07).
“Europe is very much interconnected and we have to ask ourselves how events in one country influence events in another country where the situation may be somewhat different,” he said, urging governments to “bear the broader perspective in mind, not only the domestic issues but also pan-European issues”.
Aside from this, the Slovenian Presidency will also be working hard with the Commission to finalise the energy-climate package, including the details of how to share out the burden among member states for implementing the EU’s goals in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and raising the share of renewable energy (EURACTIV 10/12/07).
“This will probably be the most demanding task of the Slovenian Presidency […] There are also some very demanding negotiations ahead of us in the relatively limited period between the publication of the European Commission’s proposal on 23 January and the European Council in March,” said Janša.
The prime minister also said that his country would work towards fully implementing the objectives of the last three-year cycle of Europe’s Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs, but cautioned that the European economy is likely to face a rougher ride in 2008 than in 2007, notably following the financial market turmoil that followed the US sub-prime mortgage crisis this summer (EURACTIV 10/10/07).
“It would be unrealistic of us not to expect certain problems, because of the issues that we have witnessed in the financial markets, because of the rising price of oil and food and the impact of these price increases on the economies of the EU member states,” he said, adding that he intended to raise “the problems of the financial markets” during the spring summit, as well as “the measures that need to be adopted as a follow up to the situation, in order to prevent such situations in the future.”
In terms of foreign policy, the future of the Western Balkans was high on the agenda, with Slovenia stressing its commitment to helping countries in the region join the EU. “We need to find solutions that will stabilise the region in the long term,” Janša said.
Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel also said he believed Serbia should sign a pre-membership pact as soon as possible. But the Commission and other EU members object to signing any agreement until Serbia cooperates fully with the UN war crimes tribunal and extradites former war criminals such as Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander wanted on genocide charges (EURACTIV 7/11/07).