Following the COVID disruption, the upcoming Slovenian presidency of the EU Council has the ambition to pick up the legislative pace and broker a general approach on the most important proposals for the digital agenda.
Speaking to EURACTIV, Slovenian ambassador to the EU, Iztok Jarc, said the main contributions of the Slovenian presidency can be drilled down to normalisation, not only in relation to economic recovery but also in advancing the legislative agenda and return to the pre-pandemic pace.
“We want to promote the EU digital agenda, to contribute to its success especially on the regulatory side. We think that we are fit for that,” Jarc told EURACTIV.
Slovenia will hold the rotating Presidency of the EU Council as of 1 July, hence it will deal with key legislation for the EU digital agenda..
Digital Services Package
On the regulatory side, the ambassador pointed to the Digital Services Package as the main focus of the next Presidency. For both the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the Slovenian government has the ambition to broker a general approach at the Competitiveness Council that will take place in November.
“We will strive for swift progress on the DSA and DMA, which will contribute to a more safe, contestable and fair online ecosystem, with more legal certainty, sovereignty and with better functioning digital single market in EU,” Jarc said.
On the DMA, a recent Franco-German-Dutch joint letter recently called for further involvement of national authorities in the enforcement mechanism. While enhanced cooperation provisions between the Commission and EU countries are already on the agenda, member states also want to avoid fragmentation and excessive burdens on the national authorities.
The three countries’ proposal also calls for anti-merger measures, but there does not seem to be a consensus that the DMA is the right legislative tool for merger control provisions. The EU Merger Regulation is the current legal framework for that, in particular Article 22 for matters concerning the referral system.
Another key point for the DMA is the definition of gatekeeper, as a balance needs to be found between flexibility and legal certainty. Based on the current proposal, the definition might be completed through delegated acts by the European Commission.
The DSA is the other priority of Ljubljana’s presidency’s, as the horizontal act intended to harmonise the regulation of online content and services. Content moderation is a particularly controversial issue as it has the potential to infringe on freedom of expression.
The Slovenian authorities exclude the possibility that the DSA will include upload filters, the automated mechanism that have generated vocal opposition to the Copyright Directive. The intended approach is to leave the definition of illegal content to the national authorities.
After Germany and Portugal, Slovenia is the last country to take the EU Council Presidency that has signed up to the ‘Trio Programme’, a joint strategy that put the digital transformation high on the EU agenda.
The trio presidency programme assigned to each country a strategic priority. Germany focused on data infrastructure and cloud technology, while the outgoing Portuguese Presidency pushed for digital connectivity inside and outside Europe.
The Slovenian priority is on the different aspects of Artificial Intelligence. September will be a particularly busy month on this aspect, with several events organised about AI ethical implication, educational needs, and policy discussions.
Slovenia has strong in-house expertise on AI thanks to the fact it hosts the first International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI). Also, in this case, the aim is to find an agreement on the general approach for the recently presented AI Act before the end of the presidency, although there might admittedly not be enough time to fulfil this ambition.
For Slovenia, promoting European solutions for key technologies such as AI is part of the broader discussion on strategic autonomy, with the EU actively preventing the misuse of ground-breaking technologies by leading the establishment of international standards.
“We will also strive to contribute to the discussion on the digital sovereignty of Europe and the ethical use and development of artificial intelligence, which we believe is in connection with the reliability of big data.”Jarc added.
Another priority is cybersecurity, considered a key dimension for ensuring economic resilience. In that regard, the most relevant file is the review of the Directive on Security of Network and Information System (NIS2), which is currently being discussed in the EU Parliament.
“Increased digitalisation means increased risk. We will be especially looking to enhance cyber resilience, but also EU cyber crisis management. At the forefront will be hard work on the review of the NIS directive.” Jarc said.
Slovenia attaches great importance to cyber diplomacy, namely in establishing partnerships with like-minded countries on global digital governance and shared responses to cyberattacks. The priority area will be the Western Balkans, where the Slovenian government wants to foster cyber capacity building with a coordinated European approach.
The second area is Africa, continuing the work of the Portuguese Presidency. At the next summit with the African Union, Ljubljana aims to establish joint actions for the cybersecurity challenges shared by both blocs.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]