The incoming presidency will focus on the implementation of the new Lisbon cycle for growth and jobs, energy, climate change and relations with the Western Balkans when it takes over the EU helm from 1 January 2008, the Slovenian Ambassador to the EU revealed on 28 November.
Slovenia’s EU Ambassador Igor Sencar outlined the key decisions the EU will face during the first half of 2008 at an EPC conference on 28 November.
- Treaty of Lisbon
The incoming presidency has high hopes of ratifying the text of the new Treaty, which is to be signed by EU heads of state and government in two weeks time, by the end of 2008. Ambassador Sencar announced that Slovenia will try to set a positive example by ratifying the text at an early stage during its Presidency, which starts on 1 January 2008.
- Growth and jobs
With the Lisbon strategy currently under review, EU leaders will decide on the implementation of the next Lisbon cycle when they meet at the Spring Council. Sencar said that so far the strategy had been “working well”, and made clear that no radical changes were to be expected. The strategy and focus should be put on increasing research and development (R&D), supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and creating flexible labour markets, he said.
- Energy and climate change
After the crucial Bali climate conference, which starts next week, the Commission is to make proposals on how to fight climate change in January, with a special focus on emissions trading, carbon capture and storage and renewables, among others. The EU will also have to decide on how to implement its ambitious climate change targets with a view to the international summit in Copenhagen tabled for the end of 2009.
Moreover, common ground on the issue of the final phase of liberalising European energy and gas markets is yet to be found.
- Western Balkans
Ambassador Sencar stressed the “immense importance” of stability in the Western Balkans region and set out the key challenges for the EU in order to deal with this “unfinished story”. Advancing the European perspective for the region is a “high priority” for the Slovenian presidency, most notably by reaching Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) – which represent an important step towards EU membership – with all the Western Balkan countries.
However, the “most pressing issue” the EU currently faces is the settlement of the final status of Kosovo, Sencar underlined. The talks are now moving to a critical phase, with the contact group set to report back to the UN on 10 December. However, the EU remains split over possible recognition of unilaterally declared independence by Kosovo if the talks fail to deliver an agreement. Ambassador Sencar said that “EU unity is essential” on this matter and warned that the EU would be considered “not up to the job” if it could not find a unified view and approach. According to him, settlement of the Kosovo issue and the subsequent EU mission there is “the challenge” Europe currently faces.