Slovenia at EU’s Helm: Public Spat with Brussels Mars the Start of Slovenian Presidency

Written by | Monday, July 5th, 2021

Slovenia formally assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council on Thursday (1 July) – amid criticism against its conservative prime minister Janez Janša, who is seen as following Hungary and Poland in undermining the rule of law and democratic values in the EU. The start of the Slovenian presidency was marred by questions over the rule of law and respect for democratic values, with a public rift between Brussels and Ljubljana as host prime minister Janez Janša declared that “smaller countries in the EU are treated as second class”. And in a sign of behind-the-scenes tensions, the head of the Green Deal and former EU commissioner for the rule of law, Frans Timmermans, refused to join a group photograph with the right-wing premier, over Janša’s “unacceptable attack” on two Slovenian judges and two socialist MEPs.
“The Slovenian presidency will be decisive. The tasks will be challenging,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, just a few days after a row broke out at an EU leaders’ summit over the new anti-LGBTIQ law approved by Hungary. „The Slovenian EU Presidency will be a search for Europe’s heart,“ writes Georg E. Riekeles from the European Policy Centre. “Where in Europe do you place Slovenia? The Balkans, Southern Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Western Europe?” – Riekeles refers to this crucial question Slovenian President Borut Pahor asked his lunch guests at the Bled strategic forum in 2018. But the question was about more than simple geography, as the palpable divisions during the recent European summit where European leaders fought over Viktor Orbán’s anti-LGBT laws. “It’s not just Orbán,” concluded French President Macron, “unfortunately, it’s a deeper problem – there is an East-West divide.”
Riekeles also outlines the main priorities of the Slovenian presidency. The priority in July will be to oversee the adoption of the continent’s 27 recovery and resilience plans to unlock the first installments of the EU’s €672.5 billion crisis funding. But things might become more complicated with the mega-package of Green Deal legislation, including complex reforms to the EU’s Emissions Trading System, energy tax and efficiency, renewables, and land use rules. High on the agenda is also the Western Balkans and enlargement, with a summit set for 6 October. Leaving the Western Balkans without a tangible European perspective would be a grave mistake. The region is hard-hit by the pandemic and cash-strapped, with weak government institutions and healthcare. Last but not the least, if this was not enough, where the Presidency will get truly tried and tested is on its promise to “strengthen the rule of law and European values”.

Article Categories:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.