What to expect from the Slovenian Presidency of the Council
The Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU kicked off last Thursday July 1st as the last one from the 2021 trio, following Germany and Portugal’s terms. It is, without any doubt, the most controversial of the trio, given the polemics surrounding the country on violations of rule of law and freedom of the press. Prime Minister Janez Janša presented the six-month programme and priorities to the European Parliament in the Plenary session last week.
A Eurosceptic leader at the Council
Despite his party’s membership in the European Popular Party, the Slovenian Prime Minister and now President of the Council of the EU, Janez Janša is often compared to the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán. For instance, the Slovenian leader has positioned himself as openly Eurosceptic, anti-immigration, attacking freedom of the press and negating climate change. In fact, Slovenia is usually included in the illiberal trio with Hungary and Poland, accused of attacking the European values and the European rule of law. Therefore, the European Commission and the European Parliament are worried not only that the Slovenian Presidency will not continue the path of its predecessors when it comes to working for the green transition and the protection of rule of law, but also that the illiberal governments of Hungary and Poland will now be under the protection of the leadership of the Council.
First encounter with the Parliament
On July 6, Janša was welcomed to the European Parliament to present the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency for the next six months, providing a first glance of how their relationship will be.
Slovenia expressed its commitment to being the transition Presidency from the pandemic to the recovery, as well as to differentiate itself from Hungary and Poland. The priorities presented follow this intention: the facilitation of the EU’s recovery and the reinforcement of its resilience; the Conference on the Future of Europe; the reinforcement of the European way of life, the rule of law and equal criteria for all; and a credible and secure European Union.
Multiple Members of Parliament criticized Janša for his attacks on media in the country, and even questioned the commitment of the Slovenian government to the protection of the rule of law and the European way of life, one of the priorities explained by the Prime Minister. Moreover, they stressed the connection of the European funds to the respect of the rule of law, clearly referring to the situation in Hungary and the new LGBTI laws approved by the government.
On the other hand, most MEPs have welcomed Slovenian’s intention to focus on the recovery facility by the green and digital transitions, as well as the country’s intention to further the integration and approximation of some Western Balkan candidates to join the EU, more specifically, Albania and North Macedonia.
The Slovenian Presidency has started with plenty of clashes, and it is expected to continue as such. However, and following the Prime Minister’s first appearance in front of the European Parliament, it seems like Janša’s intentions seem to be aligned with those of its predecessor, focusing on the recovery of the European economy and committing to the respect of freedom of press and rule of law. A functional cooperation between the Slovenian government and the other European institutions in the coming months is essential, as the Council -in its Economic and Financial Affairs formation- is responsible for giving the final green light to the National Recovery Plans, within four weeks after the approval by the European Commission and by qualified majority.