During its six-month EU presidency, Slovenia successfully led the process of adopting European legislation, but that has been somewhat overshadowed by concerns from Brussels about the rule of law in Slovenia, particularly the government’s attitude towards the media and its failure to appoint the European delegated prosecutors.
“Slovenia’s presidency has seen a number of achievements – successful coordination among EU member states and negotiations with the European Parliament on behalf of the Council,” said Sabina Lange, senior lecturer at the European Institute of Public Administration and Associate Professor of International Relations at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana.
She highlighted some key legislative dossiers, which are now ready to be negotiated during the French presidency of the Council of the EU, such as the digital markets and services acts and the minimum wage framework.
In addition, the Slovenian presidency reached consensus among member states on several decisions, for example, on enlargement and Croatia’s preparedness to join the Schengen zone, which was a negotiating success as well, Lange added.
Although external representation of the EU is no longer in the hands of the country holding the presidency, Lange believes that Slovenia played an essential role at some prominent international events – the most important of which was the Western Balkans summit in October.
Even though there have been no significant developments in bringing the Western Balkans region closer to the EU, Slovenia’s diplomats have done their best, added Sabina Lange.
However, she said, the question remains whether progress could have been more remarkable if not for Slovenia’s internal political tensions that spilt over into the political waters in Brussels.
The poor relations with the liberal Renew group will not be without consequences, nor will the close ties with Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán even after his departure from the European People’s Party, Sabina Lange commented for STA.
The attitude towards Slovenia’s work during the presidency demonstrated the political maturity of EU institutions, said Lange.
She believes that the European Parliament’s recent resolution on the rule of law in Slovenia confirms this – expressing concern for European values and the situation, but not in a way that would hinder the progress of the whole EU community.
Meanwhile, Slovenia carried out the critical task of every presidency – ensuring progress in the adoption of European legislation, as 39 ministerial meetings were held in agriculture and fisheries, employment, consumer protection, telecommunications and energy, health, and transport, among others.
The Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER I) in Brussels was led by the Deputy Permanent Representative, Ambassador Tamara Weingerl Požar, the first lady of the Slovenian presidency.
She summed up the outcome of the presidency in a statement to Slovenian correspondents in Brussels: “We are very happy, proud and even touched by our achievements, which have surpassed all expectations and plans set out before the presidency began.”
Weingerl Požar highlighted the 21 successful trialogues – legislative negotiations with the European Parliament, which she described as highly political, adding that cooperation with the Parliament was “appropriate, fruitful, excellent”.
“Slovenia’s role of an honest broker has helped us to achieve results,” said Weingerl Požar, describing the start of the presidency as a legislative tsunami and the end as a firework display of achievements.
However, the presidency was somewhat overshadowed by the expressions of concern about the state of the rule of law in Slovenia from the EU’s central institutions over the past six months.
The European Parliament recently adopted a resolution on the rule of law in Slovenia, expressing “deep concern about the level of public debate, the climate of hostility, mistrust and deep polarisation in the country”.
Warnings also came from the European Commission about the Slovenian government’s failure to appoint European delegated prosecutors and its attitude towards the media, as the Commission urged the need to ensure the funding and independence of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA).
In both cases, the government provided solutions shortly before the end of Slovenia’s presidency, but the uncertainty remains. In addition, multiple times, Prime Minister Janez Janša had also caused an uproar with his tweets.
The most resonant was his attack on a Politico journalist for an article that was critical of the state of the media in Slovenia. The Commission condemned the attack, which stressed that hatred, threats, and personal attacks against journalists were unacceptable.