Slovenian Presidency debriefs EP committees on priorities

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.

Ministers outlined the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU to parliamentary committees, in a series of meetings.

Slovenia holds the Presidency of the Council until the end of 2021. The hearings took place between 12 and 15 July.


On 12 July, Agriculture, Forestry and Food Minister Jože Podgoršek told the Fisheries Committee that the Presidency will strive to make fisheries and aquaculture sectors more sustainable. They will focus on small-scale coastal fisheries, the revision of the fisheries control system, as well as negotiations on fishing opportunities for 2022.

Fisheries Committee MEPs welcomed the announcement, urged the minister to move forward with the management plan for Atlantic Bluefin tuna and insisted that the Presidency should be firm when negotiating fishing deals with third countries (e.g., UK, Norway, Mauritania), to ensure equal conditions for EU fishers relative to third country operators.

Internal Market and Consumer Protection

On 12 July, Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek and Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik highlighted in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee the importance of the digital transition for the post-pandemic recovery and longer-term EU policy goals. They stressed that the Presidency will focus on the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act as well as the Artificial Intelligence Act, key legislative files to ensure citizens’ trust in new technology, encourage digitalisation efforts, and create high standards for the digital economy.

Beyond these digital issues, the MEPs discussed with the two ministers the implementation of key internal market legislation, new product safety rules, customs control issues, the upcoming common charger proposal, construction products regulation and standardisation questions.

Transport and Tourism

On 13 July, Infrastructure Minister, Jernej Vrtovec, and Economic Development and Technology Minister, Zdravko Počivalšek, identified sustainability, resilience, e-mobility and alternative fuels, as well as the recovery of travel sector, as the main policy pillars of the Slovenian presidency in the transport sector. These issues will also be key to make the Green Deal and decarbonisation efforts a success.

Transport committee MEPs welcomed the focus on the decarbonisation of the transport sector, urging the Presidency to ensure technological neutrality in the green and digital transitions. Some MEPs asked for all efforts to be put into to promoting the rail sector, to review TEN-T rules and transport mobility package, to safeguard passengers’ and workers’ rights, invest more in the economic recovery of the tourism sector,and ensure better EU coordination on travel restrictions.

International Trade

MEPs in the International Trade Committee focused on China, vaccines and trade, and Mercosur in their questions to Economic Development and Technology Minister, Zdravko Počivalšek on 13 July. Human rights and the rule of law are important elements in trade agreements, according to MEPs, reconfirming Parliament’s freeze on the ratification process of the China-EU Investment Agreement.

Arguing for a dialogue on a temporary suspension of vaccine patents, MEPs learned the Presidency would propose a compromise for negotiation at the WTO level. The Mercosur agreement needs strong environmental conditions, several MEPs emphasised, while the Minister responded that the non-implementation of the deal would negatively affect the EU’s geopolitical power.

Culture and Education

On 13 July, Education, Youth And Sports Minister Simona Kustec told the Culture and Education Committee that the Presidency will work to improve equal access to knowledge and training, something which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, by focusing on improving the digital skills of Europeans. She will also focus on fostering mobility among young volunteers. Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti will try to support the European film and audiovisual sectors as well as make sure that freedom of expression is upheld.

MEPs urged the Presidency to push more forcefully to make the European Education area a reality. On the New European Bauhaus, also highlighted by the ministers as a Presidency priority, MEPs said there was no dedicated funding to support the “ambitious plan”, as funds solely from the ‘Creative Europe’ would not be enough.

Agriculture and Rural Development

Completing the Common Agricultural Policy reform is one of the Slovenian Presidency’s top priorities, Agriculture, Forestry and Food Minister Jože Podgoršek told the Agriculture Committee on 13 July, hinting Council is planning to discuss it in October. The Presidency will also focus on the Farm to Fork strategy, long-term development of rural areas, market labelling, support of organic farming, and EU Forestry strategy. In the latter area, the Presidency is aiming to agree Council conclusions.

Agriculture MEPs welcomed the strong focus on resilience and rural areas and asked about the Presidency’s position on the use of genetically modified organisms and measures relating to the use of pesticides. Several MEPs raised concerns about imported products not respecting EU standards.

Regional Development

On 13 July, Development and EU Cohesion Policy Minister Zvonko Černač assured the Regional Development Committee that Slovenia will strive for a strong cohesion policy. The Presidency will prioritise the efficient implementation of NextGenerationEU and aim to ensure the swift adoption of national recovery and resilience plans.

MEPs quizzed Mr. Černač on several topics, including the European Cross-border mechanism, cooperation with the Western Balkans, the new programming period, and the rule of law. They urged the Presidency to maximise synergies between cohesion policy and recovery and resilience measures and called for the rapid adoption of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

On 13 July, Janez Cigler Kralj, Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, said the Presidency will focus on the impact of digitalisation and artificial intelligence (IA) on gender equality, to make sure technologies are inclusive for both men and women. He added that they will work on including a gender perspective in the EU budget, enhancing the fight against all forms of violence against women and girls, including online violence and harassment, and advancing the Pay Transparency Directive.

Worried by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, MEPs urged the Presidency to better protect female workers in future crises and to halt the backlash against women’s rights in some EU countries. MEPs also pleaded for the unblocking of several files, such as the Women on Boards Directive, and for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention by all member states.


On 13 July, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr Stanislav Raščan told the Development Committee that the Presidency will help partner countries recover from the wide-ranging effects of the pandemic on education, gender equality, food security and hunger, education, and health. Additionally, they would continue advancing gender equality in European external action and push for the integration of water policy into all of the EU’s external policies.

In their replies, MEPs questioned what concrete measure the Minister would advocate for improving fair access to vaccines for developing countries. MEPs also expressed support to the Presidency’s commitment to pushing for the signature of the post-Cotonou partnership agreement with the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region before the end of the year.

Economic and Monetary Affairs

On Tuesday 13 July, Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee asked Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj what the Presidency intend to do about unfinished EU projects that urgently need completion. These included the Banking Union, including a European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS), the Capital Markets Union, with a focus on access of small and medium companies to finance, and ongoing work on non-performing loans.

Additionally, MEPs wanted to know about the next steps regarding Global Agreement on Corporate Taxation and Financial Transaction Tax, both files being blocked in the Council due to unanimity rule on tax issues. Finally, MEPs sought assurance that funds from national recovery plans will be properly spent throughout the EU and, with reference to growing debts and deficits in many member states, they said to expect a review of the Stability and Growth Pact.

Animal welfare during transport

On 14 July, Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek said there should be more efforts to ensure the proper implementation of current rules on animal transport and zero tolerance on animal welfare breaches. The Slovenian presidency will be looking forward for Commission’s impact assessment of current rules in this area, and their update by the end of 2023.

MEPs on the Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport said that numerous hearings on this topic have revealed many shortages in the implementation of current animal transport rules, calling for a review of them and for the use of new funds from Common Agriculture Policy to equip vehicles with proper equipment to strengthen animal welfare. Many MEPs also stressed a need to ban the export of live animals to third countries, as member states do not have means to ensure proper control in countries of destination.

Environment, Public Health and Food Security

On 12 July, Health Minister Janez Poklukar told the Environment, Public Health and Food Security Committee that the presidency would promote the implementation of innovative solutions for resilient health systems and EU level cooperation. Two of the main priorities for the presidency are reducing health inequality and advancing towards a fully-fledged Health Union. MEPs had questions about cross-border research against cancer, the HERA incubator, a stronger EMA and ECDC and countering cyberattacks against these agencies.

On 14 July, Agriculture, Forestry and Food Minister Jože Podgoršek said the Presidency will emphasise work on consumer protection, traceability of products and indications of origin, as well as effective official control to ensure the food Europeans eat is safe. MEPs questioned him on a number of topics including the Council’s initial assessment of the forest strategy, the responsibility of the agriculture sector in the green transition, pesticides, loopholes in the new CAP deal, and the overexploitation of forests.

Later the same day, Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak told the committee that he will prioritise the implementation of the Fit For 2030 package and work towards a compromise that is fair and ensures that Europe’s economy continues to remain competitive. The minister also highlighted the COP26 in Glasgow on climate change and the COP15 on biodiversity where the presidency will work to achieve a global framework for climate action. MEPs questioned him on incentives to ensure the green transition, the old and new Emissions Trading System (ETS), the recovery of European nature, biodiversity, carbon sinks, and the battery regulation.

Foreign Affairs

On 14 July, Slovenia will pay special attention to the Western Balkans, and its prosperity as a strategic interest for the EU, Foreign Minister Anže Logar told the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The enlargement process is a key priority, he said, adding that the EU should strive to include the region when discussing Europe’s future. The minister also highlighted the geopolitical dimension of the EU’s strategic autonomy, transatlantic partnership, connectivity and cyber security.

MEPs inquired about the political blockage between North Macedonia and Bulgaria, the worrying presence of Russia and China in the Western Balkans, as well as asking how the Presidency will achieve its goal of a stronger Euro-Atlantic perspective for the region.

Industry, Research and Energy

In the field of energy, infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec told the Industry, Research and Energy Committee that the Presidency will try to create a more stable EU energy sector to prepare for a smooth, cost-effective and just energy transition. It will continue work on the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E regulation), and start negotiations with Parliament as soon as possible. The Presidency also intends to start working on the proposals of the “Fit for 55” package.

On digital issues, Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik said that the Presidency will work on the roaming regulation and data governance act, starting negotiations with Parliament as soon as possible. Finding a general approach on the European Digital Identity regulation and the revision of the NIS directive is also high in their agenda.

On industrial policy, Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said that the Presidency will focus on implementing the upcoming modernised European Industry Strategy, focusing in particular on the issues of resilience of the EU economy, an open strategic autonomy, and the twin digital and green transitions. The Presidency will also carefully monitor the implementation of the SME strategy, the minister said.

On research, Education, Science and Sport Minister Simona Kustec told MEPs that European partnerships, the European Research Area, international cooperation and gender equality will be presidency priorities. The Presidency will aim to conclude the legislative process on the joint undertaking for high performance computing, on the joint undertakings under Horizon Europe, and on the European Partnership on Metrology, she said.

Please find here the video recordings of all meetings (select the appropriate date).

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

How COVID-19 could open the door for driverless deliveries

4 steps to developing responsible AI

Capital markets selloff: The financial moguls send messages to monetary authorities

5 crises that could worsen under COVID-19

CEOs as activists: should leaders speak up about social causes?

Refugee crisis update: Commission is struggling alone with little help from EU or G7 leaders

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Albinism, displacement in Central America, family-friendly nations, updates on the Gulf and Darfur

This city is planting a tree for every man, woman and child

Belgium: keep up reforms to increase employment and productivity growth

COVID-19 : Have we learnt any lessons at all from last year?

Our poisonous air is harming our children’s brains

UN human rights chief fears world has grown numb to Syrian carnage

The European Green Deal must be at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery

EU and 15 World Trade Organization members establish contingency appeal arrangement for trade disputes

Mental health in times of a pandemic: what can each individual do to lessen the burden?

China revisited by the former Ambassador of Hungary to China

Coronavirus: Team Europe continues to deliver with more than €26 billion disbursed in support to partner countries in one year

Thousands returning to Nigeria’s restive Borno state ‘at risk’; UN ‘gravely concerned’

Russia and the West use the same tactics to dismember Ukraine

OECD Secretary-General Gurría welcomes announcement of new trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada

Iraq: Solutions needed ‘urgently’ to quell ongoing violence, break political deadlock

Brexit: No deal without marginalizing the hard Tory Eurosceptic MPs

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

‘Bleakest period yet’ in Occupied Palestinian Territory: UN human rights expert

EU: All economic indicators in free fall

How do we upskill a billion people by 2030? Leadership and collaboration will be key

5 things you probably didn’t know about global health

A fairer world requires fairer tech. Here’s why

The world’s coastal cities are going under. Here’s how some are fighting back

The power of digital tools to transform mental healthcare

How has technology changed – and changed us – in the past 20 years?

The European Commission cuts roaming charges. But “it’s not enough”…

What have the banks done to the markets making them unable to bear cheap oil?

These 3 tech visionaries are reinventing the wheelchair

7 ways to break the fast fashion habit – and save the planet

Environmental liability rules need revamping

Fall asleep in Vienna, wake up in Paris – Europe’s night trains make a comeback

Human rights champions from across the world receive top UN prize

Young people worldwide can ‘determine the future of migration,’ says UN senior official

From violence to dialogue: as land conflicts intensify, UN boosts efforts to resolve disputes through mediation

How data is transforming the way we care for the ocean

European Fund for Transition to support more workers made redundant

The European Council takes more measures to stem illegal migration

Commission initiates an investigation to decide whether to prolong the steel safeguard measure

What’s the difference between carbon negative and carbon neutral?

Multilateralism’s ‘proven record of service’ is focus of first-ever International Day

Illness in health workers: when the caregiver becomes the patient

Ocean Conference has potential to be a ‘global game-changer’

An entrepreneurial point-of view on tackling the migration crisis and the risks of abolishing Schengen

Victims’ Rights: New Strategy to empower victims

Why the global trade of chemicals is key to COVID-19 recovery

An electric motorbike could help tackle big game poaching. Here’s how

Changing world of work needs new jobs strategy

Same-sex marriages and partnerships should be recognised across the EU

Poliomielitis: climatic changes and impossibility in border control

Working with millennials, leaders say humility works better than bossing around

To take or not to take – The Indian vaccination dilemma

Coronavirus global response: EU Humanitarian Air Bridge to Iraq and new funding

ECB readies itself for extraordinary monetary measures defying Germany


More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: