Presentation of priorities to the Committees of the European Parliament

Source: Slovenian presidency of the EU i, published on Thursday, July 15 2021.

The Slovenian ministers this week presented the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union to the relevant Committees of the European Parliament. The ministers highlighted the key points and goals on which Slovenia will focus over the next six months.

The first presentation was by Minister of Health Janez Poklukar to the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Poklukar stressed the need for a strengthened EU framework for health safety and the importance of adopting legislative acts. In particular on enhanced coordination at the EU level to tackle cross-border threats to health - which is governed by the Regulation on serious cross-border threats to health - and on the extension of the powers of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency. "Slovenia will advocate the adoption of all three proposals and thus contribute to building a stronger and more resilient European Health Union."

Minister of Public Administration Boštjan Koritnik presented to the members of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection the priorities related to artificial intelligence and digital services. He emphasised the importance of accelerating the development of digital society in the EU in order to improve the quality of life of all EU citizens with information and communication technology. The goal of making Europe more environmentally friendly, digital, resilient and cyber secure involves a digital transformation, in particular in the areas of data, technology and infrastructure. According to Koritnik, artificial intelligence is a generally applicable technology which will affect the economy, the public sector and social activities. The Slovenian Presidency therefore welcomes the Commission's proposal for a regulation laying down harmonised rules for the development and use of products and services using artificial intelligence technology and clearly determining the obligations of all stakeholders.

Addressing the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Jože Podgoršek emphasised that the Slovenian Presidency will continue the formal adoption of the legislative package on common agricultural policy and the preparation of strategic plans of EU member states. "Sustainable agriculture will be at the forefront and will be included in the systems for the management of natural resources and the preservation of rural areas."

Podgoršek assured the Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport that Slovenia will make every effort to ensure that animals have the best possible conditions during transport. At the meeting of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, he highlighted that the focus will be on ensuring consumer safety, traceability, the indication of origin and effective supervision. At the meeting of the Committee on Fisheries, Podgoršek stressed that the key task of the Slovenian Presidency will be to preserve sustainable fishing with an emphasis on small-scale coastal fishing and the preservation of the fishing tradition in coastal communities.

Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning Andrej Vizjak also attended the meeting of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. He said that in the area of climate change the Slovenian Presidency will focus on the revision of the climate and energy legislation - the Fit for 55 package. "We are aware that difficult international negotiations await us at the Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow. In addition to this, we will keep biodiversity high on the agenda and strive for the setting of new global targets for 2030. As part of building a circular economy, the Slovenian Presidency will seek to reach an agreement on a general approach to the legislative act on batteries and waste batteries."

At the meeting of the Committee on Culture and Education, Minister of Culture Vasko Simoniti stressed that the Slovenian Presidency will work on the areas of creativity, cultural rights and the right to heritage. The focus will be on two topics: the innovative potential of culture, with an emphasis on high-quality construction and architecture, and the competitiveness of European audiovisual and media content in the global digital market. The first topic has an important connection to the New European Bauhaus initiative, whose goal is to improve the living environment in cities and rural areas using architectural solutions. In designing sustainable solutions and the EU's development breakthrough, we must not overlook the importance of cultural heritage and its diversity in the EU.

Minister of Infrastructure Jernej Vrtovec said at the meeting of the Committee on Transport and Tourism that the Slovenian Presidency will follow two goals as regards transport - sustainability and resilience. "Transport is one of the most important sectors for the success of the decarbonisation policy. This sector was one of the more affected by the pandemic and we must ensure its recovery," said Vrtovec. He added that Slovenia's main priorities will be e-mobility and alternative fuels. At the meeting of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Vrtovec stressed that the Slovenian Presidency will focus on the conclusion of negotiations on trans-European energy networks and start an in-depth discussion on energy dossiers from the Fit for 55 package.

Minister of Education, Science and Sport Simona Kustec gave presentations at the meetings of the Committee on Culture and Education and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. She stressed that our common goal is the European vision of knowledge, education and research for a green and digital future. Education and science, and youth and sport are the pillars of European society and the European way of life. "When we were putting together the story of the Slovenian Presidency we had in mind the European values, the increasingly evident need for competences of Europeans that exceed traditional knowledge and skills, and, of course, the inevitable transition to a digital and green society," she added.

In his presentations to the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality and the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Janez Cigler Kralj highlighted the efforts for a comprehensive recovery, the importance of high-quality work for a high-quality life of all generations, and the need to address demographic challenges. This will only be possible by ensuring health and safety at work, the continuous training of workers and a healthy work-life balance for everyone, not forgetting women, young people, children, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. As regards women rights and gender equality, he said that efforts will focus on the rights of children and the fight against online violence against women.

At the meeting of Committee on Development, State Secretary Stanislav Raščan presented the main priorities for international cooperation and humanitarian aid, which are water and gender equality. He mentioned the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular increased inequalities, global health and good security.

Minister without portfolio responsible for development and EU's cohesion policy Zvonko Černač presented to the Committee on Regional Development Slovenia's efforts for the visibility of the cohesion policy, which helps reducing the development gaps between regions and plays an important role in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Slovenia will continue discussions and activities for a resilient Europe capable of effectively responding to crises.

At the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs Anže Logar presented the activities of the Slovenian Presidency related to the enlargement to the Western Balkans, and the strengthening of trans-Atlantic relations and relations with the Indo-Pacific region. At the meeting of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Logar focused on Slovenia's plans concerning the Conference on the Future of Europe, the rule of law and the development of future relations between the EU and the UK, and activities related to the European Democracy Action Plan. He added that Slovenia would continue to strive for a fruitful and constructive cooperation with the European Parliament in the EU's foreign policy activities.

Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek and Minister of Finance Andre Šircelj also presented the priorities of the Slovenia Presidency to the relevant committees. Minister of the Interior Aleš Hojs and Minister of Justice Marjan Dikaučič will give their presentations in September.