Slovenia has formally taken over the six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), with a focus on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery, enhancing resilience to future crises, as well as the EU’s enlargement.
At a joint press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Janez Jansa and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen highlighted the EU’s post-Covid recovery as a major issue that Slovenia’s EU presidency will deal with, reports Xinhua news agency.
Jansa said the events over the past 15 months had shown that “the EU has been part of the solution during this time” and that two milestones had been achieved — the agreement on post-Covid recovery and the decision to develop, produce and distribute vaccines.
“Resilience, recovery, strategic autonomy of the EU are part of our priorities for the next six months,” he said.
“I am also pleased that the approval of national recovery and resilience plans is progressing well. Thank you to the Commission for its fast work, and thank you for linking the issue of post-epidemic recovery to reform and the green and digital transition,” Jansa added.
EU enlargement is another priority during the Slovenian EU presidency and response to strategic challenges. Jansa said Slovenia will host an EU-Western Balkans summit this year.
“Over the next six months, the EU will return to the issue of enlargement as a strategic agreement on a number of open issues. I strongly share the founders’ first dreams: a Europe free, whole, at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbourhood,” the Prime Minister noted.
Von der Leyen said Slovenia was taking over the presidency at a turning point for the bloc, noting that vaccination was proceeding, the EU was cautiously reopening up, and crisis management was gradually turning into the management of long-term recovery.
She said the NextGenerationEU fund would be the engine of the recovery, and counted on the Presidency’s support to approve as many national recovery and resilience plans as possible before the summer break.
“Our recovery will be sustainable, it will be digital. With NextGenerationEU, we have 800 billion euros – in today’s prices – worth of investments, and this will make the European Green Deal a reality. It will enable our societies to embrace the digital revolution,” she said.
Slovenia starts its second stint at the helm of the Council of the EU since it joined the bloc in 2004 after holding the presidency in the first half of 2008.