On 1st July 2021, Slovenia will assume the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Sitting at the helm of the European institution that represents the Member States’ governments, the Central European country will have considerable influence over the adoption of laws for the next six months. As such, Slovenia will be a key partner for all those who wish to leave their marks on forthcoming EU legislation. We take a look at the priorities that will guide the Slovenian Presidency under its slogan: “Together. Resilient. Europe“.
The power of 27 capitals – key player Council
When talking about the Council, avoiding confusion is a must: referred to as the “Council of the European Union”, the “Council of Ministers”, or simply as the “Council” (but not to be confused with the European Council and the Council of Europe!), the institution is the voice of EU Member States that amends and adopts laws in conjunction with the European Parliament. The Council is not only a key player in the law-making process, but it can also exert political pressure by adopting resolutions, opinions, and recommendations, thereby stirring the EU’s overall direction. From a foreign-policy perspective, the Council acts as the EU’s figurehead, representing the bloc on the international arena.
Setting the Slovenian agenda
Every six months, a different EU Member State assumes the rotating Presidency of the Council. Naturally, the Presidency gives the Member State prestige, status, and media attention – but also hard work and responsibility. While Slovenia’s tasks will manifold and diverse, importantly, Ljubljana will be able to exert control over law-making and influence political outcomes at the EU level. For instance, as the organiser and chair of Council meetings, Slovenia will enjoy control over their frequency, agendas and priorities. As such, Slovenia will have the power to implicitly tilt decisional outcomes in their favour. In an institution where a single veto can cause year-long legislative processes to collapse, Slovenia will also be responsible to mediate between the (often conflicting) national interest of the 27 Member States to find consensus and common ground on key legislative initiatives.
The success of a Presidency is often measured by its ability to “get things done”. In light of the persisting health crisis, a key priority for Slovenia will be to achieve progress on the European Health Union, which was announced by the European Commission in March 2020 in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. In the words of Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša: “We are happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel after over a year-long epidemic, and that recovery is ahead. However, this must also be a time of achieving greater EU resilience”. Slovenia is also committed to achieving a lasting recovery in line with the green and digital transitions. While the European Parliament and Council have already found a provisional agreement on the European Climate Law in April, it will be the Presidency’s task to enshrine the climate neutrality objective in binding EU law. Another mammoth task concerns the Digital Services and Digital Markets Act, which set new standards in the use of digital platforms. As opposed to the ‘oven-ready’ Climate Law file, an agreement on the package still lies in the distant future.
Making the most of the Slovenian Presidency
While the Council is often regarded as the EU institution that is least receptive towards interest representation, the Presidency provides an ideal route to amplify and echo key messages – if it is done correctly. In an institution that is dominated by national interests, tailoring messages to national agendas and priorities is key to success. In a similar vein, building alliances, for instance with national interest groups, can help to boost visibility and put a topic towards the top of the agenda. Finally, a positive relationship with the Permanent Representation of Slovenia to the EU, which pulls the strings in the Council during Slovenia’s Presidency, will be paramount to fruitful dialogue and cooperation with the Council.
by Career Becker, Associate Consultant