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Ministers for European Affairs on the rule of law, EU enlargement and the Multiannual Financial Framework

On 17 November 2020, State Secretary Gašper Dovžan attended a video conference of ministers and state secretaries for European affairs to discuss topical issues.

At the outset, the participants remembered the victims of terrorist attacks in Nice, Paris, Dresden, and Vienna with a minute’s silence. This was followed by a debate on the current picture concerning the rule of law in five EU Member States – Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Estonia, and by an exchange of examples of good experience and positive practice.

State Secretary Dovžan stressed the importance of an objective and non-discriminatory approach based on independent information and the equal treatment of all Member States. The common objective must be to better understand the different systems in the Member States, which should lead to a unified understanding of common values. He briefed ministers on the activities carried out by the Ministry of Justice in cooperation with stakeholders in the judicial system to put into practice the recommendations of the Commission’s first annual report on the rule of law situation across the EU, aimed at improving the situation in Slovenia.

Members of the General Affairs Council exchanged views on an annotated draft agenda for the December European Council. In this context, they talked about climate change, COVID-19 coordination, trade, and security. State Secretary Dovžan expressed solidarity with Germany, France, and Austria, which have recently been affected by terrorist attacks. He went on to support concerted action for strengthened security of EU citizens, stressing the importance of COVID-19 coordination and pointing to the need for common guidelines on the use of rapid tests. He was optimistic about the availability of a vaccine and the start of its distribution. As to the climate change debate, he backed efforts to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. He also voiced Slovenia’s expectations that national circumstances and the right of Member States to choose their own energy mix and technological neutrality would be duly taken into account.

Ministers and state secretaries took note of the state of play in accession negotiations for Northern Macedonia and Albania. Slovenia advocates the early convening of intergovernmental conferences for North Macedonia and Albania, hoping that it may be possible to hold them during the German Presidency.

The Presidency also reported on the current status of efforts to reach a consensus on the recovery package, i.e. the Multiannual Financial Framework for the 2021-2027 period and the Recovery Instrument, and went on to assess the possibilities for its final approval. State Secretary Dovžan expressed Slovenia’s full support for a final agreement on the entire package. He cautioned that the agreement of EU Heads of State, which was reached in July this year, had to be approved and then implemented in the next few days or perhaps weeks. This is a great responsibility and an opportunity to prove to EU citizens that the EU stands united and is working for their good.

The General Affairs Council members also exchanged views on the fight against antisemitism and approved, without a broad debate, the Commission’s work programme for next year and the roadmap for the 2021 European Semester.