State Secretary Dovžan at the General Affairs Council meeting
State Secretary Gašper Dovžan took part in a videoconference meeting of members of the General Affairs Council today. Ministers and state secretaries responsible for European affairs focused on the preparations for the European Council meeting, the European Democracy Action Plan, the state of play of preparations for the Conference on the Future of Europe, and EU-UK relations.
As a prelude to the virtual meeting of the heads of state or government of the EU Member States scheduled for 25 and 26 February, the ministers and state secretaries discussed the fight against COVID-19, including health, security, and defence of the EU, cybersecurity, and external relations. During the discussion on preparations for the European Council meeting, State Secretary Dovžan stressed the importance of strengthening the Union’s effectiveness and responsiveness to crises, including pandemics, which coincides with the priorities of the Slovenian EU Council Presidency. He also welcomed efforts to strengthen resilience in health care, including plans to establish a Health Union, and supported the European Commission’s plans to set up a central EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). He supported the development and production of vaccines in Europe. Particular attention will also need to be devoted to strengthening cyber resilience. In this context, the focus should be placed on developing a clear and comprehensive framework for responding to major cyberattacks and crises.
During the discussion, members of the General Affairs Council focused their attention on the European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP). According to State Secretary Dovžan, this is an ambitious plan for legislative and non-legislative initiatives and actions by the European Commission, whose objectives may be valued positively in general. As regards individual initiatives, he observed that questions might be raised on the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. He acknowledged the importance of media freedom and pluralism and the security of journalists, stressing the responsibility of the media in their reporting. He also joined the majority of ministers who called for special attention to be paid to the fight against disinformation.
Later, the Presidency also reported on the current preparations for the Conference on the Future of Europe, with the State Secretary pledging support to the Portuguese Presidency and their efforts to start the conference as soon as possible. He was concerned about the tight schedule, including the limitations arising from the pandemic, stressing that we should not compromise on the content, or else citizens’ expectations cannot be met.
At the end of the meeting, the ministers and state secretaries also touched upon the future relationship with the United Kingdom, which was the first discussion of this kind at the ministerial level since the signing of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. During the discussion, members of the General Affairs Council stressed the need for a swift implementation of the agreement, equal treatment of the Member States and citizens, and outlined the obstacles encountered so far.