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General Affairs Council on the coordination of COVID-19 measures, the Union’s relations with the United Kingdom and the Conference on the Future of Europe

State Secretary Gašper Dovžan attended the first regular session of the General Affairs Council of the European Union (GAC) as chair.

He presented the priorities for the work of the Council of the EU for the period up to the close of 2021. The Slovenian Presidency is committed to improving the Union’s preparedness for future crises, building resilience against pandemics and strengthening cyber security and strategic autonomy. Slovenia has dedicated particular attention to the continuation of the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans. "We are striving for the EU-Western Balkans Summit, which will be hosted in Slovenia on 6 October, to send an urgent message for concrete action which will enhance the European perspective for our Western Balkan partners," stressed State Secretary Dovžan.

The ministers and state secretaries for European affairs exchanged views on planned measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They agreed that the EU Digital Certificate had made it easier for numerous EU citizens to travel within the Union during the summer, and above all contributed to security. State Secretary Dovžan underlined that it is crucial for the member states to continue providing a transparent and coordinated response to the pandemic and raising the rate of vaccination coverage of the population in order to resume normal life. Slovenia is committed to ensuring accessible and effective vaccination in all EU countries, taking proportionate measures in relation to travel restrictions, and assisting third countries to secure vaccines supplies.

On behalf of the Presidency, State Secretary Dovžan briefed the participants on developments regarding the Conference on the Future of Europe. Last weekend, an opening Citizens’ Forum took place in Strasbourg, where 200 citizens from all over Europe discussed the first set of topics, including a stronger economy, social justice, jobs and education, young people, culture, sports and digital transformation. The ministers and state secretaries exchanged views on the multilingual digital platform and preparations for the October plenary session. The citizens’ forums of the conference are a unique form of consultation, which provide European citizens with the opportunity to participate in shaping their future in the Union.

The ministers and state secretaries for European affairs held an exchange of views on the October European Council meeting. The issue of the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland was at the heart of the debate on relations between the Union and the United Kingdom. The Presidency called for flexible solutions within the framework of the existing protocol, stressing the need for member states to preserve the unity and integrity of the EU internal market while maintaining good living conditions in Northern Ireland.

The European Commission updated the members of the Council on the state of play of legislative planning in the EU. The Commission also briefed the Council members on the report on strategic foresight and the state of relations between the Union and Switzerland.