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European affairs ministers endorse conclusions of the Council on EU enlargement

State Secretary Gašper Dovžan today chaired the final regular meeting of the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels in the context of the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council. Ministers of European affairs discussed draft conclusions for the December European Council and the coordination of the enlargement conclusions that have been unanimously confirmed, which is yet another achievement of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

"I am pleased that together with my fellow ministers and state secretaries, we have managed to unanimously adopt the conclusions on EU enlargement and the Stabilisation and Association Process proposed by the Slovenia as a presiding country. Slovenia made a credible continuation of EU enlargement one of the priorities of its Presidency. The adopted text is balanced and ambitious, confirming the Council’s commitment to enlargement, taking account of developments and underlining the need for partners to pursue reforms. Today’s adoption of conclusions is a new milestone in the enlargement and stabilisation process."

Intergovernmental conferences with Montenegro and Serbia also take place on the margins of the Council. The ministers and state secretaries for European affairs expressed their satisfaction at the opening of Cluster 4 of EU accession negotiations (chapters on the environment, energy, transport and connectivity) for Serbia, which represents a very important step forward on its path towards EU membership. They also praised Montenegro’s progress in accession talks. 

The ministers and state secretaries also continued preparations for the European Council meeting taking place on 16 December 2021 in Brussels. They particularly devoted their attention to coordinating measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. International solidarity and the donation of vaccines were also discussed. The members of the Council also exchanged views on the rise in energy prices; they expressed thanks for the report by the EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) on the state of the electricity market and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) with regard to emissions trading, and took note of the new proposals published by the Commission today on the joint purchasing and storage of gas. In addressing foreign policy issues, they advocated a unified Union approach towards Belarus, expressing their support for Poland and the Baltic States in facing the current challenging border situation. They also exchanged views on crisis management and resilience, cooperation with NATO and preparations for the forthcoming EU summit with the African Union.

"Slovenia, which is currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU, has made building resilience a top priority in its agenda. Together with the member states, we have worked hard to make progress in strengthening collective preparedness, the ability to respond and resilience to future crises, and to safeguard the functioning of the internal market. At the end of November, we adopted conclusions on resilience and crisis management and recently endorsed a common approach on the Directive on measures for a high common level of cybersecurity in the Union (NIS2) and the Critical Entities Resilience Directive (CER). With all this, we have been laying a solid foundation for building a more resilient Union."

As part of the follow-up to the procedure under Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union, European affairs ministers took note of the latest developments related to the rule of law in Poland and EU values in Hungary. The European Commission reported on the current situation in both countries. "In the continuation of the two procedures, Slovenia has taken into account the dynamics and developments that have taken place so far. On this basis, we considered it important for the Council to take note of the state of play," stressed State Secretary Dovžan. A short exchange of views ensued on the latest developments in Poland and Hungary, during which the ministers for European affairs stressed, inter alia, the importance of the European Union’s response to identified violations, including through the use of more recent mechanisms of action.

In his capacity as Chair of the Executive Board of the Conference on the Future of Europe, State Secretary Dovžan presented the current circumstances and an overview of the work undertaken over the last semester. The main objective of the Slovenian Presidency was to ensure that citizens’ interests are at the heart of the Conference and that their voice is heard. “We have been constantly stressing the need to focus on policies that benefit citizens. We are pleased that we have reached a point where the content is at the very heart of the Conference and that the European Citizens’ Forums have already embarked on final discussions," said State Secretary Dovžan. 

At the invitation of Slovenia, Michael O'Flaherty, Director of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, presented a report on anti-Semitic incidents in the European Union between 2010 and 2020. He highlighted their rise and the concerns of Jews in the EU for their own security. He underlined the inadequate recording of criminal and anti-Semitic incidents and the hesitation of victims in reporting attacks, which contributes to underestimating the scale, nature and characteristics of anti-Semitism in the Union.

The ministers and state secretaries approved the Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for next year. They took note of the timeline for the examination of the European Semester in 2022 and of the Council’s work programme for the next 18 months, during the next three Presidencies — France, Czechia and Sweden.

At the end of the session, State Secretary Dovžan thanked Germany and Portugal for their successful participation in the trio. In his capacity as Chair of the General Affairs Council, he symbolically handed over the Presidency to his French counterpart Clément Beaun.