Informal meeting of Ministers and State Secretaries for European Affairs in Prague
At the invitation of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU, State Secretary Marko Štucin attended the informal meeting of ministers and state secretaries for European affairs in Prague. Discussing the priorities of the Presidency, the General Affairs Council focused on the EU's continued support to Ukraine, the strengthening of democratic institutions, the role of media plurality and the implementation of the proposals of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The ministers and state secretaries discussed the priorities of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU and exchanged views with the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Olha Stefanishyna. They debated the EU's continued support for Ukraine in defending itself against the Russian aggression, as well as in its recovery, reconstruction, modernisation and further action following the recent granting of EU candidate status.
State Secretary Štucin expressed his support for the Presidency's priorities and in particular for the EU response to the war in Ukraine and all its consequences. According to the State Secretary, the Union must continue to give its full support to Ukraine, as this is a matter of preserving fundamental values and freedoms. Slovenia stands ready to fully cooperate in this respect, for example in the rehabilitation of victims and demining, as well as in the long-term reconstruction. He also welcomed the agreement on granting candidate status to Ukraine and confirmed Slovenia's willingness to assist Ukraine on key steps towards the reforms in the area of the rule of law and democratic standards in particular. He recalled that fulfilment of the conditions remains an important requirement of the enlargement process and also called for the early confirmation of the granting of candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the second part of the meeting, ministers discussed options for making democratic institutions more resilient, focusing on updating and strengthening the rules of European elections and the challenges related to freedom of speech and media plurality in Europe. Štucin welcomed the recent publication of the European Commission's third annual Rule of Law Report; the rule of law binds us together and is key to citizens' trust in the EU institutions and its functioning. He highlighted the importance of independent journalism and a pluralistic media environment as a prerequisite for democracy, and called for greater protection for journalists, their economic security, and transparent funding of the media. He also welcomed the forthcoming new European media freedom act.
Over a working lunch, ministers discussed the way forward in implementing the proposals and recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe. They broadly agreed that all existing mechanisms and possibilities offered by the existing Treaties should be exploited in the efforts to make the European Union more effective. State Secretary Štucin advocated that the enlargement process not be made conditional on the internal reforms of the Union, as this would undermine the credibility of the process and distance the Western Balkan countries from the European Union.