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The presidency of the Council of the EU is a challenge for any country holding the presidency. Representatives of the presidency country assume leadership of the meetings of various Council working bodies and other meetings organised during the presidency. They are expected to make targeted, substantive and constructive contributions to discussions. Knowledge of the European Union, its values, law and procedures, the particulars of topical legislative proposals, and priorities is crucial to successful meetings and the presidency as a whole.

The preparations for and implementation of the presidency are therefore a great investment in terms of improving the knowledge, skills and capacities of the public administration of Slovenia and increasing its capacities for operating in the EU in the long term.

A project approach to preparing the presidency

Due to the complexity and intertwining of topics, good preparations are crucial. A core working group for the presidency was established to lead the project, chaired by the Slovenian Prime Minister, Janez Janša. The preparation and implementation of the project is the responsibility of an extended working group for the preparation and implementation of the presidency, chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Anže Logar. Individual tasks related to the programme, staffing, budget, event organisation, and communication and promotion are assigned to four subgroups and the secretariat for the logistics and implementation of the presidency.

Adjusting to new circumstances

The novel coronavirus pandemic has also had an impact on the preparations, especially on the organisation of meetings and other events and promotional activities. Thus, primarily, the plans for the organisation of events in Slovenia are being adapted and backup scenarios developed, allowing the events to take place either in person, via videoconferences or in a so-called hybrid form, depending on the epidemiological situation. The events that will take place in person will be held at the Brdo Congress Centre as in 2008.

The programme for the promotion of Slovenia and the content of the presidency programme are also being adapted to the changed circumstances.

Budget and personnel

The budget of the presidency is EUR 80 million, most of which will be used for additional temporary employment. Up to 350 people are expected to be employed on fixed-term contracts for the purposes of the presidency.

In order to improve the knowledge and skills of those employees who will participate in the preparation and implementation of the presidency, we are carrying out special training courses for various target groups – ministers, spokespersons, working body presidents, administrative staff, etc. The Administrative Academy is responsible for carrying out the training, while the lectures are delivered by employees with EU experience and a number of Slovenian and foreign experts. The training includes knowledge of EU content and institutions, foreign languages and specific skills such as conducting meetings, negotiation skills and protocol. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, many training courses are being held via videoconferencing.

A total of 120 people are expected to join the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Slovenia to the European Union in Brussels. Since the building for the Permanent representation, which is owned by the Republic of Slovenia, is too small for the extended team, the personnel temporarily moved to a larger building in the summer 2020. By the end of the presidency, we will have thoroughly renovated the premises at rue de Commerce, where the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Slovenia to the EU and the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Belgium have their headquarters.

The presidency website

The Slovenian Presidency website will contain all current information about the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU in one place. In September 2019, it was officially confirmed that the General Secretariat of the Council will implement the initiative (including by Slovenia) to establish a single website for the presiding states. The General Secretariat of the Council and the Government Communication Office are involved in the project and the Slovenian Presidency will be the first one to use this joint solution. Creating a website will have no financial implications for the state. The General Secretariat of the Council is in charge of designing the website and dealing with the technical aspects, while preparing the content is our responsibility. The website will be available in Slovenian, English, French and German and will go live one month prior to the beginning of the presidency – at the end of May 2021.