Preparations for Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU 2021
What is the Presidency of the Council of the EU?
EU Member States hold the Presidency of the Council of the EU (one of the three main EU institutions, in addition to the European Commission and the European Parliament) in accordance with a rotation system determined in advance. The presidency of each Member State lasts six months.
The key content-related task of the Member State holding the presidency is to manage the work of the Council of the EU, particularly by directing the legislative work of the EU and formulating the joint positions of the Council of the EU regarding talks with the European Parliament as the co-legislator and with the European Commission. The presidency must ensure compliance with legislative procedures and impartially direct harmonisation among the EU Member States. It is expected to act as an honest and neutral broker striving for common solutions.
The content and scope of the legislation considered during a presidency depend on the EU Strategic Agenda and the initiatives of the European Commission. There are 500 to 700 legislative proposals considered during each six-month period.
A project approach to preparing the presidency
Due to the complexity and intertwining of topics, good preparations were crucial. A core working group for the presidency was established to manage and steer the project, chaired by the Slovenian Prime Minister, Janez Janša. The preparation and implementation of the project was the responsibility of the extended working group for steering the Slovenian Presidency, chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anže Logar. Individual tasks related to the programme, staffing, budget, event organisation, and communication and promotion were assigned to four subgroups and the secretariat for the logistics and implementation of the presidency.
Adjusting to new circumstances
The novel coronavirus pandemic also had an impact on the preparations, especially on the organisation of meetings and other events and promotional activities. In view of the epidemiological situation, our plans for the organisation of events in Slovenia were adjusted and backup scenarios for both the presidency’s substantive programme and the programme for the promotion of Slovenia were developed.
Budget and personnel
The presidency budget was set at EUR 80 million. Of this, the bulk was earmarked for additional temporary employment. Up to 350 people were 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 involved in the preparation and implementation of the presidency, special training programmes were carried out for various target groups – ministers, spokespersons, chairs of working bodies, administrative staff, etc. The Administrative Academy was responsible for carrying out the training, while the lectures were delivered by employees with EU experience and a number of Slovenian and foreign experts. The training included 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 were held via videoconferencing.
Ahead of the presidency, we set up the coordination structure for presidency speakers, a central online editorial board and a social media editorial board.
The structure of the presidency speakers consisted of keynote speakers, who were the highest political representatives of the Government, and 20 spokespersons, who were the public relations officers of the ministries and thus the first point of contact for journalists and the media.
To communicate with the Slovenian and foreign publics, the presidency’s communication channels were defined, i.e. the responsible institutions and the type or form of information to be provided through individual channels during the presidency. The media and the public were provided with information via the presidency website, the social channels of the Government and the presidency, press mailing lists, events (doorstep statements, press conferences, etc.) and replies to press enquiries.
The website of the Slovenian Presidency provided one-stop access to up-to-date information on Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. In September 2019, it was officially confirmed that the General Secretariat of the Council, together with the Government Communication Office, would implement an initiative (supported by Slovenia) to set up a single website for Member States holding the presidency. The Slovenian Presidency was the first to use this joint website. The website was fully available in Slovenian, English, French and German and partly in Italian and Hungarian. Its creation had no financial implications for the country.
Based on an analysis of past presidencies, the decision was made that the Slovenian Presidency would be present on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and YouTube. As the public was international, it was decided that the language of communication would be English, while the domestic public would be informed about the Presidency through existing Government and line ministry social media channels. We also decided on the naming of the @EU2021SI profiles and the Presidency hashtag #EU2021SI.