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EU PRESIDENCY : SLOVENIA TO SET EXAMPLE BY RATIFYING TREATY IN EARLY 2008.

The opening of national procedures to ratify the Lisbon Treaty will be one of Slovenia's major objectives during its term as president of the EU Council in the first half of 2008, said Slovenia's Permanent Representative to the EU, Igor Sen ar, during a luncheon on 28 November in Brussels, organised by the European Policy Centre. Slovenia will be the first of the ten new member states from the 2004 enlargement round to take the head of the EU. "The challenge is huge, but we have been preparing enthusiastically since 2005," acknowledges the ambassador. His country is the last of the current Germany-Portugal-Slovenia trio of presidencies. It will pass the baton to the next trio made up of France, the Czech Republic and Sweden.

Slovenia's first priority will be to encourage ratification procedures for the Lisbon Treaty in the 27 member states. The text was adopted by European leaders on 19 October and must be officially signed on 13 December in Lisbon. Ratifications should therefore start under the Slovenian Presidency, then continue, and if possible be completed, under the French Presidency in the second half of 2008. "Slovenia will try to give a positive example by ratifying the treaty at the very beginning of the process," said the ambassador.

But other work will have to be started in parallel. It will be a question of proceeding with a horizontal analysis of the process to reform the treaties and considering a dozen elements which will have to be implemented. This is the case, for example, for the future European External Action Service, which is supposed to assist the work of the high representative of the Union for foreign affairs and security. Legal bases are yet to be defined for the service's functioning and organisation. The first proposals will have to come under the Slovenian Presidency.

LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE ON ENERGY

The second priority subject for Slovenia will be the continuation of the Western Balkan countries' integration, as well as membership negotiations with Croatia and Turkey (see separate article).

For the rest, the future Presidency will stress the implementation of the renewed Lisbon strategy for growth and employment. "During our term, the EU will reach the end of its three-year cycle of this strategy and begin the second," says the ambassador. It will then be necessary to increase "investments in research, development, knowledge and innovation" and improve the companies' potential. This new cycle will also focus on the implementation of national reform programmes.

One of the other strategic elements for the Presidency will be energy and the fight against climate change. After the Bali conference of 3-14 December, "Slovenia is waiting for the Commission to propose a legislative package on energy in January 2008". Objectives defined in March 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 will have to be transcribed into legislative proposals. "We hope that the spring European Council, under our Presidency, will be able to give strong guidelines for this package, by identifying the key principles and setting a time limit for its adoption". The ideal scenario would be to arrive at an agreement during first reading in early 2009.

The Presidency will also pay attention to the enlargement of the Schengen area (in December 2007 then in March 2008 for airports) to nine countries, which is to say all the new members of 2004 except Cyprus. Their progressive integration into the SIS information system - an essential element for the proper functioning of the area of freedom, security and justice - will be a priority for Slovenia.

Finally, Slovenia wants to defend the promotion of intercultural dialogue, not only because 2008 has been dubbed the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue but above all because "the source of many problems is the lack of dialogue and understanding," believes Sen ar.
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Publication:Europe Environment
Date:Dec 14, 2007
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