Before even talking about Slovenia and the imagination that women in this country ignites, one existential question: the EU presidency, what is the fuss all about?
This is a rotating presidency system where every six month a country hands it over to another one in order to avoid any possibility of jealousy.
The country who inherits of this honor presides the two European Council meetings and meetings of the EU Council and the working bodies to prepare the Council’s work. It is then to represent the EU by other the organs and institutions of the EU and become the EU representative within the international institutions and third-countries.
This is job to define the working priorities.
The next presidencies work together so the orientations do not drastically change every six months. The Slovenian representatives are then in touch with the French and Czech ones and had planned their agenda in collaboration with Portugal.
What will Slovenia be up to in the next six months?
· Treaty of Lisbon: have the treaty ratified as soon as possible by all the EU members. Most of the countries have planned to do so through a parliamentary vote, except Ireland whose constitution requires a referendum to be held. So far, only Hungary did it and France plans on ratifying it in February 2008.
· Growth and employment: ensure implementation of the Lisbon Strategy that will make Europe the most competitive economy by 2010. Right now, we are not even close since besides some vague objectives, everything has been left to the States’ responsibility. And some countries seem to be reluctant to follow the general indications such as the increase of the R&D and higher education budgets.
· Energy and climate change: Slovenia is willing to keep up the efforts that the EU has made as far as environment and its protection are concerned. In January a new strategy should be taken on. And we shall not forget the international discussions in progress on the negotiation of an after-Kyoto.
· Western Balkans: Slovenia is the frontier-country where Western Balkans begin and was as well created out of the former Yugoslavia. This region will be an international key-priority with the negotiations on the independence of Kosovo and the EU enlargement process to Croatia that Slovenia strongly supports.
The teacher’s pet
Slovenia got out of communism 17 years ago, into the EU 4 years ago and adopted the Euro in 2007: an absolutely flawless school report. With an average national growth of 5% for a 4, 4% unemployment rate and a GDP per inhabitants of 15 000 euros, this economic dynamism might make some others jealous in Western Europe.
One snag though: for about a year, inflation have come back. Some may explain it with the Euro adoption; however it seems coming from the increasing prices of oil, raw materials and from a lack of concurrence in the services.
Relations with France
Between Paris and Lubjana there has never been passionate love, just the right amount needed. In deed, after the dismantling of Yugoslavia, France had hesitated to recognize the independence of Slovenia.
But the country managed to avoid the bloody wars between 1991 and 1995 due to the distance with Belgrade and its ethnic homogeneity.
And France will help during the Slovenian presidency. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will lend its embassies in countries where Slovenia does not have one.
One problem remains on the international level for Slovenia. Its name. Often mixed up with Slovakia. Every year, 600kg of mails are lost between the two countries.
So you know: in 1999, G .W. Bush, governor of Texas at that time and candidate to the White House declared to a Slovakian journalist: “all I know about Slovakia is what your Prime Minister told me when he came to Texas” – that is not much since he actually refers to the visit of Janez Drnovsek, Prime Minister of Slovenia…
Guess who’s taking over after Slovenia for the second semester of 2008? France, of course!