Looking Back at the Slovenian EU Presidency

I'm keep getting questions about the (success) of Slovenian presidency of the EU (PDF). So now, from a "historic" perspective of 5 months after, lets try to summarize:

Context in which Slovenia took over the presidency:
  • Three years after membership, one year into the Eurozone.
  • Lisbon treaty signed. Optimism about the future role of Europe in the world. Possibility to look outward, now that internal issues seem to have been resolved. However, risks that treaty is not signed in some countries. Refrain from doing anything that would put signing of the treaty in danger.
  • Global uncertainty (Iraq, Afganistan conflicts; US/China trade, US interest rates).
  • Global warming at its warmest.
What did we achieve:
  • Confirming the European Perspective of the Western Balkans. Kosovo declared independence, but peace was maintained, and, moreover EU perspectives of all former Yugoslav republic significantly improved (stabilisation agreements with Serbia and BiH).
  • Lisbon Strategy. The updated 2008 version is more modern conceptually (5th freedom, talent, creativity based on European culture, EIT seat in Budapest) and with specific practical goals (like internet penetration). Kick started the reflection process on post 2010 strategy.
  • Climate Change. Kept the momentum, safeguarded the consensus, introduced some common sense (sustainability criteria for biofueles). Adopted the key prerequisite political decisions for the timely adoption the climate and energy package and made important progress in the understanding of proposed solutions and unification of the Member States’ positions. The Presidency also reached an agreement on the third legislative package for the liberalisation of the electricity and gas internal market. Including of aviation in the emission trading scheme
Factors of success:
  • Extremely motivated politicians and civil servants to demonstrate, that a small new member state can do it as well. A project to which the government was dedicated with 90% of the resources.
  • No single big issue to steal the focus and limelight and leave the rest in the shadow in neglected, but professional work across the board. No private national agenda but impartial, honest broker.
  • Sympathetic and supportive attitude by the EU institutions and member states.
  • Teamwork. Politically centrally managed from a prime minister's office, a small ministerial task force consisting of the PM+ few key ministers.
  • Early start of preparatory work; a lot was done in the fall of 2007. Drafts from the Commission and Consilium were compatible with our agenda.
  • Excellent and reinforced horizontal teams in Brussels (Perm Rep) and Ljubljana (Office of European Affairs). The ministries could therefor focus on content, not on process.
What did Slovenia get out of it:
  • A generation of politicians and civil servants that do not look up at Brussels, but had a level, eye-eye self confident view. The previous government was negotiating joining the EU and looked up at Brussels (and some of this feels in the incomming government again).
  • Knowledge, how things really get done in Brussels, where the levers of real power are. Contacts.
  • We truly, not only on paper, but with the hearts and minds became active members of the Union.
What I personally liked about it:
  • Being able to put some pet topics through the institutions right into the Concil conclusions such as creativity, open access to knowledge ...
  • Having beer very late in the evening in Ljubljana, after the spring council, receiving an SMS from a very high EU politician reading "Well done, congratulations".
  • Getting very good feedback from the likes of Richard Florida (Creative Class), Peter Sauber (Open Access movement) or Ann Mettler (Lisbon Council) about the results.
  • "Official visit" of the Slovenian delegation to the Waterstones bookshop after the council in Brussels. Bought the book "Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies" that explained why we lost the elections a few months later.

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