Slovenian Presidency boasts major achievements in resilience and digitalisation
Slovenian Presidency boasts major achievements in resilience and digitalisation
The Slovenian Presidency made an important contribution to strengthening the EU’s resilience to future health crises, natural disasters, cyberattacks and other threats to the EU. It has accelerated the EU's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and has also made a significant breakthrough in digitalisation.
In November, the General Affairs Council adopted conclusions on enhancing preparedness, responsive capability and resilience to future crises. Dealing with different types of crises will require more effective cross-sectoral and cross-border crisis cooperation, and crisis communication and the fight against misinformation will also be crucial. It is important to strengthen the resilience of the single internal market towards greater strategic autonomy, including major European supply chains and economic sectors such as production of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and semiconductors.
Speeding up recovery of the European economy
Ministers of finance confirmed 22 national recovery and resilience plans. A total of €291 billion in grants and €154 billion in loans have been approved. So far, 20 EU member states have together received more than €54 billion in pre-financing. The funding from the plans will help speed up recovery and resilience, the green transition and digitalisation, boost innovation and make the economy more competitive, and consequently improve the quality of life in the EU. The 2022 EU budget was confirmed in November and already in September the Council had approved the Brexit adjustment reserve for affected European areas and companies.
Strengthening the European Health Union
The Slovenian Presidency continued its efforts to coordinate the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and began work on revised recommendations to limit non-essential travel within the EU and to enable safe and free border crossing within the EU.
In addition, the Slovenian Presidency has reached important milestones for the better preparedness of the EU for possible future pandemics and other major health crises. The pandemic has revealed the vulnerability of our health systems.
In future, European agencies will be able to more effectively coordinate the exchange of information between the member states and their action. In negotiations with the European Parliament, the Slovenian Presidency reached agreement on three important legislative proposals on the following:
-strengthening the role of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in order to accelerate the supply of sufficient quantities of medicines and medical devices to citizens in the event of health crises;
-strengthening the role of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which, in cooperation with the member states, will ensure the effective and rapid containment of local outbreaks of communicable diseases with the least possible impact on European citizens and society;
-establishment of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) whose purpose is timely and efficient response in emergency situations in public health.
Greater resilience through cybersecurity and the functioning of the civil protection system
Digitalisation is becoming an important part of the lives and work of EU citizens, which requires a high level of cybersecurity. The Council confirmed the proposal for the Directive on measures for a high common level of cybersecurity across the Union, which is a part of the package of measures for improving the resilience and responding to incidents. For tackling major cyberattacks and crises, Council Conclusions were adopted in October to examine the potential of the Joint European Cyber Unit initiative.
Another problem is the ever more frequent occurrence of natural disasters, which calls for a more efficient European civil protection system. This led the Slovenian Presidency to stimulate debate on the Union's objectives in the field of disaster resilience, in particular with a view to improving the response to large-scale disasters and strengthening the European civil protection and capabilities pool - rescEU.
Accelerating the digital transformation of the EU
The Slovenian Presidency has made great strides in digitalisation. Online platforms have rapidly increased in the last decade and have taken on a central role in the lives of our citizens and businesses; they are used for communication, obtaining information or business operations. Due to the dissemination of illegal as well as inappropriate content, it is necessary to regulate these platforms in order to protect consumers while enabling the further development of digitalisation, which is an important foundation for the future development of the European economy.
The Council unanimously endorsed a general approach on the Digital Services Act, which contributes to a safer online environment for citizens and economic operators, and the Digital Markets Act, which creates a level playing field for all businesses and online platforms, regardless of their size, aims to increase innovation and brings more choice for consumers, more opportunities to switch providers, and fairer prices. The Council reached an agreement with the European Parliament on the Data Governance Act, which aims to promote voluntary data sharing and increase data availability among start-ups and innovation-driven companies. An agreement was also reached on the regulation on mobile roaming with no additional fees, which will continue to allow millions of EU citizens and businesses to access mobile services when travelling within the EU with no additional fees or at the same price as at home. The Slovenian Presidency has also devoted a great deal of attention to artificial intelligence in various fields and has begun to consider the first act on the rules for the deployment and use of artificial intelligence at the EU level.
The Council of the EU also approved a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on the Digital Finance Package proposals, namely a regulation on markets in crypto-assets (MiCA) and a regulation on digital operational resilience for the financial sector (DORA). Their aim is to create a favourable environment for innovative companies, while maintaining financial stability and reducing risks for investors and consumers. An agreement was reached with the European Parliament on a pilot regime for market infrastructures based on distributed ledger technology, which brings digital financial services closer to people and businesses. Ministers approved a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposal to update the rules on information accompanying transfers of funds to include certain crypto-assets, which will reduce the possibilities of money laundering and terrorist financing.
The Council has adopted a regulation on establishing the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking. This will make it possible for us to obtain more high-performance world-class supercomputers that will support technological companies and enable scientists to invent new materials and components and develop new medicines and therapies. The Slovenian Presidency also focused on strengthening Europe's defence technology and industrial base by involving small and medium-sized enterprises.
The European Union is facing a sharp rise in energy prices, which is causing great concern among citizens, businesses, European institutions and governments. The Slovenian Presidency reacted quickly to the crisis of high energy prices. The rise in energy prices has been discussed by the ministers responsible for finance, economic affairs, agriculture, environment and energy. At an extraordinary meeting, they discussed a set of possible measures to mitigate price rises for citizens and the economy, as a basis for action by member states to reduce the negative impact of excessive volatility in energy prices.
Special emphasis on research and development
After twenty years, the Slovenian Presidency has reached a new agreement on the governance of the European Research Area, which will increase the efficiency of research and innovation, enable us to respond more quickly to key challenges of our society and deliver greater impact for European citizens. Governance will now involve representatives from science, business sector and public institutions, with a particular emphasis on the united approach to tackle common challenges in research and development.
The environment and a fair green transition
Intensive work was carried out in the field of the environment and the Green Deal. In July, the Council and the European Parliament reached an agreement on amending the Aarhus Regulation, which aims to ensure access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.
Slovenia, as the country holding the Presidency, led the debate on many legislative proposals from the "Fit for 55" climate and energy package in different Council configurations. This is a comprehensive and highly complex dossier, as every sector will have to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. On the basis of discussions by member states, we have prepared a comprehensive progress report on the package and believe that we have built a solid foundation for the next Trio Presidency to find the final agreement.
The Slovenian Presidency has prepared the EU mandate for the COP26 climate change conference and steered the EU in negotiations in Glasgow. We left Glasgow with a clear signal that we will do our utmost to keep the objective of 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. Measures to mitigate, adapt to and finance climate change were adopted, which will enable the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
In the area of agricultural policy, we have finalised the legislative package on the reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP). The Council conclusions on the action plan for the development of organic farming, which aims to achieve 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030, were approved.
Furthermore, the Council conclusions on a new contingency plan for ensuring food supply and security in times of crisis, which forms an important part of the EU's resilience and strategic autonomy, were approved. Agriculture ministers adopted a new EU Forest Strategy for 2030, which highlights that forests and the forestry sector play a key role in the EU's transition to a sustainable, climate-neutral and circular bio-economy, and includes a plan to plant three billion new trees.
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