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Prime Minister Janez Janša: European Council will focus on practical challenges before the European Union

At the press conference today, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia and current President of the European Council, Mr Janez Janša, presented today the agenda of the June European Council meeting to be held on 19 and 20 June 2008 in Brussels; he also spoke about current affairs in Europe. Mr Janša reported that the Irish Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, would inform his colleagues about the reasons behind the negative referendum result. "In this context I expect an open discussion and constructive exchange of views," added the current President of the European Council, Mr Janša.

He went on to say that the EU-27 Heads of State and Government shared the view that the process of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty would continue since only this would guarantee European citizens a normal life into the future. The Prime Minister expected that the next day would bring an important vote on the Lisbon Treaty in the British House of Lords.

The agenda of the forthcoming European Council will also include topical issues which are not dependent on the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty.  "We will go about the discussions on consequences of dramatic increase in oil and food prices and the resulting inflationary pressure in the European Union with all seriousness," said Mr Janša adding that the heads of the European family would map out an efficient way to resolve these challenges. There were, he considered, several reasons for rising food prices. The most significant and serious reason was, he maintained, the increased demand for food on account of the growing world population and rising standards in some densely populated countries such as China and India. Another important reason was the rapid rise in energy prices. "We should not overlook the impact of climate change and, in part, natural disasters in some food-producing countries," said the Prime Minister. As he said, in addition to the immediate mitigating measures which the European Union Member States have already taken, structural adaptation will be necessary. This means establishing a system for monitoring food price increases in Europe and beyond and using up-to-date data to prevent speculation and enable a timely response to predicted trends. He also highlighted the urgent need for investment in innovation, research and development in the farming sector with a view to potentially improving its efficiency and productivity. "The European Union is investing every effort in defining sustainable criteria for the production of bio-fuels and stimulating the production of second-generation bio-fuels. To that end we should not waste land that we could dedicate to food production; instead, second-generation bio-fuels can be produced from by-products which do not jeopardise food production," said Mr Janša.

In this context, the European Council would, he reported, focus on an agreement on enhancing the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. "It is our intention to increase the volume of EU development aid to EUR 66 billion a year by 2010, with half of the increase being earmarked for Africa, which is the most badly affected in this respect," he said.

The European Council is expected to confirm the important achievements in the direction of making the European perspective for the Western Balkans a reality. The most important achievement, according to the Prime Minister, was the conclusion of Stabilisation and Association Agreements with all the countries of the region. Negotiations on eliminating visas were also initiated during this period, he continued, and the pooling of financing instruments was agreed, which would contribute to more efficient and transparent financing of projects in the region.

One of the most important items on the agenda will also be climate and energy package. The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction that the commitment undertaken at the spring European Council on an agreement on liberalising energy markets had been fulfilled. He considered this solution very important for consumers since it would have an impact on lower prices and security of supply.

In the coming days, the European Council will also formally endorse the Working Time Directive and the Temporary Agency Workers Directive. The Slovenian Prime Minister, European Council President Janez Janša, described this kind of legislation as important in ensuring the rights of workers on the European labour market. He added that, in the context of justice and home affairs, the emphasis would be on migration.

Discussions on the European Neighbourhood Policy will also continue at the June European Council. On the basis of the March Council conclusions, with the establishment of intensified dialogue with Mediterranean partners, the Barcelona Process will be upgraded. "On 13 July, the process will be officially launched under the name 'Barcelona Process – the Union for the Mediterranean'," announced the Prime Minister.

The European Council will also confirm, at the political level, the decision to permit Slovakia to join the eurozone as of 1 January 2009.


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Date: 18.06.2008