By signing the Lisbon Treaty in December 2007, the EU Member States committed to ratifying it at the earliest possible date. This aim was achieved by 19 Member States, while ratification procedures are under way in the remaining countries. Slovenia ratified the Treaty as the second Member State on 29 January 2008.
This success was slightly overshadowed by the negative result of the referendum in Ireland. Nevertheless, the European Union remains committed to its goals. The Member States agree that the ratification procedures must continue. At the same time, we will cooperate with Ireland in trying to find a uniform solution acceptable to all Member States and enabling the further development of the Union in the shortest possible time.
With a view to the Treaty's entry into force as of 1 January 2009, Slovenia conducted the preparatory work for the beginning of implementation. On the basis of informal consultations on several open issues, the Presidency issued a report on the work completed.
At the spring meeting of the European Council 2008, we successfully launched the second three-year period of the renewed Lisbon Strategy for 2008-2010. It was agreed that, while radical changes in the content were not necessary, the process should be carried forward, with a focus on implementation of reforms. Especially successful was the compromise of the Member States regarding the necessity to continue the reform process after 2010.
The Slovenian Presidency made its mark especially in the following areas:
The field of knowledge and innovation was given new impetus by the introduction of the fifth freedom free movement of knowledge and the Ljubljana Process. The aim is to establish closer cooperation among participants in the European Research Area. A significant contribution to this will be made by the European Institution of Innovation and Technology, which was agreed to have its seat in Budapest. Another important contribution to the high-technology development of the EU was the agreement on implementation of the Galileo European satellite radio navigation programme. In addition, important conclusions regarding the promotion of creativity and innovation through education, family-friendly scientific careers, and the role of culture and creativity in the Lisbon Strategy were adopted.
In the area of increasing the competitiveness of undertakings, we focused especially on the stimulation of rapid growth of small and medium-sized enterprises and measures for the reduction of administrative burdens (important adoption of the Goods Package and launch of the Eurostars programme).
In our efforts to reduce administrative burdens we reconfirmed the commitment to continue the Better Regulation Initiative (-25% by 2012).
Much attention was also devoted to strengthening the social dimension of the Lisbon Strategy. We undertook the commitment to gradual implementation of the agreed common principles of flexicurity as one of the appropriate approaches to facing the challenges of the 21st century, such as demographic change, accelerated technological advancement and globalisation. Our main focus was the improvement of the situation of young people; we also contributed to the European discussion on demographic challenges and to adoption of measures in the area of gender equality.
As regards the climate and energy package issued by the European Commission in January 2008, we achieved all set goals. At the spring meeting of the European Council, we adopted the key political decisions prerequisite for its timely adoption: commitment to political agreement among the Member States by the end of 2008 and agreement regarding fundamental principles for burden sharing. In the course of comprehensive and intense further discussions, important progress was made in the understanding of proposed solutions and unification of the Member States' positions. Informal meetings with the European Parliament took place as well.
Only by timely adoption of this legislative package will the EU be able to play its leading role and make a credible appearance in international negotiations for the conclusion of a comprehensive global agreement on climate change for the period after 2012 that will take place in December 2009 in Copenhagen. Efforts for the timely conclusion of this agreement were discussed in all meetings with third countries, while important agreements, expected to contribute to more unity in the approach to the fight against climate change, were achieved at the EU-Japan and EU-LAC summits.
The greatest success of the Presidency in the energy field was the agreement on the third legislative package for the liberalisation of the electricity and gas internal market. After the presentation of a compromise proposal, we succeeded in bringing the positions of the 27 Member States closer and to reach a broad consensus on the key elements of all five legislative proposals for both electricity and gas.
During the Slovenian Presidency, the network of Stabilisation and Association Agreements with the Western Balkan countries was completed. Agreements were signed with Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This network of agreements contributes to strengthening and speeding up the EU integration process of the Western Balkan countries, and consequently to reinforcing the stability and overall development of the region.
Another important achievement comprises sectoral initiatives, i. e. specific initiatives in the area of regional cooperation and economic development:
After Kosovo's declaration of independence, the commitment to pursue stability in the region and to ensure the presence of the EU in Kosovo, through the EULEX mission and the EU Special Representative, was confirmed. We succeeded to maintain unity in all major issues and prevent destabilisation of the region. On 11 July 2008, the European Commission will organise a Donors Conference for the region, with emphasis on Kosovo.
Accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey continued. In the accession negotiations with Croatia, the Slovenian Presidency opened four chapters, and two chapters with Turkey.
A major achievement within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was the launch of the Black Sea Synergy initiative setting forth the policy guidelines for joint activities in the region. It is expected that the Mediterranean and Eastern dimensions of the European Neighbourhood Policy will be further reinforced in a balanced manner through the French initiative of the "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean" and the Polish-Swedish Eastern Partnership initiative.
The Slovenian Presidency started with an opening event dedicated to the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue in Ljubljana. It was followed by numerous discussions and events. For the purposes of strengthening intercultural dialogue, a number of initiatives were adopted in the fields of the cultural dimension inclusion in EU external relations, youth, education, multilingualism, and culture. A special Slovenian contribution to strengthening partnership and dialogue was the establishment of the Euro-Mediterranean University with its seat in Piran in June 2008.
A significant breakthrough was achieved in adopting two labour law acts which had been under negotiation for many years. The Directive on working time and the Directive regulating the working conditions of temporary workers are of key importance for European workers since they regulate the working time and the rights of temporary agency workers.
In co-decision procedure with the European Parliament, the Regulation on the implementation of the Galileo European satellite radio navigation system was adopted. Through this adoption, new momentum was given to the project, thus ensuring that quality satellite navigation services will be available to all European citizens and companies by 2013.
As regards environmental protection, four key instruments were approved in the co-decision procedure with the European Parliament: the Directive on waste, which introduces better waste management, the Regulation on mercury and the Directive on environmental quality standards in the field of water policy, which both govern safer management of hazardous substances, as well as the Directive on inclusion of aviation activities in the emissions trading scheme, representing one of the major actions for overall reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Apart from that, the Directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law was adopted, defining acts against environment having devastating effects on human health and the environment as severe criminal acts.
In co-decision procedure with the European Parliament, a number of important documents were adopted, contributing to the strengthening of the internal market: the Goods Package, the Decision on mobile satellite services, the Directive on postal services, a new Customs Code and the Regulation concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market. The Directive on credit agreements for consumers will contribute to a higher level of consumer protection.
In the field of home affairs, we managed to bring to an end a more than three-year process of demanding negotiations in the Council and to reach an agreement regarding the Directive on common standards and procedures in the Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals. After intense negotiations, we also succeeded to negotiate a political agreement on transforming Europol into an EU agency.
In the field of justice, negotiations with the European Parliament concerning the Directive on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters were concluded, while within the Council itself an agreement on the enforcement of judgements rendered in absentia was achieved.
During the Presidency, four EU-third country summits were held: EU-Japan, EU-LAC, EU-USA, and EU-Russian Federation. They were aimed at strengthening the strategic dimension of relations and partnerships between the EU and third countries and at the same time provided an opportunity to discuss current global, regional, economic, security and other issues, including climate change and energy.
An important further achievement was the confirmation of the mandate to open negotiations on a new agreement between the EU and Russia, which will replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.
An integral part of holding the Presidency consists of events that cannot be anticipated; therefore it is not possible to get prepared for them in advance. The Slovenian Presidency reacted to all unexpected events without delay and in a well considered manner. The March European Council responded to turbulences in financial markets. Three comprehensive and detailed timetables for measures in various areas of financial market regulation and supervision were updated. A Memorandum of Understanding on cross-border cooperation in the field of financial stability was signed and took effect.
The June European Council responded to the consequences of high food prices. The Heads of State and Government agreed that an urgent response of the EU was necessary, not only with a focus on the poorest sectors of the EU population, but also on the global level. Globally, the EU will strive to eliminate the consequences of the rise in food prices for poorer population within the UNO and G8 Group. In this context, attention was paid to framing bio fuel policy and to enhancing the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals.The Presidency responded to the events in Kenya and Chad, riots in Tibet, the earthquake in China, and the cyclone in Burma/Myanmar.