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Minister of Labour, Family and Social Affairs Marjeta Cotman: Presentation of the Presidency Programme

Dear Honorable President Dimitriadis, respected members of the committee,

First of all, I would like to thank you for the invitation, since it is a great honour for me personally to appear before the assembly which will very shortly celebrate 50 years of its existence. I'm also extremely happy that I have today the opportunity to meet all of you who are part of that decision-making within the European Union which most directly reflects the expectations and worries of the citizens of the EU.

Before we present the priority assignments of the Slovene presidency in details, we would like to ensure you that our most important objective is that the people in the European Union would feel comfortable. I honestly also hope that the wish which the president Dimitriadis expressed during our first meeting will come true; namely, that the Slovene presidency would be the presidency with a human face.

As we both agreed with the president back then, the cooperation between your committee and the Slovene presidency began like it should. I am confident that it will continue in such a manner with common efforts for the welfare of people inside, as well as outside of the European Union.

Slovenia is the first country among the new member states which has the opportunity to hold the presidency of the EU Council. This is a great honour for us, while at the same time we are aware of the responsibilities which lie ahead of us. We will endeavor for the further development of the EU politics and for the realization of the main political priorities, which Germany and Portugal have already started.

I am convinced that we share the same opinion in areas which at this moment need our utmost attention. The Slovene presidency has determined five core priority assignments which we will try to follow at the highest political level: The success of the ratification procedure of the Treaty of Lisbon is the first priority of our presidency, since it presents the foundation for facing other challenges.

Furthermore, Slovenia will focus on four other challenges:

  • The future of the Lisbon strategy
  • Energy-climate issues
  • Western Balkans, and
  • Intercultural Dialogue.

As the Minister of Labour, Family, and Social Affairs, I am especially happy that Slovenia will with all attention address also the following issues:

  • Adjustments in the labour market
  • Response to changes in the social reality
  • Response to demographic changes
  • Provision of equal opportunities, and
  • Prevention of the discrimination of the disabled.


The Future of Europe/The Treaty of Lisbon

Ladies and gentlemen,

Like already mentioned, the Slovene presidency will give priority to the future of the European Union and its citizens of all the priority assignments.

It was a successful year. We set ambitious goals in some key areas of action in the European Union. The new treaty presents a solid basis to face new challenges of the Union, which are basically challenges of the globalization. The Slovene presidency supports the efforts of the European Economic and Social Committee to bring the treaty closer to the citizens. In this case, the committee plays a key role.

The Treaty of Lisbon contains also many benefits directly for the citizens; for instance, rules on participatory democracy. It is of primary importance that the Treaty comes into force before the next elections into the European Parliament. Therefore, the key objective of the presidency will be the successful ratification procedures in all member states.

Lisbon Strategy

The second of the priority assignments is the future of the Lisbon strategy. It will present the core of the spring European Council since 2008 introduces a new three-year cycle, which offers an opportunity for the implementation of reforms.

As we can clearly see, the Lisbon strategy brings results. This is important: namely, the EU citizens mostly expect growth and new working places. Therefore, it is of crucial importance to continue with the Lisbon process, and to implement the set programs of reforms.

From the procedural point of view, the objective of the presidency is to adopt the integrated guidelines already in the spring European Council. According to the majority, radical changes of the integrated guidelines are not necessary. However, the new cycle offers an opportunity to expose current areas of interest, which have only lately come into focus, and present a new challenge for the EU. We are happy that your committee agrees with the adoption of guidelines for the new cycle as soon as possible. We are acquainted with your opinion on the future of the Lisbon strategy and we expect further opinion before the European Council.

The priority content areas of the Lisbon strategy, which are also pointed out in the programme of the presidency, remain as following:

  • Investments into knowledge and creativity
  • Development of competitive and dynamic economy
  • Adjustments in the labour market and answers to climatic challenges
  • The current issues of energy and climate change.

In the field of investments into research and innovation, we will strive to implement measures for bigger innovation: creation and use of knowledge, and in this way to establish the European Exploration Area, European Institute of Technology, and joint technological initiatives. We would like to strengthen the role of education within the triangle of knowledge.

Europe has to continue with measures to improve the competitiveness of economy. Slovenia will pay special attention to entrepreneurship: small and medium-sized companies, their growth, and access to sources of financing. An important aspect of the treatment will be the green industrial politics and innovations in the context of clusters.

The key factor of competitiveness remains the efforts to strengthen the in-depth and efficient internal market operations, and measures in the field of better legislation and intellectual property rights.

Allow me to describe in details the priority assignments of the presidency in the fields of employment, social affairs, and equal opportunities.

The main topic of the presidency is the status of youth in the labour market. If I'm not wrong you will today in the assembly discuss the opinion which the committee is preparing for the report of the committee on the full involvement of youth in education, employment, and society. In the informal meeting of the ministers of labour and social affairs in the end of January in Slovenia, the presidency will lead the discussion towards finding solutions to decrease the unemployment of youth, to encourage their efficient involvement in the labour market, and to find joint transverse politics for the youth.

Slovenia will also continue with the European discussion on demographic challenges, since the attainment of the Lisbon objectives is largely dependant on their control. We believe that the society can successfully face the challenges of the 21st century only by mutual symbiosis and respect of all generations. Therefore, special attention will be devoted to new relationships between generations and to the development of the new forms of solidarity.

Beside the modernization of services of general importance, there are many other important subject matters in the field of social affairs, which the Slovene presidency will consider in the light of a renewal of the Social agenda: the modernization of the European social model as a reflection of the social realities of the 21st century, fight against poverty and social exclusion, and active involvement.

Special attention will be given to strengthen the activities to provide equal opportunities and to prevent the discrimination of the disabled. In the field of gender equality, we will emphasize the activities to eliminate sexual stereotypes in the society, and to encourage the gender equality principle in all relevant political procedures and areas.

Climate-Energy Issues

If I return to the core priority assignments of the presidency: the climate-energy issues present one of our most important priorities. Existing debates show that the objectives which the European Council adopted are ambitious, but also achievable. We need justified debates, mutual trust, and the willingness to compromise.  One of the answers of the EU on the problems regarding the climate change  will be the energy climate legislative batch. During the Slovene presidency, important political decisions will have to enter into force   regarding the matter at various levels: EC, Council, and EP. Your contribution will also be of immense importance, since all three initiatives of the energy-environmental batch will be approved by the co-decision procedure.

The wish of the Slovene presidency is that the batch enters into force until the new pan-European elections. However, naturally the key for the beginning of the discussions and negotiations is the legislative batch of the Committee which will enter into force on 23rd January.

After all, a harmonized approach of member states of the EU is very important for the implementation of the ambitious objectives of the EU in the agreement on the post-Kyoto agreement on climate change after 2012. In this way, Europe will maintain its leading role in efforts to reduce the problems in the areas of climate change.

Since the issues of climate change and environmental protection are closely connected with the energy politics, Slovenia will pay special attention to the legislative package for the electricity and natural gas internal market, and to the field of energy technology.

Western Balkans

The fourth core priority of the presidency is the Western Balkans. The Western Balkans is definitely an integral part of Europe, and the European perspective is of key importance for its development. To become Members of the European Union is the final aim and motor of the changes, reforms, and stability of the countries in this part of Europe.

On the basis of the Thessaloniki agenda and Salzburg conclusions, the Slovene presidency will strive to further embody the European perspective of the countries in this part of Europe. One of the objectives is to complete the network of stabilization and association agreements.

Regarding the further embodiment of the European perspective, we won’t consider only the political stimulation in the region, but also more concrete measures. In the beginning phase of the Slovene presidency, agreements on visa facilitation with the countries of Western Balkans will enter into force. After their implementation we will strive for additional progress in the direction of progressive visa liberalization. However, we still have to bear in mind that the actual progress of the accession primarily depends on the efforts of the countries themselves.

In this stage I would also like to address the question of Kosovo for a moment. Kosovo ranks high in the agenda of the European foreign policy also during the Slovene presidency of the EU Council. Unity is of immense importance regarding all issues on Kosovo. Therefore, we will work hard during our presidency to achieve such unity of the member states.

Slovenia will continue with the accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey; however, it will also try to ensure additional advancement in the negotiating process. The latter will be primarily dependant on both candidates and their progress in the compliance with the undertaking.

However, the essential objective of all priorities and procedures is the welfare of people and the development of the society. The activities of your committee in this area are of great value. They represent an additional value to the efforts of the presidency and other operators at the European level. At this point, I also wish you a successful organization of the forum of civil society on Western Balkans, which will be held in Slovenia during the summer.

Intercultural Dialogue

The year 2008 was proclaimed as the »European year of Intercultural Dialogue«. Intercultural dialogue is a strategic category of symbiosis of diversities. Therefore, the presidency will try to contribute towards an intercultural dialogue and strengthening of multilingualism within the EU. Furthermore: surpassing of stereotypes and prejudice is crucial for various areas: migration, fight against crime, and fight against terrorism.

One of the special contributions of Slovenia is also the initiative for the establishment of the Euro-Mediterranean University in Piran.

Beside the already mentioned areas, the programme of Slovene presidency includes also other important areas like the expansion of the Schengen and Euro environment, review of the common agricultural policy, future of the cohesive policy, area of health, preservation of the biological diversity, strengthening of the area of freedom, security and justice, and others.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you can see there are many areas, in which the Slovene presidency will strive that Europe makes a step forward. We are aware that our work won't be easy; however, we are also aware that with unity we can achieve everything. For the realization of the latter, we need and wish a constructive cooperation with member states, as well as with other operators at the European level.

I would like to thank your committee already in advance for all your opinions, which contribute to the debates at the European level, and especially for those which you will prepare at the wishes of the Slovene presidency.

We are happy that your committee will be represented in the events organized by the presidency in Slovenia. This presents another opportunity for a constructive dialogue of all important players. In this way, we will together strengthen the efforts for a better Europe – Europe of satisfied citizens.

Thank you for your attention!


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Date: 16.01.2008