Skip to content .

Service navigation

Main Navigation


Further information

Link to opens in a new window




Address by Minister Dr Dimitrij Rupel to the European Parliament (AFCO)

Dear Chairman,

Members of the Committee,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my honour to be here with you today. I am particularly pleased that we have the opportunity to review some topical EU issues and Slovenia’s EU Presidency programme.

Since the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in 2005, Europe has been seeking a way out of the existing situation, particularly in order to make the Union more efficient, transparent and closer to its citizens. The European Parliament has had a significant role in this process. The very aim of the Lisbon Treaty is to make the enlarged Union more democratic.

It seems that this year the European Union has entered a new era, marked by the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, enlargement of the euro and Schengen areas, and 3.5 million new jobs. The Presidency of the EU has been assumed for the first time by one of the new Member States to have joined the Union during its greatest enlargement, a country whose 2 million inhabitants gained an equal position in the international community only a decade and a half ago.

On the basis of the 18-month trio Presidency programme, the Slovenian Government has formulated a 6-month programme containing Slovenia’s Presidency priorities. The five key priorities include: successful ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, endorsement of the energy and climate change package, the launch of a new cycle of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs, enlargement and the European Neighbourhood Policy, and multicultural dialogue.

Slovenia went through a three-year preparation period for the Presidency, but it is nevertheless aware of the weight of its task. And we believe that the country is able to perform this task well.

The Lisbon Treaty as the Union’s first political priority

The signing of the Lisbon Treaty was the culmination of successful negotiations between the Member States. The European Commission and Parliament were actively involved in this process. Many members of the European Parliament were personally engaged in the matter as well and thus significantly contributed to the drafting of the new Treaty. In this regard I would also like to emphasise the important role assumed by the members of the European Parliament at the intergovernmental conference.

Compared to the present situation, the Lisbon Treaty introduces changes in the decision-making process, a greater role of national parliaments and the European Parliament, and new common policies, for example in justice and home affairs, the environment, international crisis management and energy.

The Treaty will enhance the Union’s democratic character, since both the European Parliament and the Council will be equally engaged, with few exceptions, in the adoption of European legislation by the co-decision procedure. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union will become legally binding and thus a comprehensible catalogue of fundamental rights of the citizens of the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty has also opened the way for the European Union to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Treaty in addition allows for direct participation of citizens in the adoption of legislation through the citizens’ initiative (a million signatures).

The Union’s work will become more transparent and comprehensible and the Union will assume legal personality. The Lisbon Treaty defines the Union’s goals and values. It introduces a clear division of responsibilities between the Union and its Member States. It abolishes the three-pillar structure of the EU and simplifies the adoption of legislation. A new element in the Treaty is also the right to withdraw from the Union.

In most fields, the Council will decide by a qualified majority, which will make the Union more efficient. A fundamental institutional change introduced by the new Treaty is the position of European Council President. And, with the entry into force of the Treaty, the European Council will become an institution. Changes will also be introduced in the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the role of the High Representative. The Lisbon Treaty also contains a solidarity clause for the event of terrorist attacks or natural disasters. The Treaty will enable further EU enlargement.

The Lisbon Treaty – new challenging stages ahead of us

However, experience shows that our job is not done simply by signing a treaty. As regards the Lisbon Treaty, its phases could be compared with stages in sports. After lengthy preparations, we have now successfully concluded the first stage; however, there are new ones ahead of us, and it is necessary to complete all stages well if the set goal is to be achieved. Signing the Lisbon Treaty is thus only an excellent starting point for the beginning of a new important stage – the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty. We can also complete this stage together. Our goal is for all Member States to have ratified the Lisbon Treaty by the end of this year. I believe that the timetable with ratification procedures according to Member States, which was prepared by the European Parliament, is a useful document, as it enables better insight into the constitutional systems of individual Member States. The Slovenian Government expects that the National Assembly will ratify the Lisbon Treaty as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, tomorrow I will defend the draft law ratifying the Treaty of Lisbon before the Committee on Foreign Policy of Slovenia's National Assembly.

The third stage, which is concurrent with the ratification process, involves the necessary technical preparations, so that a smooth implementation of the Lisbon Treaty is ensured immediately after its entry into force. The Presidency will do the preparatory work for the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty. Technical preparations will be underway throughout 2008. To this end, close cooperation with the upcoming French presidency is vital. I would like to emphasise that this work will only be of technical and preparatory nature.

The work will be carried out under the direct control of the European Council and within a single framework. The Presidency will take into consideration the sensitivity of this task due to ratification procedures going on in the Member States simultaneously.

The Slovenian Presidency’s priority is thus to create good conditions for the Lisbon Treaty ratification process to be as smooth as possible. This should be our common objective, and the European Parliament’s role in it could be significant. The European Parliament’s draft report on the Lisbon Treaty will be dealt with in committee today, which yet again proves how actively the Parliament is involved in the reform of the European Union.

European External Action Service

The European External Action Service is an important novelty of the new Treaty. It will be established by the Council’s decision on the proposal of the High Representative, after consulting Parliament and obtaining the Commission's approval. Declaration 15 to the Lisbon Treaty stipulates that preparatory work for the European External Action Service shall start after the Treaty is signed.

In accordance with the December European Council conclusions, the Slovenian Presidency will take on this job as part of comprehensive technical preparations which are necessary to ensure full and efficient functioning of the Treaty from the date of its entry into force. We are completely aware of the European Parliament's interest in this respect and of your request to be involved in the preparatory work. To this end, the Presidency, together with the General Secretariat of the Council, will make sure that the associates of the European Parliament’s President will be kept up-to-date.

The Principle of Transparency

The Slovenian Presidency welcomes all activities undertaken for greater transparency of the European Union and Community institutions. The European Transparency Initiative and the review of the Regulation on public access to documents held by European institutions of 2001 are measures that actively encourage information dissemination and are therefore welcome in EU policies. The Presidency believes that through such measures, the credibility of all European Community is increased and chances of possible abuse reduced. This is why we welcome the Green Paper on Public Access to Documents held by institutions of the European Community of April 2007 and expect that the European Commission will shortly put forward a legislative proposal on this matter.


The Presidency has also closely examined the Green Paper ''European Transparency Initiative''. The Paper’s objective is to launch broad public consultation, including on the need for a better-structured framework for the work of lobbyists, i.e. special interest representatives. Further analysis by the Commission is also very important. So far, the Council has not received any proposal or draft regarding lobbying. It is vital that any potential new instrument in connection with lobbying has a clearly defined legal basis.


The following important but sensitive area is the issue of comitology. Considering that the entire reform of the committee procedure and executive phase of decision-making in the EU relates to the role of the European Parliament in the decision-making process  – particularly its executive phase – it is important that the Council and Parliament be placed on an equal footing in the regular legislative procedure as provided for in the Lisbon Treaty. Article 249b of the Reform Treaty provides a new legal basis for regulating the transfer of executive powers and the comitology mechanism, as well as for the latter’s deletion. May I inform you that last week Coreper established a “Friends of the Presidency Group – comitology”, which will hold its first meeting on 30 January 2008. The Group will be tasked with examining alignment proposals according to the omnibus method. The European Parliament will be promptly informed of the progress achieved.

Amendment to the Statute of the European Ombudsman

Moreover, the Presidency is closely following the debate on the amendments to the Statute of the European Ombudsman, since this is an important democratic institution. I believe that with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – which will, through the Lisbon Treaty, acquire the same legal status as the founding treaties – the European Ombudsman will become increasingly important. Therefore, the Ombudsman's mandate should be clearly defined, with neutrality guaranteed. The Presidency has noted that the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) has considered the draft report on amending the statute of the European Ombudsman and that the next meeting is scheduled for tomorrow. The Council will wait until the European Parliament position has been submitted and will then launch an internal debate.

Communitarisation of the area of freedom, security and justice – the third pillar

Allow me now to say a few words about the area of freedom, security and justice, which has become a reality for EU citizens in the last decade.  The European Council has dealt with this topic at almost every meeting after the adoption of the Amsterdam Treaty.  Then, the Convention on the Future of Europe recommended that this area no longer be divided into two pillars and that the procedure of adopting acts be simplified – especially by co-decision and qualified majority procedures and by facilitating control by EU institutions over the implementation of acts. As to the European Parliament’s role in the area now representing the third pillar, the Lisbon Treaty provides for a co-decision procedure or regular legislative procedure for all areas subjected to qualified majority voting. The inclusion of national parliaments in the supervision of the work of bodies implementing EU law is also a welcome novelty. This will certainly contribute to reducing the Union’s democratic deficit. The areas of freedom, security and justice and justice and home affairs significantly influence the everyday life of EU citizens; therefore, effective regulation of this area is in the interest of both citizens and the Union.

Communication Policy

The Slovenian Presidency welcomes the Commission’s communication “Communicating Europe in Partnership” in the area of communication policy. We are aware of the importance of and need for communicating European topics at the local level and bringing the European Union and its policies closer to citizens. We welcome closer cooperation in communicating European topics both between European institutions and between institutions and EU Member States.

We appreciate the Commission’s endeavours to seek the most effective approach to implementing and rationalising communication strategies. Citizens need to be more extensively and better informed of the decisions taken by EU political bodies, and the EU needs to lend them an ear.

The Slovenian Presidency will endeavour to reach an agreement between the Member States on the method of cooperation in communicating European topics and adopting the Council position regarding this issue. As this is a long-term decision, the Slovenian Presidency wishes to have a quality debate on the method of cooperation between the Member States and EU institutions in this area, thus ensuring that the particularities of all those involved be taken into account to the greatest possible extent. This also includes the European Parliament, which has in its debates so far voiced its support for the proposed Commission Communication Policy Report.

Regulatory Agencies

As to regulatory agencies, it was agreed in the Council that their establishment and functioning should follow such principles as: good governance, an improved regulatory framework, transparency, cost effectiveness, agency assessment based on a cost-benefit analysis, as well as impact assessment. Despite the fact that no consensus has been reached to date in the Council to enable negotiations with the European Parliament and the Commission on the horizontal framework for regulatory agencies, we expect an informal meeting to be held on this subject during the course of our Presidency. We are aware of the variety of views on the regulation of this issue; we have also noted opinions arguing that this issue has not been resolved in a satisfactory manner.


The Lisbon Treaty also opens up a new period for an enhanced global role of the European Union.  In the past few years we have been involved in dealing with ourselves and our problems. Now, we will be able to and will have to face challenges and the Union’s role in a globalised world.

This is not limited to issues of competitiveness and the fight against terrorism, but involves many other issues, to which the EU should sooner or later respond more explicitly. Let me mention just a few: combating poverty, the fight against climate change, encouraging intercultural dialogue and the issue of UN reform and shaping of the new world order. Another relevant question in this context is one that may be heard quite often in relation to the EU. The question is: “Whom do I call when I want to speak to Europe?”. With the new Lisbon Treaty, Henry Kissinger will finally get the answer to the question he raised three decades ago. One of the most important novelties of the new Treaty that goes well beyond institutional reform is the new institution of the European Council President, who will actually function as the Union’s President and will be elected for a term of two and a half years with the possibility of re-election. We must all be aware that institutional reform is just a prerequisite and not a guarantee for the successful, democratic and responsible functioning of the Union in the future.

I would therefore reiterate, Mr Chairman, distinguished Committee members, ladies and gentlemen: Let us take the opportunity and, upon the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, begin to implement measures that are good for Europe and its peoples, and that can also contribute to progress on a global scale.


Accessibility     . Print     .

Date: 23.01.2008