General support with selective criticism for new EU officials

Good relations with Van Rompuy restored

The Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, Her­man Van Rompuy, vis­it­ed Slove­nia on 1 Decem­ber 2009, the day when the Treaty of Lis­bon entered into force. On that occa­sion, the Sloven­ian Prime Min­is­ter (PM) Borut Pahor expressed his con­vic­tion that Her­man Van Rompuy will “cope with the task” and will be able to “slow­ly slow­ly” build a new Euro­pean insti­tu­tion. Dur­ing the press con­fer­ence with Her­man Van Rompuy, the Sloven­ian Prime Min­is­ter also explained that he first endorsed the for­mer British PM Tony Blair for the posi­tion of the new Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, because he believed that the Euro­pean Union need­ed a leader with a strong polit­i­cal per­son­al­i­ty who will empow­er this new EU post. How­ev­er, with Euro­pean coun­tries pre­dom­i­nant­ly sup­port­ing Her­man Van Rompuy, Slove­nia backed the Bel­gian can­di­date as well. Borut Pahor also empha­sised the impor­tance of hav­ing a per­son with a sense for social dia­logue and social ques­tions lead­ing the Euro­pean Coun­cil.11Sloven­ian Press Agency (STA): Pahor: pomem­ben dan v zgodovi­ni Evrope (Pahor: An impor­tant day in the his­to­ry of Europe), 1 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1454712&q=HERMAN+VAN+ROMPUY (last access: 16 May 2010).

In March 2010, Her­man Van Rompuy was invit­ed to attend the West­ern Balkan con­fer­ence organ­ised joint­ly by Slove­nia and Croa­t­ia. His pres­ence was deemed nec­es­sary for the recog­ni­tion of the impor­tance of the con­fer­ence. When Van Rompuy announced that he would not be attend­ing the con­fer­ence because of the absence of the Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Ser­bia, this was seen as a “slap in the face” for the organ­is­ers by the media. Although the Sloven­ian Prime Min­is­ter Borut Pahor explic­it­ly stressed that Slove­nia “will not judge any­one who does not attend the con­fer­ence”, Zijad Bećirović, the direc­tor of the Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Mid­dle East and Balkan Stud­ies, com­ment­ed that Van Rompuy’s absten­tion sent a clear mes­sage that there was no point in organ­is­ing and attend­ing the con­fer­ence.22Dnevnik: Kon­fer­en­ca o zahod­nem Balka­nu v okrn­jeni zased­bi (West­ern Balkan Con­fer­ence in a trun­cat­ed com­po­si­tion), 20 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.dnevnik.si/novice/svet/1042346357 (last access: 16 May 2010).

A few days after the con­fer­ence, the Sloven­ian PM vis­it­ed the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil in Brus­sels, where, at the press con­fer­ence, he admit­ted there was some resent­ment between them con­cern­ing Van Rompuy’s absence at the West­ern Balkan con­fer­ence, but that they “have man­aged to restore the pre­vi­ous trust.”33STA: Van Rompuy in Pahor zglad­i­la odnose (Van Rompuy and Pahor restored their rela­tion­ship), 26 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1496064&q=HERMAN+VAN+ROMPUY (last access: 16 May 2010).

As for the chang­ing role of the rotat­ing pres­i­den­cy, there is no offi­cial state­ment by the gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia and there are no com­ments made regard­ing it by the inter­est­ed public.

Support for Catherine Ashton

Despite express­ing some dis­agree­ment with Cather­ine Ashton’s vision of the Euro­pean Exter­nal Action Ser­vice (EEAS), the Sloven­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, Samuel Žbog­ar, announced full sup­port for the new High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy in mid-March 2010. He char­ac­terised her work as “pas­sion­ate with an under­stand­ing of the respon­si­bil­i­ty to build this new func­tion she is the first to hold.”44STA: Zunan­ji min­istri EU Ashtonovi izrek­li vso pod­poro (EU Min­is­ters of For­eign Affairs expressed their full sup­port to Ash­ton), 6 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1488217&q=CATHER+ASHTON (last access: 17 May 2010).

The sup­port for Ash­ton was also expressed by one of the Sloven­ian Mem­bers of Euro­pean Par­lia­ment (MEP), Zoran Thaler, who is a mem­ber of the Pro­gres­sive Alliance of Social­ists and Democ­rats (S&D) in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. Thaler assessed Cather­ine Ash­ton after her first address to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment as “promis­ing”, describ­ing her as a “deter­mined, mod­er­ate and prin­ci­pal leader.” On the same occa­sion, anoth­er Sloven­ian cen­tral left MEP, Ivo Vajgl (mem­ber of Alliance of Lib­er­als and Democ­rats for Europe – ALDE), some­what crit­i­cised Ash­ton, assum­ing that she would give more con­sid­er­a­tion to the mem­ber states than the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in her work.55STA: Ashtono­va na prvem kvizu Evropskega par­la­men­ta v defen­zivi (Ash­ton defen­sive at her first Euro­pean Par­lia­ment quiz), 2 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1455197&q=CATHER+ASHTON (last access: 17 May 2010).

As for her role as the Vice-Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Sloven­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Samuel Žbog­ar com­ment­ed upon it in the con­text of the EEAS and will be dis­cussed below.

Concerns about equal representation in the EEAS

Slove­nia sup­ports the polit­i­cal agree­ment on the struc­ture of the EEAS reached on 26 April 2010 in Lux­em­bourg. Sloven­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Samuel Žbog­ar active­ly engaged in the debates about the struc­ture and role of the EEAS by empha­sis­ing the impor­tance of ade­quate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of small­er mem­ber states. Con­cerned that the inter­ests of the small­er coun­tries will not be recog­nised in the EEAS, Sloven­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Samuel Žbog­ar, along with the Min­is­ters of For­eign Affairs from Lithua­nia, Latvia and Cyprus, sent a let­ter to the High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy Cather­ine Ash­ton urg­ing her to bear in mind the “geo­graph­i­cal bal­ance and ade­quate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of all EU mem­bers” when set­ting up the new Euro­pean diplo­mat­ic ser­vice.66STA: Sloveni­ja in še tri države Ashtono­vo pozi­va­jo k geografske­mu ravnovesju v diplo­mats­ki službi EU (Slove­nia and three more coun­tries call on Ash­ton to geo­graph­i­cal­ly bal­ance Euro­pean Diplo­mat­ic Ser­vice), 5 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1487830&q=EEAS (last access: 18 March 2010). Before the meet­ing of the EU min­is­ters of for­eign affairs in Cor­do­ba in March 2010, Samuel Žbog­ar spoke of a “feel­ing among mem­ber states that the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion wants to take over the EEAS.” Accord­ing to Žbog­ar, the per­cep­tion is that the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is fill­ing the diplo­mat­ic posts even before the Euro­pean diplo­mat­ic ser­vice is ful­ly estab­lished, and is cre­at­ing unnec­es­sary ten­sions between itself and the mem­ber states. He also point­ed to the idea of Cather­ine Ash­ton “sit­ting on two chairs” con­cern­ing her dou­ble role.77STA: Žbog­ar: Občutek je, da si hoče komisi­ja prisvo­ji­ti novo zunan­jo službo EU (Žbog­ar: There is a feel­ing the Com­mis­sion wants to take over the new EU for­eign ser­vice), 5 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1487976&q=EEAS (last access: 18 March 2010).

Fur­ther­more, Žbog­ar also expressed the neces­si­ty that the mem­ber states pos­i­tive­ly accept the EEAS and feel rep­re­sent­ed in it, as “nation­al embassies will be under the aus­pices of the diplo­mat­ic ser­vice.”88STA: Žbog­ar: 800-član­s­ka diplo­mats­ka služ­ba EU abso­lut­no pre­ma­jh­na (Žbog­ar: 800-mem­ber EU diplo­mat­ic sevice absolute­ly too small), 22 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1494165&q=EEAS (last access: 19 March 2010). Unof­fi­cial­ly, Slove­nia applied to lead del­e­ga­tions in Mace­do­nia, Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina, Alba­nia and Bei­jing.99STA: Veli­ka konkuren­ca za mes­ta v evrop­s­ki diplo­mats­ki službi (Great com­pe­ti­tion for spots in Euro­pean Diplo­mat­ic Ser­vice), 11 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1511470&q=EVROPS+DIPL+SLU%C5%BDB (last access: 18 May 2010).

European Citizens’ Initiative

The gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia wel­comes the insti­tu­tion of the Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive (ECI) and sees its impor­tance in giv­ing the cit­i­zens greater deci­sion-mak­ing pow­ers with­in the EU. Con­cern­ing the admis­si­bil­i­ty cri­te­ri­on, the posi­tion of the gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia is that it is nec­es­sary to decide on the admis­si­bil­i­ty of the ini­tia­tive before its reg­is­tra­tion. Accord­ing­ly, every ini­tia­tive should be checked whether its pur­pose does not oppose the val­ues of the EU and whether the EU has juris­dic­tion over the mat­ter of the ini­tia­tive. In the view of the Sloven­ian gov­ern­ment, it is espe­cial­ly impor­tant to ensure a trans­par­ent financ­ing of the ECI in order to pre­vent poten­tial abus­es. In this respect, addi­tion­al leg­is­la­tion is nec­es­sary and should pre­vent pub­lic financ­ing of the ECI in order to strength­en the inde­pen­dence of the Ini­tia­tive and the role of the cit­i­zens.1010Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia: Stal­išče vlade o Evrop­s­ki zakon­oda­jni pobu­di (Gov­ern­ment posi­tion on Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive), 6 May 2010, avail­able at: www2.gov.si/upv/vladnagradiva-08.nsf/…/$FILE/BESEDILO.RTF (last access: 18 May 2010).

On the oth­er hand, Sabi­na Kajnč, a Sloven­ian aca­d­e­m­ic, expressed doubts regard­ing the demo­c­ra­t­ic char­ac­ter of the ECI. She stressed that there are cur­rent­ly too many checks installed in the insti­tu­tion of the Ini­tia­tive so that it is high­ly unlike­ly to expect the ECI to be invoked on many occa­sions.1111STA: V EU konec insti­tu­cional­nih razprav, zdaj čas za dejan­ja (EU ends insti­tu­tion­al dis­cus­sions, time for action), 30 Decem­ber 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1462206&q=KAJN%C4%8C (last access: 18 May 2010).

    Footnotes

  • 1Sloven­ian Press Agency (STA): Pahor: pomem­ben dan v zgodovi­ni Evrope (Pahor: An impor­tant day in the his­to­ry of Europe), 1 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1454712&q=HERMAN+VAN+ROMPUY (last access: 16 May 2010).
  • 2Dnevnik: Kon­fer­en­ca o zahod­nem Balka­nu v okrn­jeni zased­bi (West­ern Balkan Con­fer­ence in a trun­cat­ed com­po­si­tion), 20 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.dnevnik.si/novice/svet/1042346357 (last access: 16 May 2010).
  • 3STA: Van Rompuy in Pahor zglad­i­la odnose (Van Rompuy and Pahor restored their rela­tion­ship), 26 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1496064&q=HERMAN+VAN+ROMPUY (last access: 16 May 2010).
  • 4STA: Zunan­ji min­istri EU Ashtonovi izrek­li vso pod­poro (EU Min­is­ters of For­eign Affairs expressed their full sup­port to Ash­ton), 6 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1488217&q=CATHER+ASHTON (last access: 17 May 2010).
  • 5STA: Ashtono­va na prvem kvizu Evropskega par­la­men­ta v defen­zivi (Ash­ton defen­sive at her first Euro­pean Par­lia­ment quiz), 2 Decem­ber 2009, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1455197&q=CATHER+ASHTON (last access: 17 May 2010).
  • 6STA: Sloveni­ja in še tri države Ashtono­vo pozi­va­jo k geografske­mu ravnovesju v diplo­mats­ki službi EU (Slove­nia and three more coun­tries call on Ash­ton to geo­graph­i­cal­ly bal­ance Euro­pean Diplo­mat­ic Ser­vice), 5 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1487830&q=EEAS (last access: 18 March 2010).
  • 7STA: Žbog­ar: Občutek je, da si hoče komisi­ja prisvo­ji­ti novo zunan­jo službo EU (Žbog­ar: There is a feel­ing the Com­mis­sion wants to take over the new EU for­eign ser­vice), 5 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1487976&q=EEAS (last access: 18 March 2010).
  • 8STA: Žbog­ar: 800-član­s­ka diplo­mats­ka služ­ba EU abso­lut­no pre­ma­jh­na (Žbog­ar: 800-mem­ber EU diplo­mat­ic sevice absolute­ly too small), 22 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1494165&q=EEAS (last access: 19 March 2010).
  • 9STA: Veli­ka konkuren­ca za mes­ta v evrop­s­ki diplo­mats­ki službi (Great com­pe­ti­tion for spots in Euro­pean Diplo­mat­ic Ser­vice), 11 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1511470&q=EVROPS+DIPL+SLU%C5%BDB (last access: 18 May 2010).
  • 10Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia: Stal­išče vlade o Evrop­s­ki zakon­oda­jni pobu­di (Gov­ern­ment posi­tion on Euro­pean Cit­i­zens’ Ini­tia­tive), 6 May 2010, avail­able at: www2.gov.si/upv/vladnagradiva-08.nsf/…/$FILE/BESEDILO.RTF (last access: 18 May 2010).
  • 11STA: V EU konec insti­tu­cional­nih razprav, zdaj čas za dejan­ja (EU ends insti­tu­tion­al dis­cus­sions, time for action), 30 Decem­ber 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1462206&q=KAJN%C4%8C (last access: 18 May 2010).

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.