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Same Same, But Different

Between the two Slovenian presidencies of the Council of the European Union, the country maintained its position that EU enlargement to encompass the Western Balkans should be accelerated. While Serbia has seen little progress on the accession process in the meantime, it is good to know that bilateral relations between Slovenia and Serbia remained good

Since the first Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in the first half of 2008, both the EU and Slovenia have changed profoundly. The then presidency was a test of the ability of a new member state to engage actively in EU politics, while for Europe it was the time when a difficult consensus on the Lisbon Treaty was finally reached. Although it was envisaged that the system of rotating presidencies would be abolished as of 1st January 2009, that never happened. What has changed, however, is the role of the country that’s temporary at the helm. As Slovenian Ambassador to Serbia H.E. Damjan Bergant puts it today, the role of the country that’s leading the Council of the EU is more that of a coordinator than a decision maker. Decisions depend on all 27 member states and proposals made by the European Commission.

At the time of its first presidency, Slovenia’s role as a broker and mediator was focused on three issues: (1) the unbundling of the electricity markets; (2) achieving a negotiating mandate for the Commission on the long-postponed successor to the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the Russian Federation; and (3) achieving unity on the issue of Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

Although the pandemic made a dent in bilateral trade, it wasn’t so significant… It is expected that the improving of epidemiological conditions will enable businesses to make up for this temporary slowdown and embrace opportunities for cooperation between the two economies

Now that Slovenia is embarking on its second presidency, it is fair to say that at least some of the topics have remained the same. Among them are the challenges of climate change and energy policy in 2021, which were also high on the agenda in 2008. The future of the EU budget was an issue back then, while today the issue is a health crisis relief package. Then and now, the EU accession of the Western Balkans has the same priority of the Slovenian presidency.

“We want to continue the process of EU enlargement with countries in the region. In October, we are planning a summit at the level of heads of state and government dedicated to this region,” explained the Slovenian Government, as reported by the media.

There is one more thing that has stayed the same in the twelve years that have elapsed between the two Slovenian presidencies: good bilateral relations between Belgade and Ljubljana, with no open issues between the two countries and cooperation that is good.

Although the pandemic made a dent in bilateral trade, it wasn’t so significant. Trade between the two countries amounted to slightly less than 1.6 billion euros in 2020, representing a minimal decrease compared to 2019, when that figure was slightly higher. It is expected that the improving of epidemiological conditions will enable businesses to make up for this temporary slowdown and embrace opportunities for cooperation between the two economies. Areas in which progress is expected include the sectors of information technology, agriculture, environmental protection and construction.

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