Under the slogan Together. Resilient. Europe., Slovenia has assumed the presidency of the EU Council for the next six months. A crucial moment not only because the continent is still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences both on people’s health and countries’ economies. The next months will be also decisive under an energy perspective, with the Fit for 55 package expected to be adopted this month already and a series of directives’ revisions, including the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), the Emissions Trading System (ETS), the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and so on.
“The presidency is an opportunity to strengthen the integration within the EU27 and within EU institutions and to direct development towards an innovative and creative community based on sustainable development,” said Foreign Minister Anže Logar presenting the priorities.
Resilience and recovery: keywords of the green transition
Indeed, the first pillar of the Slovenian programme is about resilience, recovery and strategic autonomy of the EU. A special focus has been put under the word recovery, as one of the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency will be the effective implementation of the Next Generation EU instrument and the Recovery and Resilience Facility to accelerate the green and digital transition.
In this regard, Slovenia is leading by example as right before taking over the Presidency, the European Commission gave the green light to the country’s plan for resilience and recovery.
“Slovenia is taking the helm of Europe’s leadership at a turning point for our Union, as we shift from crisis management to long-term recovery efforts,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
Starting now, Slovenia will begin negotiations on the Fit for 55 legislative package keeping in mind the ambitious goal of the EU to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
Giving space to nuclear and natural gas?
In the programme, it is underlined that the Fit for 55 package must be adopted in accordance with the principles of solidarity, fairness and cost-effectiveness and respecting Member States’ right to choose their energy mix and technologies, which also includes the possibility of exploiting the potential of safe nuclear energy.
To see what the role of natural gas will be, as on one hand, the Council has decided to end support for new natural gas and oil projects int the revision of the Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) regulation. But countries are still divided on this topic with those pushing for natural to be more than a transition fuel, adapting its infrastructure to transport new gases (like hydrogen) and those who are looking forward to putting a firm end to it. Slovenia could find itself in the middle of this debate right in the next months. Especially considering the challenges that the country will meet once the Velenje Coal Mine will be shut down, decreasing the country’s energy self-sufficiency from 80 per cent to around 60 per cent.
E-mobility, circular economy, agriculture
A strong emphasis of the Slovenian Presidency will be put on sustainable and smart mobility, focusing on the adaptation of the TEN-T network and the development and widespread use of alternative fuels. In this context, the country is attaching central importance to promoting e-mobility through the use of energy from low-emission sources, an adequate charging infrastructure and availability of vehicles. Wider use of rail transport offers further possibilities for reducing emissions. Indeed, 2021 is the European Year of Rail and the Slovenian Presidency will take this opportunity to promote discussions and prepare plans for necessary changes to infrastructure. In the area of finance, work on the European Green Bond Standard will also contribute to the achievement of climate targets.
The green transition will also depend on the implementation of a circular economy. Slovenia’s goal is not only to reduce environmental risks, but also to use green technologies to safeguard EU companies’ competitive advantage internationally and to reduce the EU’s dependency on key raw materials. For this reason, in terms of legislation, the programme is focusing on continuing to pursue negotiations on the renewed legislative framework for batteries and on addressing the issue of waste shipments. The legislative act on batteries will ensure better battery performance across their life cycle while addressing the challenges posed by increased battery use. The revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation, which reduces waste exports from the EU and facilitates the movement of waste for recycling within the EU, will contribute to more efficient waste management and better use of secondary raw materials.
With regard to agriculture, the Slovenian Presidency will support sustainable solutions that will meaningfully integrate agriculture into natural resource management systems and will take into account concerns about the conservation of rural areas, including the development of links between agriculture and tourism. Slovenia is planning a political debate on the preparation of strategic plans for the implementation of the common agricultural policy.
In May 2020, Slovenia was listed by the World Economic Forum among the top 25 countries worldwide most ready for the energy transition. Let’s see if this presidency will help the country delivering on its promises lifting other countries at the same time.
Photo: Prime Minister Janša in the EP/Slovenian Presidency.