No stall in the enlargement process

Slovenia
Centre of International Relations

Regarding the conclusions of the European Council of December 2008 on the fate of the Lisbon Treaty, the government of the Republic of Slovenia is satisfied with the agreement reached. The Slovenian government was faced with the Irish ‘No’, while holding the EU-presidency in the first half of 2008. Then Prime Minister Janez Janša expressed respect for the decision of the Irish people, but was quick to utter hope for the Irish ‘No’ to have no negative implications on the further enlargement process. This represents the central theme of the Slovenian governments’ (previous and current, in place since November 2008, following the general elections of September 2008) considerations on the fate of the Treaty of Lisbon. Further enlargement, especially to the countries of the Western Balkans, represents a clear Slovenian national foreign policy interest and steps in direction of Western Balkan countries’ accession represented the utmost priority of the Slovenian 2008 EU-Presidency. The Slovenian government responded to the Irish ‘No’ already as the EU presiding state by setting the timeline for a common EU reaction to the situation and guidelines to be reached by the end of the year 2008.[1]
 
Current Prime Minister of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, expressed his satisfaction with the outcomes of the December 2008 European Council. Regarding the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, he asserted that the EU has a good plan which would convince the Irish voters. He also pointed out that, in order for this plan to succeed and the treaty to be adopted by the end of 2009, “[W]e must avoid the mistake made before the first referendum in Ireland, that is lack of communication with the people”.[2]
 
Since the main concern of the Republic of Slovenia was the effect of the Irish referendum decision on further enlargement, the early reaction of the next EU-presidency holder, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who explicitly said that the Irish ‘No’ meant a definite stop to a further enlargement, was perceived as an unnecessary exaggeration. Later on, the Slovenian government looked more positively on the French Presidency’s role in mediating for an achievement of guidelines for ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.[3] It remains a firm position of the Slovenian government that the enlargement process must go on and that further steps, such as giving a country candidate status, are not conditioned by the treaties.
 
The Slovenian government does not have any objections to the legal guarantees demanded by the Irish as long as they remain within the formal framework of an additional protocol to the Lisbon Treaty, subject to ratification in each of the member states. However, Slovenia’s firm position is that institutional changes of the EU should be dealt with irrespective of enlargement process in the form of an international treaty and not through accession protocols of the potential new member states (Croatia, Iceland, Turkey) as was done in the case of Bulgaria and Romania.[4]
 
Regarding the upcoming European Parliament elections in June 2009, the Slovenian government supports the adoption of transitional measures in the event that the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force after the elections. Slovenia is one of the member states whose number of MEPs would increase (by one, from the current seven) by entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. The government supports the objective that this modification should enter into force during the year 2010. Since Slovenia represents a single constituency, the appointment of the additional MEP should not represent an administrative or political difficulty. Political parties present their (national) lists of seven candidates. Voters vote for a list, but can also express their preference for a particular candidate on the list. It is presumed that the eighth candidate, either elected via the list or via the preferential vote, will earn the eighth seat.[5]
 
While the number of MEPs from Slovenia hardly attracts any attention, the question of turnout has been raised in the media[6] and it is also felt in the discourse of Slovenian political parties. The first elections to the European Parliament by Slovenian took place in 2004 and the turnout was about 29 percent. The elections on 7 June 2009 are awaited with insecurity over voters’ interest. It is widely perceived that domestic politics and current issues will determine the turnout and (in close connection to it) the result of the elections.
 
Regarding the process of appointment of the future Commission, the Slovenian government sees it essential that the designation of its President is initiated without delay after the European Parliament elections in June 2009. The Slovenian government also strongly supports that the number of Commissioners equal to the number of member states is retained. The provisions of the December 2008 European Council (not entirely clear) allow for the one-Commissioner-per-member-state formula. The Slovenian government advocates that a clear decision on keeping the current 27 Commissioners is taken by the European Council in June 2009.[7]
 
The appointment of the next High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy is seen as yet unclear, but at the same time as an issue that does not need to be tackled until the Treaty of Lisbon is in place, provided the current High Representative will stay in his position until the conditions will be met for the appointment of the new High Representative.[8]




[1] Veronika Boškovic-Pohar/Tina Štrafela, directorate for co-ordination of the Government Office for European Affairs: Written comments to the EU-27 Watch Questionnaire, 2008.


[2] Cabinet of the Prime Minister: Premier Borut Pahor: Podnebno-energetski paket je dober za EU in Slovenijo (Prime Minister Borut Pahor: The climate-energy package good for the EU and Slovenia), 12 December 2008, available at: http://www.kpv.gov.si/nc/si/splosno/cns/novica/article/252/3378/ (last access: 26 January 2009).


[3] Veronika Boškovic-Pohar/Tina Štrafela, directorate for co-ordination of the Government Office for European Affairs: Written comments to the EU-27 Watch Questionnaire, 2008.


[4] Ibid.


[5] Ibid.


[6] RTVSLO: EU: Volitve pred vrati, pravega zanimanja ni (EU: No real interest for the upcoming elections), 24 January 2009, available at: http://www.rtvslo.si/modload.php?&c_mod=rnews&op=sections&func=read&c_me... (last access: 26 January 2009).


[7] Veronika Boškovic-Pohar/Tina Štrafela, directorate for co-ordination of the Government Office for European Affairs: Written comments to the EU-27 Watch Questionnaire, 2008; Interview at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana, 23 January 2009.


[8] Interview at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana, 23 January 2009.