What are the priorities of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the European Union with regards to international development cooperation and humanitarian aid? Igor Jukič, Acting Director-General of the Directorate for Multilateral Affairs and Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs touches on some of the highlights, like the preparations for the AU-EU Summit, implementation of the NDICI-Global Europe regulation and efforts to implement Agenda 2030.
- How will Slovenia enable and empower the voice of African and European civil societies in the EU-African partnership shaping the AU-EU Summit, which is taking place in the spring of 2022? What role will Slovenia play in the preparatory meetings leading up to the AU-EU Summit?
The ministerial meeting will probably take place in October, with the AU-EU Summit following in the first quarter of 2022. The President of the European Council plays a crucial role in the organization of summits, and a big part of the preparations will take place during Slovenia‘s presidency of the Council.
In order to keep this partnership at the top of our agenda, a so-called “mini” AU-EU Summit is planned prior to the ministerial meeting. Slovenia will ensure that Africa is a regular topic on the daily agenda of the Working Party on Development Cooperation and International Partnerships (CODEV-PI).
Slovenia recognizes the role of civil society in the AU-EU partnership; its contribution is also an important part of preparing for the upcoming AU-EU Summit. At the Summit in Abidjan (2017) Slovenia was one of the few countries to include a civil society representative into its delegation.
- The new Post-Cotonou Agreement is not very clear on the mechanisms of civil society cooperation. Will the Slovenian presidency consult civil society stakeholders about concrete mechanisms for cooperation in the implementation of the Agreement? If so, would the presidency be open to hosting such a consultation with e.g. the SLOGA Platform and the European NGO confederation CONCORD?
Slovenia has already worked towards strengthening civil society cooperation and a multi-stakeholder partnership during the formulation of the EU negotiating mandate for the new Agreement, as well as during negotiations for a new Agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP).
This new agreement represents one of the key dossiers of the Slovenian presidency in the area of development cooperation.
Slovenia is advocating for the importance of civil society cooperation during its presidency. The ACP Working Party will host CONCORD as part of its partner dialogue. This will include civil society stakeholders into the discussion surrounding cooperation mechanisms. At this point in our Council presidency we are focussing on the legal nature of the new agreement and on other internal processes leading up to its signing, which is planned for the first half of 2022.
- Will the NDICI – Global Europe financial instrument present a key source of funding for activities in ACP counties?
The Neighborhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI – Global Europe) is a new and comprehensive instrument of EU foreign policy and as such will be a key source of funding in the ACP countries. In this sense it will replace the funding from the European Development Fund (EDF), which was the main funding instrument for activities in this geographic region in the previous Multiannual Financial Framework.
- NDICI – Global Europe is an entirely new instrument and a new framework for EU development activities. What are the biggest challenges of the coming months, and what are Slovenia’s priorities?
The importance of this comprehensive instrument goes beyond the development context and represents one of the main EU tools for implementing its common foreign policy. NDICI covers practically the entire world, with the exception of the Western Balkans, which are the domain of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA III).
In the course of its presidency Slovenia is working to lay the groundwork for the implementation of the NDICI – Global Europe regulation, while striving for the correct institutional balance. Slovenia is planning to merge the geographic approach with the horizontal one and ensure the programming process receives its due attention.
- How can civil society support inclusive programming processes of the instrument in partner states?
The programming process is in full swing, strategic documents with partner states will be adopted by the end of this year.
Civil society is an important stakeholder in the entire process of both programming the instrument in partner states, and implementing the development activities of the EU. The on-the-ground experience and knowledge of local civil society and NGOs are relevant, so it‘s important to advocate for an inclusive approach.
Slovenia has consistently advocated fur such an approach during negotiations for the new instrument NDICI – Global Europe. We are continuing with the activities that were already begun by Germany and Portugal during their presidencies. Programming is a process that primarily plays out on the ground, with leading roles taken on by the European Commission and EU delegations in partner states, as well as development agencies and financial institutions. Slovenia is striving toward transparent and inclusive work practices, which includes all member states, their development agencies or implementing institutions, and civil society in an equal measure.
- In the past couple of months EU member states, along with priority partner states, are turning their attention to the special initiatives that they plan to work on within the Team Europe Initiative (TEI) framework. Germany alone has already identified over 70 different initiatives in cooperation with partner states. What is Slovenia planning in this arena? What and where are its priorities?
The Team Europe (TE) approach is an important part of programming, and promotes the values and interests of the EU while also improving the recognizability and efficiency of EU measures and policies.
Slovenia is interested in projects in Latin America, especially those connected to the green transition and implementation of Agenda 2030. At the same time, we are actively considering our opportunities for cooperation in TE initiatives. Currently we are identifying potential projects on the topic of water and bees.
We support the potential for better cooperation and a greater impact and visibility of EU activities in partner states. In terms of content, we’re giving special attention to intersectional topics such as gender equality, and due to the effects of the pandemic to global health and food security as well. In terms of implementation modalities we welcome a systematic use of technical support, including the initiative for a unified EU portal for technical support.
- What plans does the Slovenian presidency have with regards to human development?
The Slovenian presidency is addressing this topic in the context of COVID-19 recovery. A key challenge remains in the EU striking a balance between supporting green recovery in partner states while also ensuring a measurable influence on human development through the building of more just and resilient societies.
- What can Slovenian civil society expect from the Slovenian presidency on the topic of “Working Better Together”?
Slovenia has traditionally been a proponent of dialogue and a multi-stakeholder approach. This is all the more important in this current period of EU resource programming, which is primarily taking place on the ground with EU delegations in a key role.
- During the Portuguese presidency, the Council of the EU passed measures regarding the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). What next steps will the Council take in realizing these measures during the Slovenian presidency?
The conclusions adopted by the Council regarding the European financial architecture for development (EFAD), which were confirmed by the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), are important in this context. The subject of financial architecture for the implementation of SDGs is an integral part of the work of the Slovenian presidency. This includes regular briefings by both the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). It’s important that the conclusions explicitly cover the inclusion of smaller financial institutions into the joint development work of the EU.
- Gender equality is a priority of Slovenian international development cooperation and humanitarian aid, and the EU and its member states are also working on the empowerment of women and girls and the strengthening of gender equality and equal opportunities. However, disagreements between member states are endangering progress with regards to the 5th SDG, all that in a year in which the health crisis triggered by COVID-19 already exposed its unequal influence on women and endangered the implementation of SDGs. How will Slovenia work towards an inclusive implementation of GAP III?
Gender equality, as well as the social and economic empowerment of women, present the intersectional priority of the Working Party CODEV-PI and The Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA). It is also a priority of the European Commission (EU Gender Equality Strategy) and its development work. On the 25th of November 2020 the European Commission published the 3. Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in External Action (GAP III), with Slovenia supporting the presidency‘s resolutions concerning GAP III.
On the operative level, Slovenian embassies have been instructed to work with EU delegations in partner states in the joint preparation of implementation plans for GAP III in partner states.
GAP III encourages a transformative and cross-sectional approach and anticipates the inclusion of the gender equality aspect into all policies and measures. The goal of GAP III is to eliminate the structural causes of gender inequality and gender-based discrimination.
- What are the plans of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU pertaining to policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) and the European Action Plan for the social economy?
During its presidency of the Council of the EU, Slovenia is integrating these topics into the work of the Working Parties, as well as through presentations of NGOs in the CODEV-PI Working Party.
On a national level, Slovenia’s plans with regards to policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) include a project by the Slovenian Research Agency on the topic of “policy coherence and (sustainable) development – a study of the effects of Slovenian national policies on developing countries and sustainable development of Slovenia.” This two-year project (2021 – 2023) will take a comprehensive look at PCSD.
- How will the Slovenian presidency work towards future European projects in Africa concerning sustainability, human rights, environmental protection and especially due diligence?
Current programming within the NDICI-Global Europe and Team Europe frameworks point towards a growing awareness among different development stakeholders in the EU about the importance of more coherent action, including political dialogue and combining different forms of development aid. There is also a need to more consistently promote the basic values and principles of the EU in the work of both the EU and its member states in partner states. The introduction of the EU taxonomy classification system represents important progress in the environmental aspect of sustainable development, while its social aspects are embraced on a systemic level through political dialogue and technical support, as well as on the project level.
- The SLOGA Platform and our members are very active in the arena of global education on the national, as well as the European and international level. Is the Slovenian presidency planning any events on the topic of global education? What is the position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on global education and public awareness raising? In other words, what contribution could global education make towards an open, fair and sustainable Europe in the world, of which Slovenia is also a part?
Both global education and the raising of awareness about the importance of international development cooperation play a supporting role in the shaping of global, European, and national policies surrounding international development cooperation and humanitarian aid. In Slovenia our focus is on capacity-building for effective implementation of international development cooperation and the promotion of active participation of interested parties in the shaping of policy direction in this area. The international development cooperation and humanitarian aid strategy until 2030 include a number of measures aimed at strengthening global education, though their implementation was objectively somewhat delayed due to other priority measures in the educational system, caused by COVID-19 and by the other priorities that came up in international development cooperation projects due to the pandemic.
- How will Slovenia get involved with the Global Education Network Europe (GENE) process, which will lead to the development of a new European Declaration on Global Education to 2050?
The European Declaration on Global Education is an important topic, which will be given its due attention within the framework of our broader concern with human security.
- Is the Slovenian presidency planning any special conclusions of the Council on the topic of humanitarian aid?
All humanitarian activity must be led by a desire to improve the life quality and preserve the dignity of populations impacted by humanitarian crises. While facing new challenges, the Slovenian presidency is striving to assert the principles of humanitarian work – for humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
The European Commission’s communication on the EU’s humanitarian action titled “new challenges, same principles” (March 2021) and the Council’s conclusions on the EU’s humanitarian action are important guideposts for the Slovenian presidency. In both documents, both the European Commission and EU member states highlight key humanitarian challenges and express concern about the growing gap between humanitarian needs and the available aid.
The Council of the EU adopted conclusions regarding EU’s humanitarian action on the 20th of May 2021 in answer to the European Commission’s communication of March 2021. The conclusions reiterate its commitment to more successfully facing the new challenges of humanitarian action while maintaining the same humanitarian principles that have guided it so far. It is a key task of the Council of the EU, and therefore of the EU member states, to implement the adopted conclusions.
This is why the aforementioned conclusions and the European Commission communication provide the guidelines and framework for the Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA) during the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU. Slovenia is giving special attention to promoting and monitoring the implementation of these conclusions. More broadly, the process of preparing Council conclusions on the water will address the topic in a humanitarian context, and the decisions will be prepared and coordinated in the Working Party CODEV-PI.
We are paying special attention to the most vulnerable populations, especially women and forcibly displaced persons. Humanitarian policies must be inclusive policies that don’t leave anyone behind. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the importance of providing for the most vulnerable and marginalized communities.