The last days of the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council are marked by the handover of the French Presidency files. During the Slovenian Presidency, the following themes were highlighted:
- the process of preparation for the signing of the Post-Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, to which NGOs have also devoted a great deal of attention, in particular on how to ensure the involvement of civil society in the implementation of the Post-Cotonou Agreement;
- the implementation of the EU’s new financial instrument for neighbourhood, development and international cooperation (Global Europe) – which was the focus of this year’s Aidwatch 2021 shadow report by CONCORD NGOs;
- climate policy – where SLOGA members, in cooperation with European organisations, set clear expectations for the Slovenian Presidency and announced a comprehensive performance assessment; and
- the importance of water in the European Union’s external action, where the Slovenian Presidency succeeded in drawing conclusions on future “water diplomacy”.
Slovenian priority: water
During the Slovenian Presidency, Slovenia has devoted considerable attention to water governance and management, in line with its political priorities (Resolution on MRS and IHP, Strategy on MRS and IHP). Even before the official assumption of the Presidency itself, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with international partners, organised a series of events and meetings that contributed to the formulation and support of the EU Council Conclusions on the water in the EU’s external action. With these conclusions, the EU has built on the 2013 conclusion that water has finally entered the field of external policy. In adopting the conclusions, the EU Council pointed out that “water scarcity has the potential to affect peace and security, as water-related risks can have a very high human and economic cost, all of which can have direct consequences for the EU, including in the form of migration flows.” The Council called on the EU to strengthen “EU diplomatic efforts in the field of water as a tool for peace, security and stability” and condemned the use of water as a weapon. It is therefore important to step up efforts to promote transboundary and integrated water management and effective water governance. Slovenia has a great deal of experience in this area, notably through the Sava Agreement, the first-ever agreement between the countries of the Sava River basin.
NGOs welcomed the adoption of the conclusions also because the EU reaffirmed its commitment to “the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation as integral parts of the right to an adequate standard of living.” This underlined the commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 6 (“ensure access to water and sanitation for all and ensure sustainable management of water resources”), which is key to achieving the other Sustainable Development Goals. As Sophie Aujeun of WaterAid pointed out, the EU now has a unique opportunity to properly integrate the newly set water priority into its policies and programmes in the coming months, or in Slovenian, to move from words to action.
Towards AU-EU Summit
The French presidency will be held under the auspices of national, presidential elections in April 2022. In the area of development cooperation, the French programme places a strong emphasis on the African Union-European Union Summit to be held in Brussels on 17-18 February. We have written to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, Janez Janša, about this meeting as part of a major advocacy campaign. In our appeal, we stressed the need to design the AU-EU Summit in such a way that countries strengthen human development activities (social security, education, health care, working conditions), ensure the involvement and participation of civil society in the preparatory process for the Summit and at the Summit itself, and draw particular attention to the importance of forest and water management, in the context of biodiversity protection, for food security.
The Slovenian Presidency is coming to an end, but the work continues. In fact, this means that from the new year onwards, Slovenia will have greater opportunities to take the initiative and advocate progressive solutions to the challenges of development cooperation and humanitarian aid. As the country holding the Presidency, it was bound to work towards reaching an agreement on legislative proposals, which means, in other words, that it acted as an impartial negotiator, seeking the lowest common denominator.