Continuity is especially important when it comes to tackling certain contentious issues in the EU. Regardless of which member state currently holds the Presidency of the EU Council, solutions to major issues such as the rule of law, migration or climate change mitigation require constant political impetus. This is the only way to create a chance of achieving the necessary reforms, as implementing them in a six-month period is hardly achievable. Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth and his colleagues Gašper Dovžan and Ana Paula Zacarias will meet today via videolink to discuss the most important policy areas of Germany’s Council Presidency that will also be of relevance for the presidencies of Portugal (1st half of 2021) and Slovenia (2nd half of 2021).
Promoting the rule of law
The Trio partners hope to bolster respect for the rule of law as a fundamental value of the EU. The new dialogue on the rule of law initiated by Germany will serve as a preventive, forward-looking mechanism enabling open and constructive exchange between member states. In this way, the Federal Government hopes to promote a common awareness and understanding in regard to the rule of law. On 13 October, a “horizontal discussion” was held at EU level for the first time. The first country-specific dialogue, involving Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark and Estonia, will take place at the forthcoming General Affairs Council on 17 November. Portugal and Slovenia have announced their intention to vigorously continue this dialogue during their presidencies and ensure that the issue remains very high on their agenda.
COVID-19, Common European Asylum System, Enlargement
Like the Croatian Presidency before it, Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union is unfolding under particularly difficult conditions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On one hand, restrictions on in-person events have made work in Brussels and Strasbourg much more difficult to organise. On the other, there is an urgent need for coordination and action on issues pertaining to economic recovery in the EU, as well as concrete measures against the pandemic and distribution of a possible vaccine. Accordingly, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia have made tackling the pandemic and its social and economic repercussions a central theme of their Trio Presidency. Swift completion of the consultations on the multiannual financial framework and on the recovery instrument Next Generation EU is an especially high priority for the Trio. Moreover, the Trio partners aim to strengthen the Council’s decision-making capacity and further improve coordination within the EU.
The European Commission has issued a proposal on reforming the Common European Asylum System. Germany, Portugal and Slovenia hope to adopt this package during their Trio Presidency and continue to make progress in this regard. While a political agreement is the next important step, practical implementation will also remain on the agenda during the Portuguese Presidency. Solidarity and shared responsibility within the EU with regard to both the internal and external dimensions of the issue are of fundamental importance in this context.
EU enlargement is another central issue of the Trio Presidency. The three EU partners are working towards opening the first conferences on EU accession with North Macedonia and Albania. Here too, whichever country holds the Council Presidency must engage in constant and often complex negotiations in order to make progress, especially on issues requiring compromise.