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[Interview] We are ready to take over the presidency of the Union (Janez Lenarcic)

(B2) A few weeks before Slovenia takes over the presidency of the EU, I asked, in turn, Prime Minister Janez Janša and his Secretary of State for European Affairs Janez Lenarčič to present their vision to us of his next six months

NB: After the first part of the interview (read: Janez Jansa (Slovenia): The interest of Europe, that the Balkans adhere), here is the second part of the interview

The 27 have agreed on a new European treaty, you breathe a "phew" of relief?

- In a certain way. But we are not out of the woods. After the signing in December, it will not be the end, we are not at the beginning, but at the beginning of the end. We can say that it will be over when the 27 have ratified the treaty. Our role will be to gently assist countries in this phase of ratification.

Under your presidency, the ratifications will take place. Some, in the European Parliament for example, recommend doing this procedure in a grouped way, in a single month, for example. What do you think ?

_ It's very interesting in principle. But we must take into account that the Member States all have different ratification procedures. And there are considerable differences, from state to state. Some states can do it very quickly. Others need more time, due to their internal procedures. What is important is that each Member State does its utmost to start the procedure as soon as possible and in the most complete way. And that after the signature, we immediately start the ratification procedure. Then, everyone has to go their own way.

In a few weeks, you will take over the presidency, the first State of the twelve new States resulting from enlargement, you have no apprehension, is everything ready?

— We are very aware of the challenge for our country of two million inhabitants to preside over a European Union with 500 million inhabitants and 27 Member States, the largest single market on the planet. We have been preparing for this for months. And we will be available to be as efficient as possible, with good cooperation from the European institutions.

Precisely how your state, which is only fifteen years old, will be able to ensure a presence in the world

- We are not alone. France is helping us. It is the fundamental rule of the Union which states that if the presidency does not have an embassy in the country, it is the country which has the next presidency which represents it. Slovenia is carrying out this mission today for the European Union in Podgorica (Montenegro) and Skopje (Macedonia) on behalf of the Portuguese Presidency of the Union. France will perform this function in more than 100 embassies around the world where Slovenia is not directly represented. We are very satisfied with this cooperation.

Under your presidency, do you want to speed up the accession of the Balkan countries?

— Yes, it is one of the most important priorities. Slovenia borders on these regions. And these regions are a part of Europe. This is a clear fact for us. Not just because there was the agenda set at the Thessaloniki European Council in 2003. It is time again for us to forcefully reaffirm this possibility. Our message is: your place is in the European Union. Welcome. But you have to do your part of the effort to move towards membership ».

Can we make one or two packages for these memberships?

'I don't believe in a block pass. I believe in it all the less because when we were a candidate country, we were against it. So we will not support one package processing. But we can, we must support regional cooperation. As fast as possible to be the fastest and the best while moving forward (Fast to be fast. Better to best to go line).

And a joining date?

“I'm not sure about setting a date for the future. We know that they do not meet all the criteria for membership. What we can do is increase assistance to these countries. For the countries whose report from the European Commission is good, it will be easier for us to do something. For others, it will be more difficult. The presidency cannot do more. We must also motivate them in this path with a simple message: you will be!

Is Kosovo more complicated?

“It's very, very difficult. We strongly wish to maintain a single line in the European Union. If the Union is divided on this question, it will be a very bad wind, from all points of view, for defense policy, for European unity...

(comment collected by Nicolas Gros-Verheyde for Europolitique)


Janez Lenarčič in a nutshell

Born in Ljubljana in 1967, graduated in law, Janez Lenarcic held his first position, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1992, on international economic relations. He then moved to the permanent representation of Slovenia at the United Nations in New York (1994 – 1999), then became advisor on international relations to the Prime Minister. In 2001, he became Secretary of State and participated in the work of the Convention on the European Constitution. Ambassador to the OSCE in 2003, he was appointed Secretary of State for European Affairs in May 2006 and was, in this capacity, one of the negotiators ('focal point') of the Lisbon Treaty.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).