Slovak Presidency priorities discussed in committee

The priorities of the Slovak Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers are being outlined to parliamentary committees by Slovak ministers at a series of meetings, during this week and in September.

Development: humanitarian assistance, particularly to women and children in crisis areas

A key issue for the Presidency is to make the international humanitarian system more efficient, coordinated and flexible, using the momentum created by the recent World Humanitarian Summit, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs Lukáš Parízek told the Development Committee on 12 July. The situation of women and children in crisis areas calls for a better response too, he added.

MEPs welcomed this agenda and urged Mr Parízek to make sure that no development money is diverted to support security or for other purposes.

Industry, Research and Energy: telecoms, 5G, China, Horizon 2020

The telecoms packages, including moving to a roaming charge-free system by 2017 and renegotiating use of mobile spectrum for 5G, are among the Presidency priorities, Minister of Economy Peter Žiga, told the Industry, Research and Energy Committee on 12 July.

On the issue of China’s market economy status, the Presidency will “proceed very carefully”, but there will be “sufficient protection for European industry”, Transport, Construction and Regional Development Minister Roman Brecely told MEPs.

The Presidency will also aim to foster innovation, use the Horizon 2020 programme to the full and bring the European space programme to fruition, added Minister of Education, Science, Research and Sport Peter Plavčan.

Agriculture: farm crisis, unfair trading practices, trade talks, organics and forestry

The need for common European solidarity-based solutions to the agricultural crisis and unfair trading practices was stressed by Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Gabriela Matečná, in a debate with the Agriculture Committee on 13 July. The Presidency will seek to make progress on draft proposal on organic products, veterinary medicinal products and medicated feed laws, she said. Simplifying EU farm policy, promoting sustainable forestry and advocating a balanced trade deals will be also high on the agenda, she added.

MEPs stressed that the difficulties on agricultural markets demand further action now, adding that they expect Commissioner Phil Hogan to come up with new measures on 18 July and discuss them with the committee the next day.

Public Health: medical devices, veterinary medicines, availability of medicines

The Presidency will formalise the agreement between the institutions on medical devices in September, Health minister Tomáš Drucker told Environment and Public Health Committee on 13 July. Work will also focus on veterinary medicinal product legislation, with the aim of obtaining a mandate for negotiation with MEPs. The availability of medicines, “a critical issue for patients and growing problem in Europe”, he said, will also be among the Presidency priorities.

Regional Development: implementation of the new EU cohesion policy, Omnibus, Urban Agenda

The need to assess the benefits of the recent EU cohesion policy reform innovations and simplify implementing mechanisms was stressed by Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and the Information Society Peter Pellegrini, on 13 July, in a debate with the Regional Development Committee. Mr Pellegrini said that the Presidency will focus on the structural reform support programme, the Omnibus regulation and the Urban Agenda.

Replying to MEPs’ questions, Mr Pellegrini agreed on the need to improve the reputation of cohesion policy and raise awareness among citizens on its results and benefits.

Foreign affairs: EU enlargement, EU-NATO, visa requirements

Regaining the credibility of EU enlargement policy, which is the best EU tool to promote reforms in the neighbourhood, while maintaining the conditionality principle and assessing each country’s progress, is a key Presidency priority, Foreign and European affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák, told the Foreign Affairs Committee on 12 July.

MEPs welcomed the Presidency’s focus on enlargement, hoping the current slowdown could be overcome. Several asked Mr Lajčák to ensure the swift implementation of EU-NATO declaration on mutual capabilities and timely lifting of EU visa requirements for Georgia and Ukraine.

Legal Affairs: e-justice, copyright, whistleblower protection

More efficient cross-border judicial cooperation with emphasis on ‘e-justice’ – electronic communication in the justice field – is high the Presidency’s agenda, as are progress in creating a digital single market and copyright reform, Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská and State Secretary at the Culture Ministry Ivan Sečík, told the Legal Affairs Committee on 12 July.

MEPs highlighted the importance of whistle-blower protection and progress on the shareholders’ rights directive. A priority stressed by both sides was revising the so-called ”Brussels IIa regulation” to help international couples resolve disputes, involving more than one country, over divorce and child custody.

Fisheries: sustainable management of fishing fleets, data collection, North Sea

The need to ensure fish stocks are sustainable and to protect the EU’s thriving fisheries sector was stressed by Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Gabriela Matečná on 12 July, in a debate with the Fisheries Committee. Ms Matečná said the Presidency will focus on the following legislative files: the data collection framework, the sustainable management of external fishing fleets, the technical measures regulation and the Commission proposal on the North Sea management plan, which it is to table this summer.

Replying to MEPs’ questions on the implications of Brexit, Ms Matečná said it is rather early to discuss this and that it will be examined once Article 50 is triggered.

Transport: aviation safety, electric vehicles, ICAO and IMO

Ongoing revision of aviation safety rules and preparing EU positions for the next ICAO and IMO meetings, will be the Presidency priorities, Transport, Construction and Regional Development Minister Roman Brecely told the Transport Committee on 12 July. He also stressed the need to boost take-up of electric vehicles and cycling.

MEPs asked the minister about the effects of minimum wages in Germany and France on the transport single market, initiatives for road transport and decarbonisation, ensuring EU funding for transport projects, whether a European or a global approach to ETS should be preferred and progress on air passenger rights.