Slovenia: EU Presidency preparations heading down the homestretch

Slovenia: EU Presidency preparations heading down the homestretch

The EU presidency, which Slovenia will assume in the second half of the year, will be even more demanding than usual owing to the coronavirus pandemic, Gregor Štajer, head of the government secretariat in charge of presidency organisation, told the Slovenian News Agency (Slovenska Tiskovna Agencija STA).

Štajer said the events calendar is not ready for public release yet, adding that the way things stand at the moment, Slovenia will be hosting 185 events.

The most demanding event in terms of organisation will be the EU leaders Summit. September will be very challenging as well, with Slovenia hosting the annual Bled Strategic Forum, as well as sessions of EU foreign ministers and defence ministers.

Another major event, STA recalls in its report, will be a summit to be held on the Western Balkans, scheduled for the first half of October. These are some of the currently planned 19 events at ministerial or higher level.

The remaining 166 events will be held at sub-ministerial level, said Štajer. Seventy events are organised by his secretariat and the rest by ministries.

It is unclear whether these meetings will take place in person or online, as it will all come down to the epidemiological situation, said Štajer. It has already been decided that 35 events will be held online.

The secretariat remains in regular consultation with a group comprising representatives of the Health Ministry and the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ). For each event, it will be decided at least 30 days before the scheduled date whether this will be held in person or online.

“It’s the minimum period we need to organise an event,” said Štajer.

Moreover, the situation may deteriorate during this time to such an extent that an event planned to be held in person will still have to be moved online, he noted.

Štajer noted that if a decision was to be made now on the format of an event scheduled to take place in a month’s time, they would recommend it be carried out online. Everything will depend on the COVID protocol in place at the given moment.

“No doubt this might be the biggest logistical challenge. We’re preparing for both scenarios, but a decision will be hard to make […] The safety of people will take precedence. If we allow an in-person event, more or less normal conditions must be ensured.”

Meals in particular will be one of the biggest problems, as people take off their masks to eat. Those organising events will be looking for providers with large-enough dining rooms. The same will apply to venues hosting in-person conferences. Events at ministerial or higher levels are to be held at the Brdo pri Kranju estate.

As regards lower-level events, those are scheduled to take place at Brdo and Ljubljana, as well as Bled, Portorož and Maribor. The organisers are also thinking about setting up a central videoconference point in Ljubljana for virtual events.

A public call for bids was issued in autumn for technical equipment, and contracts are now being signed so that individual ministries will be able to move forward with the organisation of some events themselves, said Štajer.

A call for bids for transport services is still ongoing. It accounts for a major part of the presidency budget, which has been estimated at EUR 80 million. If most events take place online, the expenses may be lower. /ibna