Only three years after its entry to the European Union membership, Slovenia took on the EU presidency yesterday (1 January) landing itself a highly politicized agenda. This small country will be dealing with numerous issues, over the next six months, amongst which the Kosovo question and the EU renewable energy package are set to dominate the agenda. Slovenia has reluctantly inherited the thorny issue of the future status of Kosovo. EU member states are only slowly working themselves towards a unified approach on what to do when confronted with Kosovo's likely future bid for independence.

Matters are likely to come to a political head after the Serbian presidential elections on 20 January and 3 February. Kosovo indicated in December it would wait until February to make any independence declaration. This will also give the EU time to work out what it means by "coordinated procedure" - the process by which…

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On 1st January, at midnight, Cyprus and Malta adopted the European currency , which will replace the Cypriot pound and the Maltese lira, bringing the number of EU states using the euro to 15 out of the 27 member states. They will add around 1.2 million people to the euro zone - some 800,000 Cypriots and around 400,000 Maltese - bringing the number of those EU citizens using the Euro as a national currency to 320 million out of the EU's total 495-million large population.

Cyprus and Malta got the green light to introduce the euro in May 2007, after fulfilling the necessary criteria, including a government deficit lower than three percent of GDP, a government debt not higher than 60 percent of GDP, as well as price and exchange rate stability.

The Euro could also bring the economies of the divided island closer together, as the northern Turkish…

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The EU's borderless zone expanded to nine mostly eastern European countries at midnight on Friday (21 December) in its biggest enlargement so far. Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - which all joined the EU in 2004 - are part of this enlargement to the so-called Schengen area. Land and sea border checks between them and the other Schengen countries are now abolished, while air borders are set to follow on 30 March 2008.

While many EU citizens are looking forward to the free movement regime, others have expressed fears that it will lead to an increase of crime and illegal immigration. Politicians dismissed the fears, however. Schengen "is not about criminality, it is not about insecurity or fear. It is a bigger zone of peace, security and stability", Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said in Slovakia on Thursday (20 December). European Commission president Jose…

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The current Standard Eurobarometer, Eurobarometer 68 was carried out between September 22nd and November 3rd 2007. This Autumn Standard Eurobarometer covers 31 countries or territories: The 27 EU Member States, the three candidate countries (Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey) and the Turkish Cypriot Community in the area not controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus. In both Luxembourg (+21, to stand at -4), Greece (+19, to stand at -17) and Croatia (+17 to stand at -1) there has been a significant increase in economic confidence from the more pessimistic outlook seen in Spring of this year. Support for future EU membership is running very high in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (76% think this would be a good thing). In the other candidate countries it stands at 49% in Turkey and 35% in Croatia. Given that overall results are very close to those…

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A new cooperation agreement between CoR and EESC was signed on 17th December, by the presidents of the two institutions, Michel Delebarre and Dimitris Dimitriadis, and their secretaries-general, Gerhard Stahl and Patrick Venturini. The first agreement was signed in 1999, following the provisions introduced by the Amsterdam Treaty. This agreement established the joint services of the two Committees. The aim was to allow the Committee of the Regions to acquire functional maturity and to encourage co-operation which would be mutually beneficial to both institutions. The CoR and the EESC thus entered upon a form of interinstitutional cooperation which was without precedent in the EU. The joint services, which provide a real "production chain" for the two Committees, particularly with regard to translation needs, currently employ some 700 officials, with a budget of EUR 38.5 million. The new agreement will take effect on 1 January 2008 and will run for a…

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On 17th December, just few days after the document was formally signed off by EU leaders in a formal ceremony in Lisbon, Hungary ratified the new EU treaty as the first of the 27 member states. A parliamentary vote saw 325 votes in favor, 5 votes against and 14 abstentions for the new set of rules, according to Austrian news agency APA. Reacting to the vote, Hungary's prime minister praised the "historic achievement" of his country. In taking the ratification step so quickly, Budapest has stolen the crown from Poland and France, both of whom had indicated they were aiming to be the first. The new EU treaty takes on most of the features of the rejected European constitution, including a foreign policy chief, a long-term president of the EU, a binding citizens rights charter as well as cutting down on the areas where member states have a right to…

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This is the title of a communication that the European Commissioner for regional policy, Danuta Hübner, presented on 12th December. The communication is a part of the Lisbon package and it was elaborated in collaboration with the Commissioner for social affairs and employment, Vladimir Spidla. It illustrates how the regions are implementing cohesion policy to attain the Lisbon objectives for 2007-13 and gives an insight in the national programmes and strategies elaborated by the EU27. It also shows that most of the cohesion policy budget (a total of €347bn) will be invested in key priorities in the Lisbon strategy, notably research, innovation, technology, helping workers adapt to changes in society, improved labor market access, mitigating the consequences of climate change.

There are now 450 cohesion policy programmes which will be created as part of the Cohesion Fund and European Social Fund, explained the Commissioner. The main changes come through the…

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Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Danish Prime Minister, announced last week that his government had decided not to hold a referendum on ratification of the new Reform Treaty of the EU, signed on Thursday 13 December by the heads of state and government in Lisbon ("The Lisbon Treaty"). This was a result of a conclusion that Denmark's sovereignty was not placed in jeopardy by the new treaty. "When sovereignty is in question, then a referendum is needed. When this is not the case, Parliament may ratify the text", Rasmussen explained. At this stage, only Ireland is certain that it will organize a referendum, probably in the summer of 2008

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