Portugal's Foreign Minister Luis Amado officially handed over the European Union presidency to his Slovenian counterpart, Dimitrij Rupel on January 1.

The small Balkan nation, which borders Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy, became the first formerly communist-ruled country and new European Union member to take over the rotating post.

It will hold the position for six months before passing the baton to France on July 1.

Rupel said recently that Slovenia will push for speedy ratification of the EU treaty and pursue efforts to deal with global warming and a unified stance on the future of Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province.

He said Slovenia will seek to heal divisions within the union over plans by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority to declare independence.

Kosovo leaders have vowed to declare independence in early 2008, but said they will act in coordination with the European Union and the United States. Some EU members fear such a move, contending it could fuel separatist movements within their borders.

Slovenia also faces a continued dispute with neighboring Croatia over an economic zone in the Adriatic Sea.

The European Union on Sunday warned Croatia that its plans to close a huge Adriatic fishing zone could hurt Croatian chances of gaining entry into the trade bloc by 2010.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.