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President Pahor attends the 24th Consultations of Slovenian Diplomats

Brdo pri Kranju, 3. 9. 2020 | press release, speech

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, attended the 24th Consultations of Slovenian Diplomats at Brdo pri Kranju, where he addressed Slovenian ambassadors and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

President Pahor attends the 24th Consultations of Slovenian Diplomats
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

We here publish transcript of the speech delivered by Borut Pahor, President of the Republic of Slovenia. Check against delivery!

"Dear Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

first of all, let me begin with expressions of gratitude to you, Minister, and to all of you, Ambassadors, Diplomats, who are committed to your work for the benefit and interest of our country.

The foreign policy aims to promote our national interests in the international community, and I would like to say a few words about this, starting with the concern I have for the European Union.

Dear Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

ever since the May Declaration, where we linked democracy and independence of Slovenia to the European idea, we were committed to the European idea and the accession to the European Union. Our activity in it has been linked to the desire, ambition and commitment to make it easier to assert our national interests. At the same time, the European Union is our homeland. It is the goal and lever of our national desires. It is our vital interest.

However, as far as I can remember, and you may correct me if I am mistaken, we have always had before our eyes a unified European Union. The Member States have always experienced different levels, speed, of integration, some are members of Schengen area, some are in Eurozone, and others were not.

The concern I am talking about is about a new division, which I do not think is in the interest of the Republic of Slovenia. I am talking about dividing the European Union into west and east. Perhaps some of you will judge that these worries are premature, that they are irrelevant, that they are superfluous, if this is the case, I will be relieved later. Since it is for the tenth time in a row that I am at such a consultation I believe I need to be honest with you. It will be easier for you to understand the actions I take as the President of the Republic both in the European as well as in foreign policy.

For some time now, the European Union has been at a standstill, in the throes. It is weaker on the inside and weaker on the outside than we would like; all this is triggering various reactions to this situation.

Even at the time when this was the case, we in Slovenia adopted a foreign policy strategy and said that Slovenia sees its place in core Europe, in a deepened and wider one. By saying that, we wanted to express everything that has to do with our ambitions for the European Union in the future. We have taken part in various regional initiatives, and we have never understood them as a kind of integration that would run counter to a unified European Union, but, on the contrary, as something that strengthens the unity of the European Union. Here, I bear in mind various initiatives at the governmental, ministerial and presidential level. If I stick to my level, here are the Brdo-Brijuni Process, the Three Seas Initiative, and are other forms of cooperation that strengthen the connectedness between the countries in the region to contribute to this deepened and broader Europe. Never before I ever seen as I see today, the danger that there could be some division that would be different in quality – and these are the divisions as mentioned earlier into east and west. Where the iron curtain once hung, a velvet curtain may hang in the future. I think it is in our best interest that it does not come to this. I am talking about this being possible, not necessarily, but insofar as there are historical and other reasons that further events could lead to this. It seems to me that it is in the interest of our country and of our diplomacy that we try to do everything possible to keep the 27 as united as possible. We should greet all the Member States in the euro-area. We should make all the Member States part of the Schengen area someday, and to keep such differences between us to a minimum. At the end, let me reiterate that we Slovenes have always had the European Union in front of us from the very beginning, and we saw it as a unified, internally and externally strong, and as a global actor. I think we always agreed that its weakness, even division, would weaken its strength, both inwardly and outwardly.

I think we are now witnessing some hesitation as to what will happen at this time of stagnation for several years. I have always relied on the fact that the two leading powers, France and Germany, together with us and other countries, will be able to find the strength at the right time to get out of this stalemate, with united powers. I still believe that this is the case, and the fact that you, Minister, have invited the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs to this consultation seems to be a wonderful and brilliant decision. We will see what this eminent guest can tell us about this capacity and this power.

I ask you to understand this concern in some perspective. My concern is not related to tomorrow or the coming year. Still, it depicts my reflections on the development of the European Union over the last decade, practically from the major expansion onwards. This concern may be relevant for the future if we do not become even slightly more active. We need to start using the Conference on the Future of Europe and many other institutions to come up with some solutions for the renewal. The European Union has to be reborn, which in my opinion would also be in our interest. To be clear, this does not stop Slovenia from actively participating in various groups, as I said; from the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law and the recently established C5 Group to the Three Seas Initiative.

Interestingly, I hosted the Three Seas Initiative last year, and one would say that this is an initiative that may further contribute to the division of Europe. Perhaps, but it is precisely why last year I insisted that, as a host, I also invite the German President to eliminate some fears about new division. When I was present at the creation of 3SI in Dubrovnik when it came to light at the initiative of the Polish President and the Croatian President, I said that I wanted the high-ranking European representatives to be involved as soon as possible. They have already joined us a year later in Romania. The Brdo-Brijuni Process is an initiative that wants to make it possible to establish the South-Eastern Europe, i.e., the Western Balkans, as an integral part of the European Union as soon as possible. Based on this initiative, very eminent high representatives of the European Union as well as from the United States came here, including Vice-President Biden – all this in the desire to strengthen the European Union.

Whenever I received an invitation to the President from the Visegrad Group, I responded willingly, since I think that having some in-depth cooperation is excellent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, even otherwise, not only when I speak of Europe, I emphasise that we need friends everywhere. We need allies, and the least we can do is have no open issues with anyone, that there are no misunderstandings. We have to be able to turn to countries and their high representatives with hope for understanding anywhere, not just in the European Union. Minister, I do not know if I made myself clear enough if I did not, you and the others will be able to ask me later about what I wanted to say.

My message is: now is a turning point in the development of the EU. In my opinion, Slovenia’s goal remains that this European Union is united. Slovenia wrote in the strategy that it wants to be in the core part of this European Union, that it should be deepened and broader. This does not preclude us from participating in a whole range of regional initiatives. However, we must be careful, and I wanted to say that, after all, especially if this would lead to a crisis in, say, EU development, there would be no division between east and west.

Multilateralism. I think this is of utmost importance for Slovenia. We are a relatively small country in size. However, our size grows proportionately with our good ideas. We are always saying this. However, I think it is vital that we persevere– and swim against the current, often against the current. We need to persevere that this political-legal and other architecture remains, which was somehow established after the war and requires change. We need to stick to it and try to enforce the changes in such a way that they will be controlled and that they will be made in some consensus. Not with power, but with the equal participation of all and in harmony. To stay true to the goals of the Paris Agreement, the Iran Nuclear Deal, the Istanbul Convention, the Marrakesh Declaration. It seems to me that all this gives the Slovenian foreign policy credibility in terms of its lasting orientation and reliability with partners. This multilateral world, like the EU, is in a particular position and needs those who believe in it. We are one of those countries. We must, as far as possible, as the Member State holding the Presidency, invest everything to help the EU to stand the test of time.

Transatlantic Cooperation, number three. I have always been, I am, and I will always be convinced that it is of the utmost importance that there is a close alliance between Europe and the United States, including Canada. There must be an alliance between North America and Europe that also outgrows a narrow military alliance. Moreover, this forces us to honour a whole range of commitments. However, it is a kind of alliance that constitutes, if I may use the older expression, the Western world.

I always said here in Brdo before the diplomats of other countries – and I am going to do so again now standing before you, Ladies and Gentlemen, this year, I think in January, I said when I spoke about relations with the United States, Russia and China that Slovenia is not looking for a balance between the Russian Federation and the United States. The United States is our ally. Of course, we want to have good relations with the Russian Federation, as well as China, but the United States is our ally and, in that sense, our privileged partner. The fact that Secretary Pompeo was here is a great thing. There’s nothing wrong with us trying to nurture this despite any differences we have, as we have them here and there with everyone, so to speak; all the more it forces us to try to maintain this friendship and alliance.

Relationships with neighbours. I think we all make a special effort because we know how important they are. That makes these relationships sincere, friendly and fair. Even when it comes to relations with Croatia. With Croats, we have a border issue in which the neighbouring country, despite its legal and political obligations, does not recognise the decision of the Constitutional Court. I always say, maybe now is not the time to find a solution following the decision of the arbitral tribunal, but this shall in no way cool or weaken relations with the Republic of Croatia. Friendship, cooperation, the search for what we have in common. Same with Hungary. We are good friends with Hungary, and we want to retain our friendship so ardently, that President Áder and I are also able to discuss at a press conference such sensitive things as maps. Two friends can afford it. Two friends have to do it. You saw for yourself, with Italy we had a crucial marking of the 100th anniversary of the arson and everything else you could follow. Soon, on 10 October, I will be noting the 100th anniversary of the plebiscite with President Van der Bellen, for the first time together.

I want to say that we are doing well on this. That Slovenia’s position in the world and Europe is favourable. We are enjoying the necessary reputation for pursuing our interests. However, as an active Member State, we must now, at this crucial time, assess some of the processes we are witnessing. Some things remain to be invisible. Some things may only be noticed by a well-versed public and experts. You indeed belong among them. Now is the time to see that we are trying, with all the analytical apparatus we have, to see some processes: both those that fill us with great hope and those that worry us to some extent. To analyse them and, Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are looking for the role of Slovenia in them. Namely an active role of Slovenia.

We must never, at any cost, at any time get into a position where the historical current carries us. We have to go with the historical flow. We have to direct its flow. We were not latecomers in the late ’80s, we never were. Slovenia, with its political spring, has dealt in the right moment, way and independently, with the time that has passed peacefully and without casualties. We managed to reach a consensus on the establishment of the state. We had a war. We were united, thank God, without any national schism. Within a short time, we managed to achieve some goals that seem self-evident to the Slovenian public today. Still, today Slovenia is a respectable country of the European Union, NATO, in the international community, and has almost only friends and as far as I know, no enemies, no opponents. That was a big dream thirty years ago, and today it is a fact. You have a lot of credit for these achievements. You also know all these little things best, details that may not be so very present to me, the Minister, the Prime Minister, and others present here, so we work together.

I believe that together we can face with both hopes and worries, that we are in a position where we have enough internal consensus in the country, regardless of the differences. These have always been, including on foreign and security policy. We are a democratic society. We will know how to live and work with them. But then we come to some conclusions that will position Slovenia in the next ten, fifteen, twenty years. As I said, it seems to me that, as far as the EU is concerned, it is essential for us that there are no such differences that would force Slovenia to choose that neither of them is excellent. That’s it. Minister, when we spoke yesterday in preparation for this meeting, I had the feeling that you wanted me to be as honest as possible, as constructive as possible. I hope I achieved this goal. Thank you for inviting me. I will be happy to answer your or any other questions regarding what I have said or what I have not mentioned. Thank you very much!"