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President Pahor at the opening of the 15th Bled Strategic Forum 2020 (BSF)

Bled, 31. 8. 2020 | press release, speech

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, today attended the opening of the 15th Bled Strategic Forum 2020 (BSF) - Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID–19 World, where he gave the keynote speech.

President Pahor at the opening of the 15th Bled Strategic Forum 2020 (BSF): Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID–19 World
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

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

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by thanking the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for keeping the tradition of the Forum alive also at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been a great honour to listen to the words of our first foreign minister, Dr Dimitrij Rupel, one of the founding fathers of the Bled Strategic Forum. I wish to extend a warm welcome to all distinguished guests and participants.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 2020 edition of the Forum will address the challenges and opportunities in a post-Covid-19 world. The so-called ‘new normality’ is bringing about major political, economic and social changes. Its impact will be more powerful than the direct healthcare consequences, which – to a certain degree – will require the harmonization of health policies on the EU- level that, indeed, fall under the competence of the states. These considerations also relate to the preparedness of our country for the post-Covid era.

In this sense, I would like to underline the following elements – from a narrower, foreign policy point of view. In my opinion, the basic orientations of Slovenian foreign policy correspond to the new challenges. I refer above all to the commitment to multilateralism, active participation in the European Union and NATO, the promotion of transatlantic cooperation, good neighbourly relations and peaceful settlement of disputes, and general contribution to the preservation of global peace and security.

Also in the context of Slovenia’s European policy, the basic premises are in line with the new reality. As stated in its foreign policy strategy, Slovenia wishes to be at the core of a more integrated, developed and enlarged European Union.

What I am really saying is that the fundamental orientations of Slovenia’s European and overall foreign policy remain valid and applicable also for the post-Covid-19 period.

As a member of the Eurozone and the Schengen Area – Europe’s core structure –, Slovenia is bound to strive for a deeper and more united European Union. Regarding unity, I wish to point out the following: not only Slovenia, all EU member states must strive not to threaten the unity of the Union’s through their varied cooperation, but rather to consolidate it.

Slovenia, for example, has a strong Central-European, Mediterranean – and to a certain extent – also Balkan identity.

This gives us a wonderful opportunity to cultivate all these identities and forge flexible alliances – but at the same time keep the unity of the European Union at the forefront. In 2019, for instance, Slovenia hosted the Three Seas Initiative summit. Such regional initiatives for closer cooperation are legitimate and useful, but should never come at odds with the efforts for a better integrated, unified and more efficient European Union.

This is vital for the internal consolidation of the Union and for keeping the danger of its fragmentation at bay. It is vital also for the role the EU seeks to play at the global level and for its contribution to transatlantic relations, above all with the US, on the one hand, and the relations with Russia and China, on the other.

I am speaking about unity, but am well aware of the differences that exist among us. Those that define our cultural and other identities need to be carefully nurtured. Then, there are others, stemming from our diverse interests and historical traditions. However, despite our differences, I am confident that there is far more that unites us than divides us.

In my view, the current times are not so favourable to consensual politics, the sort that, among others, brought us the big enlargement of the European Union at the beginning of the century. Indeed, consensual politics was characteristic of the entire post-war period in Western Europe. In 2020, as we mark 75 years of the UN, 63 years of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community and 57 years of the Elysée Treaty of friendship between France and Germany, we should be all the more aware that ours is a world that emerged from a war-torn continent and that the united Europe has been healing the wounds inflicted by World War II. In fact, Europe has been so successful at this, that we started to take it for granted. There were many efforts to overcome the differences and many symbolic and concrete gestures of coexistence and understanding. And yet, at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, there seems to be more desire and will to point out the differences among us than there is eagerness to overcome them. We ought to resist this flow.

In July, upon the 100th anniversary of the arson of Slovene Narodni Dom in Trieste and its handover to the Slovene community in Italy, Slovenia and Italy also commemorated Slovene fighters against fascism and the victims of post-war executions. A similar gesture of coexistence in the European spirit will happen this autumn, as Slovenia and Austria will jointly mark the 100th anniversary of the Carinthia plebiscite. For all of us living together, it is of utmost importance – both in the national and in the European framework – to be able to feel and understand the pain of others. We cannot change the past, but we can transform the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In addition to Brexit, irregular migration and the situation in our neighbourhood, the Covid-19 pandemic is putting additional strain on the effectiveness and unity of the European Union.

All of us believing in the significance of the Union for a peaceful and safe future, have warmly welcomed the recent agreement on the next financial perspective and the recovery fund, which will, internally, strengthen the EU’s integration and, externally, consolidate its global positioning. Before that, the European Green Deal has inspired hope that the Union will regain its leading role in the global efforts aimed at sustainable climate policy and development.

Next on the agenda is the Conference on the Future of the European Union. Frankly, I am quite worried that even before its inception the Conference has been meeting so many doubts as to its necessity and usefulness. I know that in confronting the current problems of the member states and the Union as a whole, we have to show pragmatism and remain concrete. Nevertheless, we also need a vision for our community in the times to come.

Slovenia’s vision of the European Union is that of a “family of nations”. The values that inspire us are the values of human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law, as well as minority rights and the preservation of cultural diversity and language equality.

The pandemic must not become an excuse for postponing discussions on the future vision for the European Union. According to an old saying, we should not waste the opportunity offered by a crisis to look for fresh practical and strategic solutions.

I hope that we will be able to do so in the interest of peace and prosperity of all Europeans and the entire World.

With that, I wish this conference lots of success.

Thank you."