President Pahor visits Prague: "Today's meeting provides not only great opportunities but also new ones for all participants."
Prague, Czech Republic, 11. 12. 2014 | press release
At the invitation of the President of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, is attending a Summit of the presidents of six Central European states – the Visegrád Group (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland) plus Austria and Slovenia – which is being held today and tomorrow in Prague. The Visegrád Group (V4) was founded after the fall of the Berlin Wall and was based on neighbourhood, regional origin, historical ties and common interests for future development in the context of Euro-Atlantic structures; at present, however, it also strengthens cooperation with other countries in the region.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA
After the reception ceremony with military honours, President Pahor had a bilateral meeting with the President of the Republic of Austria, Heinz Fischer. First, the two presidents, who have been friends for 26 years, exchanged their views on the internal political situations in the two countries. President Pahor said that after a five-year period of economic crisis Slovenia has finally recorded positive economic growth and a drop in unemployment levels, which is a good sign; it will, however, only have long-term effects if the necessary structural reforms are carried out. He assessed that in this context next year would be crucial for Slovenia.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA
During their talks, President Fisher explained to President Pahor that he discussed the financing of the music school in Carinthia with the competent representatives in the Austrian Government. He assured that a systemic solution would be found for the financing of the school. The two presidents positively assessed the economic cooperation between the two countries. In this context, President Pahor highlighted that Austria has been the most important foreign investor in Slovenia for several years in a row and that Slovenia has positive experience with Austrian investments. He added that Slovenia also expects Austrian strategic partners to participate in the process of internationalisation and privatisation of the Slovenian economy in the future. President Pahor and President Fischer also exchanged their views on the situation in the Western Balkans and agreed to continue with trilateral meetings of the presidents of Slovenia, Austria and Croatia. President Fischer also expressed an interest in cooperation with Slovenia in the region of the Western Balkans within the Brdo Process initiative.
Later on, at the plenary session, the six presidents discussed transport connections in Central Europe. They assessed that the Central European transport infrastructure is less developed that the transport infrastructure in other parts of the European Union, therefore they agreed on coordinated action regarding the provision of EU funds for important transport projects which will better connect the Baltic Sea with the Adriatic and Eastern Europe with the heart of Europe. They unanimously approved that the connections with the port of Koper as the window to Central Europe should be strengthened.
President Pahor recalled that 21 years have passed since he proposed for the first time that Slovenia should cooperate with the V4 countries and added that today's meeting provides not only great opportunities but also new ones for all participants.
He emphasised that the cooperation of the port operator Luka Koper with the four member countries of the Visegrád Group is of key importance, because already now the main foreign markets of Luka Koper are the Austrian and the V4 markets; in some countries, for example in Poland, the market share of Luka Koper has been growing rapidly in the past years. 70% of the transhipment volume in Luka Koper is export-oriented. The port of Koper, which tranships over 18 million tons of goods every year, is the major generator of railway freight transport in Slovenia. Last year, trade with the countries of the Visegrád Group amounted to approximately EUR 4.5 billion; by including Austria, the most important investor into Slovene economy, this amount increased to EUR 9 billion. Among the key issues, President Pahor also highlighted Slovenia's interest in the modernisation of the Munich– Istanbul railway line.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STa
At a working lunch hosted by the Czech President Miloš Zeman, the six presidents touched upon the key foreign policy challenges for Central Europe focusing on the situation in Ukraine and the development of relations with Russia, the issues of Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the Western Balkan countries and Moldova, and the issue of foreign fighters leaving for Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State.
In the afternoon, the presidents opened an exhibition devoted to the projects on the Danube, Oder and Laba Rivers. Within the framework of the Summit, late in the afternoon, President Pahor will have a bilateral meeting with the President of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski, and in the evening he will attend a dinner held by the Czech President, Miloš Zeman, in honour of the presidents attending the Summit.
The Summit will end tomorrow after the second part of the session, during which the presidents will discuss the issue of energy safety and the possible alternatives after Russia’s cancellation of the construction of the South Stream pipeline, which according to the original plans would have also run through Slovenia. On the margins of the Summit, tomorrow President Pahor will also have a bilateral meeting with his host, the President of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman, with whom he will dedicate – as a sign of friendship between the Slovene and Czech nations – a newly planted offspring of the world's oldest grape vine, which is a gift by the city of Maribor to the Prague Castle.