STA, 30 April 2019 - The Ljubljana Local Court has drastically reduced the fine originally issued to the opposition Democrats (SDS) in connection to the first of two violations of the political parties act, while only issuing a reprimand as opposed to a fine in connection to the second, shows a report by the weekly Demokracija.
The SDS, which has made headlines over two contentious loans it took out in 2017, was indicted by the Court of Audit in March 2018 and found guilty by the local court earlier this year, but reports about the details have been conflicting.
The Local Court, which maintains that the largest parliamentary party broke the law in both cases, has revised upon the SDS's appeal both of its original verdicts reached in fast-track procedure.
While it originally ordered the party to pay EUR 20,000 and its head Janez Janša EUR 2,000 over a EUR 60,000 loan illegally taken out from the publisher Nova Obzorja, it later reduced the fines to EUR 4,200 and EUR 500, respectively.
The SDS told the STA that it is also not happy with the revised verdict and is challenging it at the Higher Court.
The party will on the other hand probably not appeal the revised decision of the Local Court in the segment of the case pertaining to a EUR 450,000 loan taken out with Bosnian citizen Dijana Đuđić.
The court initially issued a EUR 4,200 fine to the party and EUR 450 to Janša, but later decided to only issue a reprimand and have them cover the costs of the court procedure.
Parties can only borrow from banks and savings banks, or a limited amount from individuals. The Đuđić loan vastly exceeded this amount.
The SDS returned the first instalment, EUR 150,000, it had already received from the then 32-year-old Bosnian immediately after the Court of Audit's opinion, which the Local Court listed as a mitigating circumstance. It also noted that the loan agreement had been approved by a notary.
STA, 25 April 2019 - The opposition Democrats (SDS) filed into parliamentary procedure on Thursday a bill on the creation of a demographic fund to prop up the pension system. In line with the proposal, all of state assets would be transferred to the fund, which would mainly finance pensions.
SDS head Janez Janša called on all parliamentary parties to add their remarks. The only point the SDS will insist on is the transfer of all state assets onto the fund, he said.
Otherwise the arguing over which assets should be transferred to the fund will go on forever, he said.
The aim of the bill is to improve the financial situation of pensioners, which is currently below the level of Slovenia's development, and lift the pressure off employers and employees, who have to pay increasingly high contributions to the pension fund to keep the pension system sustainable.
He noted that the name National Pension Fund would be more appropriate than the demographic fund.
According to Janša, the transfer of all state assets onto the fund would also facilitate management of state assets, which is currently not transparent because it is divided among several institutions.
The role of the sole shareholder would be assumed by the National Assembly to make sure that the management of state assets would not be "in the hands of those on power."
In line with the SDS's proposal, the current custodian of state assets, Slovenian Sovereign Holding, would be transformed into the Slovenian demographic fund.
All other investments of the state, the pension fund management KAD fund, the real estate investment firm DSU and the Pension and Disability Insurance Institute (ZPIZ), the public pension insurer, would also be transferred to the new fund.
According to SDS MP Andrej Šircelj, the fund would have a supervisory board and a management.
The supervisory board would have 13 members, put forward by deputy groups. The number of members put forward by each deputy group would depend on the size of the deputy group.
The supervisors would be appointed by the National Assembly with a two-thirds majority of all MPs present.
The management of the fund would consist of the chairman and two members, who would be appointed by the supervisors based on a public call for applications.
Every year, the fund would give 50% of the dividends and rents it would receive, and 10% of all sale proceeds to ZPIZ.
The remaining 50% of the dividends and rents, and 40% of sale proceeds would be accumulated.
The demographic fund would allocate 50% of sale proceeds to the state budget to pay off debts.
The idea of a demographic fund as one of possible instruments to ensure a long-term sustainability of the pension system was floated years ago.
Its establishment was envisaged under the 2013 pension reform of the Alenka Bratušek government and every government since has dealt with the issue.
The current government coalition has also committed to founding such a fund in its coalition agreement. While the Finance Ministry has not revealed when the bill would be ready, Karl Erjavec, the head of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), indicated that it might be ready this autumn.
Reacting to the SDS's motion today, most parties said they would study the proposal and respond to Janša's invitations to talks. The ministry, as well, said that it would study the proposal, although it was working on its own bill.
The coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and the Modern Centre Party (SMC) expressed belief that any proposal on how to shape the fund would be useful and worth debating.
Matjaž Han, deputy group head of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), said that establishing a demographic fund would be much more than a project of a single party, this government or this coalition. This would be a project of the generation and a topic that must be discussed.
Erjavec meanwhile said that this was an important bill but expressed fear that the motion was politically motivated, adding that if the SDS were serious about it, it would have endorsed a similar bill drafted by DeSUS.
He said he was looking forward to seeing the bill drafted by the Finance Ministry. The ministry meanwhile said the task force working on the bill would model the bill on best practices of similar funds abroad.
All out stories on demographics in Slovenia can be found here
Nordic Monitor, a Stockholm-based news site that focuses on Turkey, claims to have obtained secret documents which reveal that diplomats working at the Turkish Embassy in Ljubljana collected information on the activities of critics of President Erdoğan in Slovenia, listing their names and profiling their organisations.
According to the report, the groups that were spied on are all believed to be affiliated in some way to Fethullah Gülen, the US-based Muslim cleric who is a prominent Erdoğan critic. The groups the diplomats filed reports on include Ambra, Izobraževanje, Kultura in Turizem d.o.o., an educational and culture organization that was set up in 2005; an intercultural center called Društvo Medkulturni Dialog; and the Ambra Jezikovni Center, which offers language courses in English and Turkish.
Nordic Monitor claims that the collection of data amounts “to refugee spying or unlawful intelligence gathering by embassy and consulate officials,” and goes on to assert that “those who were listed in these embassy documents were often targeted by a campaign of intimidation and harassment and denied consular services abroad, while their relatives and friends back in Turkey risked the possibility of jail time, asset seizure and persecution on fabricated criminal charges.”
The full report can be read here.
STA, 28 April 2019 - Slovenia is seen as a stable, constructive and pro-European country which however does not fully use the potential it could to play the role a small country can play in the EU, Slovenia's former European Commissioner Janez Potočnik has told the STA ahead of the 15th anniversary of the country's EU accession.
"We don't use to the fullest the role small and less exposed countries can play in the EU and we're also not among those which would attract attention with acts which are not in line with European values."
Since joining the EU on 1 May 2004, Slovenia has achieved a lot of what it had aspired to, and many of these things are now taken for granted, says Potočnik, who now co-chairs the UN International Resource Panel.
As Slovenia's chief negotiator in accession talks with the EU, Potočnik looks back at the process of negotiations with satisfaction.
"The unity we managed to build was genuine and convincing. It wouldn't be realistic to expect something similar now, as the clear goals uniting us are no longer there."
Nevertheless, there are too many disagreements and divisions, says Potočnik, who first served as research commissioner and then as environment commissiner in the 2004-2014 period.
It sometimes seems as if Slovenia artificially creats problems to fuel divisions, which Potočnik says are in the interest of those who do not have enough knowledge and strength to address complex challenges of the times we live in.
While he is happy Slovenians are still well aware of the advantages of EU membership, he is worried that some are too much focussed on the past, which is interpreted to one's liking, which prevents Slovenia to close ranks and take a step forward stronger.
"I miss strategic reflections and more focus on the problems which are really important for our future and on which we should really reach a compromise.
"I'm also worried about the divisions surrounding the migration issues and even whether it is sensible to be part of European organisations."
For him, Slovenia's major challenge, especially with a view to its EU presidency in 2021, is the same as for the EU and the world - a transition to an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable economy.
"This should undoubtedly become the priority of our EU presidency. If it doesn't, we'll send out a message ... that we don't understand what the key challenges of the EU and the world are and that we are a country which does not belong to the core of those in the EU pushing for a transition to the world we want, need and deserve."
The historic Big Bang 2004 expansion of the EU has largely eliminated post-WWII historical divisions in Europe, but also taught us that democratic change does not come with administrative measures and by formally adjusting to EU law, says Potočnik.
"It takes time and hard work to overcome development mistakes from the past and the interests surrounding them. EU membership is an important factor of democratic stabilisation but does not protect us from fully from our own mistakes."
Looking at the prospects of new rounds of enlargement, Potočnik says the EU is currently actually shrinking, while there is little going on enlargement-wise.
He points to Brexit, saying it is a sad event, especially because we live in a time which calls for deepening cooperation.
While he admits there are several reasons for the EU being busy dealing with itself rather than focussing on enlargement, such as migrations, security and bad experiences with some of the countries joining the bloc in 2004, Potočnik says it is still not acceptable Europe's stability depends on the stability of the Balkans.
He believes the recent name change agreement between Greece and North Macedonia should be used to "actively revive the enlargement process".
Also, Slovenia and Croatia should resolve the border issue on the basis of the legally binding arbitration agreement, which he says is a much easier problem to solve than some other issues in the region.
Potočnik also hopes the environment and sustainability in general will come to the forefront of this year's campaigning for the elections to the European Parliament.
Slovenia is dealing with climate change, yet not well enough, he says, adding the issue should have played a more prominent role during the 2018 campaign for Slovenia's general election.
Given that Potočnik has served two terms as European commissioner, his name has come up for the new make-up of the European Commission due later this year.
He says he would think it over if offered the post, but adds that he has not discussed it with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec or anyone else.
STA, 27 April 2019 - Some 400 locals living along the border near the Jelšane border crossing with Croatia staged a rally on Saturday demanding better border protection and rejecting the idea of their community hosting a processing centre for migrants.
Those living in border areas are faced with illegal migrations on a daily basis, and migrations involve pollution of the environment, break-ins and damage to property, said Ivan Cegnar, who heads a local civil initiative that has spearheaded the protests.
"What's particularly worrying is the fear, being unable to freely move in our back yards," said Cegnar, the head of the local government council in Jelšane.
He said the locals demanded that the state protect the Schengen border in line with the law and commitments Slovenia made when it joined the Schengen zone.
Emil Rojc, the mayor of Ilirska Bistrica, said that migrations had led to a deterioration in the quality of living for the locals.
They demand that police beef up security and reject what Rojc said were "excuses" by the police that there are not enough officers to protect the border. He said Slovenia could seek assistance from the EU border agency Frontex.
If needed the army should be called up as well, said Rojc, who hails from the ranks of the Social Democrats (SD) and has raised eyebrows in his party's ranks with his hard stance on migrations.
The protest is the apex of months of mounting opposition in Ilirska Bistrica area, where many migrants chose to cross the border.
In the first three months of this year police in the western Koper District, which includes Ilirska Bistrica, registered 388 illegal border crossings, up from 266 in the same period in 2018.
The area is not the main entry point for migrants, as the vast majority cross further east covered by the Ljubljana and Novo Mesto police.
In the entire country they registered 1,639 attempts at illegal border crossing, an increase of almost 150% on the year before.
But what has further aggravated local woes around Jelšane are contingency plans that involve using buildings near the Jelšane border crossing for a processing centre for migrants in the event of a surge in migrant numbers.
The government has tried to assuage fears by emphasising that this would be a measure of last resort, but it has refused to specify at what point it may be activated.
The municipal council has even tried to stage a referendum on the registration centre, but their attempt has been thwarted by courts with the argument that such issues cannot be subject to referenda. The motion has been put to the Supreme Court.
While driven by local concerns, the protest attracted the interest of rightist parties that have made opposition to migrations a core part of their agendas.
Among the participants were senior Democrat (SDS) MP Branko Grims, the president of the far-right Homeland League (DOM) Bernard Brščič and representatives of the extremist Identitarian movement, which had in previous days urged people to attend the protest.
SDS leader Janez Janša wrote on Twitter that the protest was "the only genuine manifestation on Resistance Day," in that it was targeted "against potential conquerors and their helpers."
Meanwhile, the SD said they did not support the protest, adding in reference to the mayor coming from their ranks that "the party's competent bodies will evaluate the conduct of individual members."
STA, 26 April 2019- The left-wing weekly Mladina suggests in the latest editorial that the judiciary should take a stand on the behaviour of the judge in the Chemical Institute boss murder retrial, finding that its hard for the media to take a stand lest any criticism should be understood as an attempt to discredit him.
Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says that judge Zvjezdan Radonjić has been conducting the case in an odd way and has not done enough to dispel doubts about his impartiality.
He notes that Mladina has questioned his engaging as an expert witness a man who like the defendant, Milko Novič, has ties with the opposition Democratic Party (SDS).
"When things were becoming increasingly unusual, Radonjić decided to swiftly wrap up the trial and prevent most witness hearings ... What is more, in declaring the decision, in conduct that is unusual in a courtroom he alleged pressure bearing upon the entire court by the media ...
"The very same day he obviously turned into a hero of people's hearts, the judge who stood up to the establishment."
"In a situation in which he declared himself a hero standing up against the system it is hard even to write about him as being unusual - given such 'heroism' any act of drawing attention to his unusual judging would automatically be understood as an act of discrediting."
This is why the media are in a difficult situation taking a position on the case, even though a Večer reporter would not be bothered and she wrote down that the judge should have been suspended because of the show he staged in court.
Instead, Repovž says that the Radonjić case calls for a serious reflection within the judiciary at last.
"Judges decided a few years ago not to take a stand on the difficulties in their ranks. This is human but judges are people whose decisions seriously affect people's lives. So this cup can unfortunately not pass them."
STA, 25 April 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija comments on the allegations of pressure on the judge in the Chemistry Institute boss murder retrial in the latest editorial, finding that deep state remains at work in the Slovenian judiciary.
Editor-in-chief Jože Biščak names Ljubo Bavcon and Alenka Šelih as two jurists who he says were ideologists of revolutionary law under the Communist regime, and who should have been ostracised and banned from public life, but have instead won several prizes and honours.
He says that this is part of the reason for the Slovenian judiciary being in a state as described by judge Zvezdan Radonjić, who in returning the acquittal of Milko Novič, gave a dramatic account of the pressure and covert threats he had been subject.
"That was not the 'ordinary' kind of pressure, but pressure from the deep state via his judicial colleagues and superiors.
"Everyone should have beaten the drum for that, all the alarms should have gone off. However, nothing happened. Well, almost nothing," Biščak says, referring to Radonjić's superiors finding that nothing dramatic happened in the Novič case, and saying that they would no longer communicate with the public about internal procedures in the case.
"Mind you, the case that disclosed the workings of the deep state in the judiciary and how someone from behind the scenes is trying to interfere in the judgement, is an internal matter of the court!
"Not at all, dear gentlemen in Tavčarjeva 9 [the address of Ljubljana Court], it is a matter of interest to all the citizens, so you will have to provide public and regular explanations about what is going on.
"If ever, now is the right time to sweep up in the judiciary, which due to many infamous cases and systematic violations of human rights is justifiably referred to as misjustice by part of the public.
"The Slovenian judiciary has never been cleansed, has not taken the road to Damascus (like Saul, who on the road to Damascus converted from a persecutor of Christians to become the Apostle Paul), let alone being lustrated," Biščak writes under the headline Road to Damascus.
STA, 24 April 2019 - The parliamentary committees in charge of foreign affairs and culture have condemned the interference of Hungary in the freedom of press in Slovenia.
The committees met on Wednesday, less than three weeks after Hungarian Ambassador Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi lodged a verbal note with the Foreign Ministry after the weekly Mladina ran on its cover a caricature of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban with his hand raised in a Nazi salute and surrounded by three politicians from the ranks of the Slovenian Democrats (SDS).
Sources: Viktor Orbán from Wikimedia - Europa Pont CC-by-2.0; Mladina’s Facebook
Apart from condemning Hungary's actions, the committees also proposed that the government make sure to protect the freedom of expression when revising relevant legislation, to preserve media ownership transparency, encourage free and plural media and install safety mechanisms to prevent interferences and pressures from other countries.
Modern Centre Party (SMC) MP Gregor Perič said at the session that Slovenia had faced "unusual responses by our neighbours", from contentious statements by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, to Hungary's note, and wire taps indicating Croatian government attempted to prevent the release of a report about who listened in on Slovenia's representatives in the arbitration process in 2015.
Attending the session, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said he would react decisively when basic values of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and Slovenia's sovereignty are under attack in the future.
He underlined the importance of nurturing good neighbourly relations, adding that the note lodged by the Hungarian ambassador had not caused a deterioration in bilateral relations.
Culture Minister Zoran Poznič meanwhile said that the ministry would draft a media legislation reform by the end of the year. He was responding to Mladina editor-in-chief Gregor Repovž, who called on the ministry to reform the legislation, above all to clearly define and separate the media from "propaganda working under the cover of media".
The session, called by the coalition parties the Marjan šarec List (LMŠ), the SMC, Social Democrats (SD), the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), was criticised as a pre-election stunt by the opposition SDS and the Left.
All out stories about Slovenia and Hungary are here
STA, 24 April 2019 - President Borut Pahor addressed a ceremony commemorating the Jews deported during World War II from Lendava at the synagogue in this eastern-most Slovenian town on Wednesday. He underlined that the great European idea of peace and security must be protected, the president's office said in a press release.
Ob 75. obletnici deportacije lendavskih Judov je predsednik republike pred pričetkom komemorativne pietetne slovesnosti položil venec k spomeniku žrtvam nacifašističnega nasilja na judovskem pokopališču v Dolgi vasi. pic.twitter.com/IC5tRosx0u— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) April 24, 2019
The ceremony marked 75 years since a vast majority of Slovenia's biggest Jewish community was deported, a blow from which it never recovered.
Pahor dedicated his address to Erika Fürst, a holocaust survivor, inviting her to join him next year at the ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Atrocities start when small signs of exclusion become the norm. Therefore, it is key to recognise the importance of early detection of exclusion, intolerance and hatred, said Pahor.
Before the ceremony, the president laid a wreath at the Dolga Vas cemetery, the biggest Jewish cemetery in Slovenia, alongside Lendava Mayor Janez Magyar and city councillor Ivan Koncut, who laid a wreath on behalf of the state of Israel.
All our stories on Jewish Slovenia are here
STA, 24 April 2019 - Slovenian researchers and scientists held a protest and a public debate in Ljubljana on Wednesday in a bid to draw the attention of the public and decision-makers to what they see as a flawed financing system which is driving cut-throat competition in science.
Duška Knežević Hočevar from the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, said that she had noticed despondency and unsportsmanlike competition growing among fellow scientists over the past decade.
She blamed the trend on quantified oversight and short-term project funding of science. "Science is a long-term activity that requires peace ... But in reality we are like nomads, jumping from one project to another. We spend a lot of time on project applications and paperwork."
Knežević Hočevar, who moderated the debate at the Old Ljubljana Power Station, said that the financing system which is based on short-term projects was misguided, because the rivalry it produced affected the relationships between and within the institutions involved.
As a result, the researchers and scientists, instead of focusing on their research, compete with each other or look for publications in journals that would score them more points. This in turn preserves the funding system as it is.
Marko Fonovič from the Jožef Stefan Institute, the country's leading research institution, challenged the government as to why it sought so hard to wriggle out of its responsibility to fund science, arguing that Slovenia, in its desire for business-based funding of science, "has gone further than the most capitalist countries".
He offered several reasons for that, including the prevailing belief that only physical labour counted as work. He illustrated this with the saying that children should learn so they did not have to work.
The participants in the debate offered several proposals to improve the state of science, including that all ministries should fund science rather than just the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, because everyone benefits from scientific advances.
Andraž Stožer from the Maribor Faculty of Medicine argued for funding of basic science and research, including such that does not appear to have applicative effects at first sight. He said that history was full of discoveries that did not turn out to be extremely useful until decades later.
The debate also pointed to the problem of poor communication about the importance of science and research. Stožer said that part of the blame lay with the scientists themselves, and part with the education system, which he said was based too much on dry listing of facts.
After the discussion, participants marched to protest outside the headquarters of the ministries of economy and education and science. The annual protest was held ahead of the global March for Science on 4 May.
For the past three years, Slovenian scientists and researchers have been calling for the establishment of a high-quality and transparent evaluation procedure, increasing science funding to 1% of the national budget, and for a set timetable for public calls for national research projects.
STA, 24 April 2019 - The Social Democrats (SD) became the latest party to formally enter the EU election race on Wednesday. Party officials said their campaign would focus on restoring trust in Europe by highlighting jobs, climate change, security and migrations as the main issues.
"These European elections will be a landmark for the future of Europe. Either we go down the path of dangerous disintegration, or the path of a strong Europe," the party's top candidate, MEP Tanja Fajon, said as the candidacies were submitted to the National Electoral Commission.
A strong and united Europe is of paramount importance for Slovenia, she said, noting that two decades of conservative dominance in the EU parliament had resulted in unfair taxations and multinational corporations and the rich not paying their taxes.
The party's goal is to have two MEPs in the next parliament - Fajon is currently their sole representative - and it has recently also started promoting the idea that Slovenia's next commissioner should be picked from the ranks of candidates contesting the election.
"The next commissioner from Slovenia ought to go through European elections. The people have the right to know who the commissioner will be," Fajon said.
Slovenia does not have strict rules about commissioner nominations. It is up to the government to pick a candidate, who then has to undergo a hearing at the European Parliament.
STA, 24 April 2019 - The far-right United Slovenia, led by the self-styled militia leader Andrej Šiško, who is fresh out of prison for attempts to subvert the constitutional order, fielded its candidates for MEPs on Wednesday. The party will be campaigning for Slovenia's exit from the EU.
Only three candidates will contest the election: Šiško, Joško Joras, a self-styled defender of the south border, and the party's co-president Anica Bidar.
Šiško, the party's front-runner, said United Slovenia was the only party that would protect the Slovenian Constitution in the election and advocate for Slovenia to leave the EU.
Learn more about the colourful Andrej Šiško here
"The EU in its current form is unacceptable for Slovenian citizens. The kind that the gentlemen from European elites want to build is even more unacceptable," Šiško said.
The United Slovenia movement promotes cooperation with European nations and countries, and wants a Europe of free and independent nations and countries that would also include Russia.
Calling on citizens who want change to turn out for the election, Šiško said that if their candidate got elected they would not join any of the European political groups but work on a project basis.
STA, 24 April 2019 - The coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) plans to focus its EU election campaign on their top candidate, MEP Igor Šoltes. Their slogan will be Šoltes, Our Man in Brussels, the party said as it formally submitted the candidacies to the National Electoral Commission on Wednesday.
DeSUS is counting on the base to help it retain its sole MEP seat, party leader Karl Erjavec said, noting that turnout would be low, which was getting party members and supporters to vote would be decisive.
Šoltes joined DeSUS after winning his MEP seat with an independent list in 2014, and after the party's current MEP, Ivo Vajgl, decided to retire.
He said he would be the voice of those who are ignored and sidelined, focusing on issues such as longevity of society, standard of living for the elderly, the environment, healthy food and social justice.
DeSUS plans to spend roughly EUR 30,000 on the campaign. The emphasis will be on field work and social networks.
Looking ahead, Erjavec said that the vote would be followed by a "very turbulent period" on the domestic scene as parties that have their representatives in the EU parliament gathered strength.
He predicts that there will be consolidation on the left sooner or later since "it is difficult to run the country so fragmented."
EU must resist populism
STA, 24 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec warned of the danger of populism in an interview with the Associated Press, arguing that the EU needed more efficient leadership to successfully counter the populist surge.
Mainstream officials and parties have failed to deter right-wing groups, and populists are advancing in Europe because moderate parties have not been successful with their agenda, he said in an interview released on Tuesday.
Šarec cited prolonged Brexit talks as an example of the EU's slow decision-making, even though he said that delaying Britain's departure from the bloc was nevertheless positive.
"Brexit is quite good example how things are done in European Union, endless debates, then the date of exit is coming, then we are faced with it and we prolong again," he said.
"We need another leadership ... we need such leaders that will be proactive that will be more capable of fast decisions."
Turning to the upcoming elections to the European Parliament, Šarec also warned that elections are "always unpredictable," even though projections indicate mainstream parties will retain the majority.
"You can never know what will occur on the elections and that's the main problem that we have now," he said.
He compared the current situation in Europe with the late 1930s and the actions of the British prime minister at the time, Nevil Chamberlain, who he said believed Hitler when he sought to negotiate rather than confront him.
Still, he said, "there is always a chance and we must act in that way."
STA, 24 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec made the case for a proactive and balanced foreign policy as he addressed Slovenian diplomats gathered for their annual consultation on Wednesday.
"Some events in the world and in our immediate neighbourhood which raise doubt about the universally established principles of international relations, international law and European values affirm my conviction that such conduct must be resisted with a proactive European and foreign policy," he said.
For small countries with restricted resources, being principled and consistent, and having clear priorities, is crucial. "Slovenian diplomacy has all that."
Highlighting Slovenia's "continued commitment to a strong and effective EU and a firm transatlantic alliance," Šarec said it needed to remain in the most integrated group of EU countries and join forces with like-minded countries in strengthening the bloc's foundations. This will also be the guiding line of Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of 2021.
A functioning EU is in Slovenia's interest, which requires addressing shortcomings and casting aside bad practices. "Member states must be treated equally and European institutions and their representatives must work in the interest of all member states and in accordance with European values."
Turning to the upcoming EU elections, Šarec was hopeful that "integrative and forward-looking European forces will prevail." He also has high hopes about the performance of EU institutions after the vote since "their conduct will largely determine the future development of the EU."
Šarec also highlighted Western Balkans as a region of strategic importance and said Slovenia wanted to shortly see North Macedonia and Albania making progress towards the EU.
Implementation of the border arbitration agreement with Croatia would also be an important message to the region, he said, reiterating the long-standing position that Croatia's refusal to implement the deal is "unacceptable and raises concern about the state of the rule of law."
Despite challenges, Šarec wants a strengthening of relations with all neighbours in areas of shared interest. But it is also important that Slovenia expand its circle of partners and strengthen bilateral ties with other countries with shared interests.
"It is important that we are responsive to the developments in the international community and to constantly seek alliances and opportunities," he said.
Šarec also highlighted the need to pursue a balanced foreign policy, play an active role in international institutions, and actively participate in the preservation of international peace and security, including by investing in the defence and security system.
The prime minister also urged economic officers working at diplomatic missions to leverage economic diplomacy to help Slovenian companies penetrate foreign markets and promote Slovenia as a location for foreign direct investment.