President Pahor in Austria Today (Background)

By , 13 Jun 2019, 10:00 AM Politics
President Pahor in Austria Today (Background) Montage: JL Flanner

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STA, 12 June 2019 - President Borut Pahor will start an official visit to Austria on Thursday for talks with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen and other top officials. The visit is designed to maintain successful political dialogue at the presidential level and review bilateral cooperation between the countries so far.

Pahor will also meet Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein and parliamentary Speaker Wolfgang Sobotka.

According to the Austrian Press Agency (APA), the talks between Pahor and Van der Bellen will focus on the future of the EU following the May EU elections, the EU enlargement process and climate change.

Pahor will be the first foreign head of state to visit Austria after the Ibiza scandal that swept away the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Bierlein was appointed chancellor to lead an interim government until the snap election scheduled for September.

On Wednesday evening, Pahor will attend a ceremony hosted by the Slovenian Embassy in Austria to mark the upcoming Statehood Day.

Relations between Slovenia and Austria are considered excellent, with the two countries maintaining a regular and versatile political dialogue and successful economic cooperation.

The talks are also expected to touch on the protection of the Slovenian minority in Carinthia on the basis of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty.

The notification of the treaty has been an issue, as Austria has been against any of the new countries, including Slovenia, notifying its succession to the treaty, one of whose original signatories was Yugoslavia.

Although it has not formally notified its succession, despite occasional initiatives to do so, Slovenia considers itself a successor.

Meanwhile, Austria has repeatedly raised the issue of the German-speaking community in Slovenia, urging the Slovenian authorities to grant it the minority status.

Slovenia is also not pleased with Austria extending border checks on its border with Slovenia, which were reintroduced at the peak of the migration crisis in 2015. Slovenia deems the measure unnecessary.

Van der Bellen paid his first official visit to Slovenia as president in May 2017, while Pahor met him for the first time at the beginning of the same year during his working visit to Vienna when Van der Bellen was yet to take over as president.

In early May, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar paid an informal visit to the Tyrol state to meet his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl. The ministers signed a joint statement on a multinational bid to have the Lipizzan horse breeding listed as UNESCO intangible heritage.

In terms of economic partnership, Austria is Slovenia's third biggest partner and its leading investor. Austrian tourists rank second in terms of the number of arrivals and nights spent in Slovenia.

Austria is also the most important market for Slovenia's sole port Koper, which in turn is the most significant port for Austria.

Merchandise trade between the countries amounted to EUR 5.5 billion last year, according to official statistics, with EUR 2.3 billion in exports and EUR 3.2 billion in imports. In the first three months of 2019, trade reached almost EUR 1.4 billion - more than EUR 549 million of which was exports and over EUR 849 million imports.

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