STA, 11 April 2020 - President Borut Pahor intends to end his political career after his term ends in 2022, he told the Saturday edition of the newspaper Dnevnik in an interview in which he talked about the ongoing health crisis. He also talked about his cooperation with PM Janez Janša, saying they try to act in unison and keep disagreements out of the public eye.
In the interview he praised people for respecting the strict measures that have been put into place. He said he was not afraid of getting infected and said he would self-isolate and work from home if that were to happen.
In case his health deteriorated to the point that he were unable to do his job, the speaker of the National Assembly would take over, Pahor said.
He is mostly supportive of the measures imposed by the government, saying that politicians had to make arbitrary decisions without reliable scientific grounds. "That's what politics is for!" he said, adding however that nobody can be envious of the government's responsibility.
He said that his cooperation is based in his philosophy of what it means to be the president of a country. "I am not here to praise the government, nor to criticise it or hand out instructions. I am in this position to cooperate with the government," he said.
"There are things I would not have said, but the prime minister is in a demanding situation and this must be taken into account when we demand more patience from him," Pahor said. He added that the conversations he had with the prime minister do not indicate that Janša wants to use the situation to expand the government's powers.
Pahor also believes that the situation is not such to demand Slovenia to follow the measures adopted in Hungary, where the parliament handed all the power to the prime minster. Pahor believes that Slovenia is proof that lives can be saved in a democratic way.
He is worried about the social, economic and likely political crises that are to follow the corona crisis. "We will likely find ourselves in a global depression."
"There will be social unrest that will have to be regulated smartly. It will be very important for everybody in political authority to show a great measure of patience despite criticism and ugly words. One will have to just swallow it. People will find themselves in distress, they will say things and we will have to understand it."
"As long as we, as people, refrain from violence, those in power will have to be more patient towards the people," the president said. He elaborated by saying he was referring to the protests that followed the 2008 economic crisis.
During the protests, "some resorted to things I believe were not legitimate, including verbal abuse, the latter will also have to be refrained from. Those who do not carry responsibility will be able to afford more, while the rest of us who are in power will have to be careful to avoid it."
Pahor also spoke about the EU, saying that there was a possibility of three crises colliding: health and migrant crises and economic recession. He believes the solution, once again, will be not less but more EU.
The president regretted that the bloc has underestimated the threat of a pandemic, as this strengthens the feeling among people that EU is useless.
Drawing parallels with the 2008 financial crisis when he was prime minister, Pahor said that the concept of borrowing was now based on the premise that this was a temporary crisis, although it is unclear at the moment how long it will last.
"But this will not make the debt any less of a problem. It's a problem of a different sort... It has triggered a very difficult debate in the eurozone for which there is no happy ending in sight, although one will have to be found if we want to preserve the EU and the euro. I think a compromise will be made, one we are not familiar with yet."
He also said that in the previous crisis, Germany and France were more united in efforts to overcome it. "[Angela] Merkel and [Nicolas] Sarkozy were the engine I miss today at the helm of the train," he said of the German chancellor and former French president.
"With that it was easier for Slovenia to see where things were headed and what measures to adopt," Pahor said. However, he does not believe that Slovenia should swap its alliances with Paris and Berlin with the Visegrad Group, even though the country has great friends in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. "Slovenia is a core country of the EU and this must remain so."
When asked whether he feared that Slovenia could end up on the outskirts of the EU because the senior coalition Democratic Party (SDS) is close to the Hungarian Fidesz, Pahor said that he does not express opinions about party affairs, "but I do understand some misgivings that may stretch into distrust. It is not my job to deepen the mistrust, my role is to address it."