Interview with US Ambassador to Slovenia, Looking for Even Closer Cooperation

By , 18 Jun 2020, 16:27 PM Politics
Ambassador Lynda Blanchard Ambassador Lynda Blanchard US Embassy's Facebook

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STA, 17 June 2020 - US Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard has put strengthening US-Slovenian economic development in the focus of her efforts, and would also like to encourage cooperation between Slovenian and US universities. Blanchard, who arrived in Ljubljana last August, has told the STA that Slovenia already feels like her second home.

"We're already excellent partners, but we want to further improve this cooperation, so my main focus will be economic cooperation, especially after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic," Blanchard, herself a businesswomen, said in an interview she gave for the STA on Tuesday.

The ambassador, who stressed her doors are always open, pointed to the need to create an encouraging business environment, as competition among countries in the region is very strong. She said she would like Slovenia and the US to become even closer partners.

Although the pandemic has hindered economic cooperation, Blanchard believes there will be opportunities for cooperation and partnerships post-Covid. She believes the third economic stimulus package adopted by the Slovenian government offers many such opportunities.

The ambassador said it was easy to start engaging with the Slovenian government soon after arriving in Slovenia, and she also cooperates very well with the new government, which came to power in mid-March.

Blanchard said they were able to accomplish some initiatives that were already started by her predecessors, for instance defence cooperation and cooperation among universities.

She said defence cooperation is intensive, with the pandemic showing it is urgent for countries to be ready, which is also part of NATO's initiatives.

Even if Slovenia's defence spending is below 2% of its GDP, a target the US insists upon, Blanchard said Slovenia has been working well with NATO for a long time.

She believes one should focus on Slovenia's strengths, such as cyber, and its activities in the Western Balkans.

"You have wonderful troops on the ground, all over the Western Balkans, which is very important to your country and for the security and well-being of the region."

The ambassador also highlighted defence cooperation on infrastructure, and noted the US is engaged in all projects here by invitation.

The ambassador declined to discuss in detail a memorandum of understanding on 5G technology Slovenia is said to be signing with the US and which is seen as an attempt to limit China's Huawei's participation in 5G deployment in Slovenia.

She stressed the 5G network would bring many opportunities, especially for businesses, which however need security, stability and the respect for privacy laws.

She said the memorandum of understanding mimics much of the EU toolbox which encourages EU member states to avoid unsafe 5G vendors.

Blanchard said US First Lady Melania Trump, whom she met before leaving for Slovenia and has been since in contact with her office, is "very interested" in Slovenia.

The ambassador understands that since the first lady is Slovenian, many here would like to see a highest-level visit from the US. But she said that in the year of the presidential elections, the president and the first lady are focussing on the elections.

Blanchard said the US and Slovenia engage in regular dialogue. She said Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had recently had a wonderful and very engaging conversation, and Logar's predecessor Miro Cerar met Pompeo in Washington last year.

The ambassador also said she likes living in Slovenia, which she said already feels like a second home. She likes to go to antique shops and the flea market in Ljubljana, where he has already bought many items to decorate her residence in the Rožna Dolina borough.

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