Pahor Warns Slovene Diplomats of Growing East-West Divide in EU

By , 04 Sep 2020, 11:09 AM Politics
President Pahor on the right, Foreign Minister Anže Logar on the left President Pahor on the right, Foreign Minister Anže Logar on the left Twitter

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STA, 3 September 2020 - President Borut Pahor said he was concerned that an east-west divide could eventually emerge in the EU, as he addressed the 24th annual meeting of Slovenian diplomats at Brdo pri Kranju on Thursday. He said Slovenia had always built its national interest on strengthening the EU's unity, and hopes this remains the case in the future.

Even if the EU is in a certain crisis and deadlocked, these emerging divisions that can be noticed within the block are not in Slovenia's interest, he stressed.

"Where there used to be the Iron Curtain, there could be a kind of a Velvet Curtain in the future. I believe it's not in our interest for this to happen."

He said Slovenia's strategic foreign policy documents say the country wants to be part of the core of European integration and supports a deepened and expanded EU.

This does not mean Slovenia would not take part in various regional initiatives, which it always has, but always in a bid to strengthen the EU, not undermine it.

Pahor cautioned that "we should be careful, in particular if the crisis of EU development persists, that a new east-west divide does not emerge", arguing this would be a different kind of divide than other differences EU members have.

Pahor is convinced that just like every time before, Germany and France will find a solution to break the deadlock and strengthen unity, and Slovenia should be part of this.

The president is happy Foreign Minister Anže Logar has invited France's Foreign and Europe Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to the annual meeting of diplomats, so he is looking forward to hearing what he has to say about the EU and its future on Friday.

He would also like more efforts to be made "for a conference on the EU's future", so that we arrive at solutions to secure "the EU's renaissance".

Pahor moreover strongly supported multilateralism, which he said needed some improvements, which must be made in dialogue and by consensus.

He also urged staying "committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, the Istanbul Convention, the Marrakesh Declaration", which he said "gives Slovenian foreign policy credibility".

He highlighted the role of transatlantic relations: "It is of utmost importance that there is a close alliance between Europe and North America which goes beyond a mere military alliance".

In global relations, also when it comes to Russia and China, Slovenia "is not seeking a balance between Russia and the US", he said.

"The US is our ally. Of course we want to have good relations with Russia. And with China. But the US is our ally and in this sense our privileged partner," he said.

Here Pahor labelled the recent visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Slovenia "a magnificent thing".

As for relations with neighbouring countries, he said they should be frank and amicable, while it takes foremost honest dialogue to resolve the open questions.

The president completed his address by urging diplomats to be active.

"We cannot be in a position when we are just taken by the flow of history, we have to be part of that flow," he said, recalling the period 30 years ago when Slovenia was seeking independence.

Commenting on Pahor and Logar's addresses, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksander Geržina assured the pair had not talked about opposing guidelines, but about complementary ones.

While Pahor focussed on the fear of a potential east-west divide, Logar announced changes to Slovenia's foreign policy by refreshing strategic documents and intensifying cooperation with Central European countries, foremost in the area of infrastructure modernisation.

"I think the president and the foreign minister complement each other. There are no such major differences between the east and the west as could be seen in reactions in the media and domestic politics," Geržina told the press at Brdo pri Kranju.

He indicated that debates on stronger divisions between eastern and western EU members were en exaggeration. "Germany and France also have different stances. But in fact we speak about the same things."

He also said that at the July summit the EU showed unity by adopting "a solidarity package" for post-Covid recovery in just five days. "The European Council had not been able to adopt something like that in just five days for several years."

"I believe it is in the common interest of the European east and west for the EU - which is the best story of this continent in history - to go on. In this story, we want to put Slovenia beck into the international arena," said Geržina.

Asked whether the French foreign minister's attendance at the diplomats' meeting was an attempt to balance the line-up of this year's Bled Strategic Forum, which was attended by prime ministers and presidents of East European countries, Geržina rejected the speculation.

"He said this group of countries ... did present a group with a kind of a common view of the Covid-19 situation, which resulted in a kind of closer cooperation and also the Slovenian government and the new foreign minister's awareness that this group of countries, which also includes Bavaria and Croatia, is the most important from the aspects of history, culture, politics and economy."

As for Janša siding with Poland and Hungary at the July summit in opposition the idea to peg coronavirus recovery funds to the respect of the rule of law, Geržina said "this time we showed solidarity with the two countries, perhaps sometime in the coming months we will show it with some other countries from the core EU."

He said that as an EU member Slovenia tries to understand the grievances of all EU members. "There is nothing final here. We try to react to discussions in the EU and to be more proactive in them then [Slovenia was] before."

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