STA, 1 September 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has urged the EU to return to its roots, to the basic principles laid down by the founding fathers, as he argued at the Bled Strategic Forum that this is the only way to ensure unity while preserving diversity.
"It is my opinion that the European structure must built on stone, on the firm foundations set by the fathers of the EU. Any attempt to build out the European structure on sand has failed and will fail," he said on arrival at the event.
He said the guiding principles should be unity when it comes to strategic decisions and "freedom in everything else".
Laying out his vision in his opening address to the forum, Janša said the founding fathers had formulated four principal mechanisms - consensus, mutual respect, subsidiarity and solidarity.
Along the way Europe has sometimes moved away from these principles or even against them, but he said the bloc should be well advised to continue heeding them. How to implement these values is "the defining question of our time".
The prime minister acknowledged that there were different visions about the future of Europe, which is why Slovenia's EU presidency was keen to have "a sincere and open discussion on the European future" in which everyone can speak and be listened to.
The debate must be about the core principles of consensus seeking, solidarity, mutual respect and subsidiarity if Europe is to successfully tackle challenges, he said, noting that "unnecessary fights" were preoccupying its political agenda.
The debate must be about "who we are" and the strategic goal is to ensure unity while preserving diversity. "Europe does not have to reinvent the wheel, we have to return to the origins."
Laying out his vision of Europe three decades from now, Janša said he saw a strong EU based on the European civilisation with strong member states, a bloc that is "able to project and execute soft and hard power".
He also sees Europe at peace with itself and set in peaceful and prosperous surroundings, a part of a strong NATO and a world leader in terms of freedom and quality of life, a place of "dynamic and free expression of opinions".
It would also have high standards of respect for human rights and rule of law based on equal standards for all and on the cooperation of democratic institutions elected by the people.
Foreign Minister Anže Logar said in his address that the optimism of 2004, when Eastern European countries joined the EU, had been replaced by "a heavy dose of political realism and even pessimism", but the consensus was that the EU is still able to deliver, which it has shown during the Covid-19 crisis.
He noted that Europe had started to "more like a problem-solving union instead of a community adopting a strategic approach," noting that it was now necessary to identify the bloc's role in the world.
Such a debate should "not shy away from security and migrations". "We do not wish to evade issues which might be difficult or controversial to discuss, we wish to have an open debate."
European Council President Charles Michel noted that talking about the future of the EU must be about "what it should be ... its relationship with entire European geographic area, how it is organised ... and how to involve the citizens more."
While solidarity is at the root of the EU and its future, the EU has also become a project of influence, he said, noting that the bloc had become the largest exporter of standards in global trade.
"Yet the most important export standard is democracy, human rights and the rule of law... It is chosen freely, but it is both gateway to the union and vital to its proper functioning."