Ljubljana related

10 Jul 2019, 18:13 PM

STA, 10 July 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar reiterated that Slovenia would recognize Palestine as part of a smaller group of EU countries after a meeting with his Palestinian counterpart Riad Malki in Ljubljana on Wednesday, confirming the continuation of existing efforts aimed at recognizing Palestinian independence.

"We will continue with activities designed to form a smaller group of EU member states as soon as possible which would along with Slovenia recognize Palestine as an independent country," said Cerar.

"We haven't abandoned this plan of ours; it's still the main aim of our foreign policy," the minister pointed out.

According to Malki, Palestinians are looking forward to Slovenia's recognition. "We know there is the will to do that, but they are probably waiting for the right moment. We hope this moment will arrive soon," said the head of Palestinian diplomacy.

Cerar told Malki that Slovenia would continue to support Palestine within international organisations and assist it with financial and humanitarian aid.

The pair discussed the Palestinian-Israeli relations and the regional situation as well.

According to Cerar, Slovenia supports all initiatives aimed at dissolving tensions between Israel and the Gaza strip, which is under the protection of the UN and Egypt, as well as the continuation of the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process.

The Slovenian minister also called for restarting the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Slovenia, as an active EU member, advocates that the only solution (for this conflict) is a solution of two states - within the borders set in 1967 and with Jerusalem as the capital if the two sides do not agree on something else," highlighted Cerar.

According to him, Slovenia wishes that the suffering of the Palestinian nation would cease as soon as possible.

Malki said that Palestinians were striving for a peace agreement with Israel through direct political negotiations. He also expressed hope that the agreement would be reached soon.

The minister urged Israel to recognize the right of the Palestinian nation to self-determination and independence and enter into political negotiations, based on the two-state solution, with Palestine.

Malki highlighted that for Palestinians the continuation of Israeli occupation was unacceptable, which is why they were willing to respond to all Israeli security concerns.

"If a single Israeli soldier remains on the Palestinian territory, that would indicate the continuation of the Israeli occupation and would be unacceptable," said Malki.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abas even suggested the presence of a third party, mentioning NATO. Thus Israeli concerns would be addressed and Palestine protected against possible Israeli army invasions, said the Palestinian minister.

Malki also condemned Israel's efforts to annex individual parts of the West Bank, attempts which had been encouraged by the recent actions of the US administration such as the recognizing of the illegal annexation of Syrian Golan Heights.

Cerar highlighted that Slovenia allocated its biggest humanitarian donation so far to Palestine - half a million euro for installing a water desalination plant in Gaza. The rest of the financial aid (EUR 70 million) will be earmarked by the EU Commission.

Slovenia's aid includes providing rehabilitation and psychosocial support to victims of the Gaza-Israel conflict.

The Ljubljana URI Soča rehabilitation centre has treated more than 100 children from the conflict region in the past decade, while some 300 of them have been treated in Gaza as part of a joint project of the centre and ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) organisation, said the Foreign Ministry.

Slovenia is also setting up a rehabilitation centre for the West Bank and Gaza victims at the Bethlehem hospital Harmalah in cooperation with the ITF organisation and the URI centre. The country has contributed EUR 165,000 for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for the 2018-2020 period as well.

The Palestinian minister thanked Slovenia for its political and victim rehabilitation support. "Slovenia has a very special place in our hearts," he said.

Along with Cerar he called for strengthening Palestinian-Slovenian cooperation including in economy, tourism, education and culture. "All of these forms of cooperation strengthen the good friendly relations are are a form of aid and support to the Palestinian nation," said Cerar.

Malki, who had visited Slovenia twice before, was also scheduled to meet Speaker Dejan Židan, the Foreign Policy Committee chair Matjaž Nemec and the head of the Palestinian-Slovenian friendship group Matej T. Vatovec.

Židan highlighted Slovenia's strong affection towards Palestine, especially in terms of understating the meaning of the right to self-determination.

He expressed support and advised persistence in Palestine's efforts for independence, saying its recognition can speed up the peace process, the parliament's press service wrote.

The pair moreover expressed the importance of multilateral cooperation, which Malki noted was particularly important for giving small countries security and a sense of being protected by the global system and its agreed rules.

05 Jun 2019, 10:30 AM

STA, 4 June 2019 - Modern Centre Party (SMC) president Miro Cerar has notified the party he founded in 2014 he would not seek re-election at the congress he called for autumn after SMC performed dismally in the election to the European Parliament.

Cerar made the announcement at the outset of a session of the party's executive committee on Tuesday, according to SMC's official Twitter profile.

He will stay on as foreign minister and "help the party remain a firm member of the coalition and an important factor in the Slovenian political arena," the party said.

The news comes after the SMC won less than 2% of the vote, by far the worst showing of any parliamentary party in the elections to the European Parliament.

The share of the vote is in stark contrast with almost 10% the party won in the general election a year ago and the nearly 35% it got just after it was founded in 2014.

Just days after the EU vote, Cerar announced a congress for autumn where he planned to "see whether I still enjoy the party's trust".

Cerar was prime minister in 2014-2018, a period of rapid economic growth. He has been credited with returning the country to calm after a turbulent crisis period, but the stint has also been described as a missed opportunity due to the absence of real reforms.

In the Marjan Šarec government, the party has had trouble finding its footing in the company of several coalition partners with similar, centre-left platforms.

It has also been plagued by corruption allegations going back to its stint running the government, which appears to have tarnished its image among voters.

Cerar's announcement comes just a day after Šarec proposed that Slovenian members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) join forces in order to prevent fragmentation.

While SMC was reserved about the proposal, Cerar's withdrawal might pave the way for a potential merger with the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ).

The exit might also make Cerar a contender in coalition talks about Slovenia's candidate for EU commissioner, which are supposed to start in earnest next week.

02 May 2019, 10:12 AM

STA, 1 May 2019 - "The European Union is strong because it is united by its diversity and differences, big and small," Foreign Minister Miro Cerar tweeted on Wednesday. The minister, who is attending a ceremony in Warsaw, marking the 15th anniversary of the accession of ten countries to the EU, including Slovenia, congratulated Slovenians on the anniversary.

"On 1 May 2004, Slovenia celebrates 15 years in the European Union, along with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Slovakia, who joined the EU on 1 May 2004. The enlargement has benefited all member states and their citizens," Cerar said in another tweet.

In the last 15 years, trade between old and new member states had tripled. It increased five times, among new member states alone. The purchase power of Slovenians rose by 30%, exports doubled, foreign investments tripled, the Foreign Ministry tweeted.

"Slovenia is now co-deciding together with other EU countries on European projects and European future," Cerar wrote on the web site of his Modern Centre Party (SMC).

"Slovenia remains an eager supporter of the European enlargement in the Western Balkans," he said, stressing the importance of the upcoming EU election.

"This year's election is one of the most important elections in recent years. They will be held in a time when rallies honouring Benito Mussolini are being held in Milan, when an extreme rightist party returned to the Spanish parliament after 40 years, and when the voices of extreme rightists are becoming stronger in some other parliaments."

Cerar said that citizens must turn out for the election to defend the friendly, compassionate and liberal Europe and stand up to the attempts to demolish the European project.

The 15th anniversary of the enlargement is celebrated by high representatives of the ten countries in Warsaw today. The event is hosted by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The officials were also joined by Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, Croatian PM Andrej Plenković and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban. The European Commission is represented by its Vice President Jyrki Katainen.

Cerar, who represents Slovenia at the celebration, also held bilateral talks with his Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz on the sidelines of the event.

The pair talked about cooperation between Slovenia and Poland as part of the EU, according to Cerar.

Cerar also congratulated Slovenians on Labour Day, saying he wished everyone a decent job and pay.

Fifteen years after the big EU enlargement, the bloc is faced with Brexit and Euroscepticism, while the enlargement process has come to a standstill.

Western Balkan countries should be treated as a package if reconciliation is to be achieved in the region, analyst Stefani Weiss of the Bertelsmann foundation told the STA.

The enlargement process should be graduate and multilayered; there should be more intermediate steps before the final one - full-fledged membership, Weiss told the STA.

All our stories about Slovenia and the EU can be found here

23 Apr 2019, 15:58 PM

STA, 23 April 2019 - Addressing the annual consultation of Slovenian diplomats in Brdo pri Kranju on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar asserted that Slovenia remained committed to multilateralism and the rule of law. President Borut Pahor said the country should strengthen its role in the world.

Both Pahor and Cerar noted that multilateralism was indirectly jeopardised and that countries were returning to traditional geopolitics.

But Pahor is confident that all problems will eventually be resolved and that Slovenia should be among the countries striving for peaceful solutions.

"A key priority for Slovenia and a large majority of other countries is a multilateralism that is efficient and based on clear rules. It is a guarantee for stability, predictability and orderly relations," Cerar said at the start of the two-day consultation of Slovenian diplomats.

Cerar also pointed to different opportunities and challenges ahead, including the EU elections, Brexit and security threats.

"The actions of individual players have weakened the security infrastructure that was set up after the Cold War, some crucial agreements dealing with disarmament and arms control are jeopardised," he said.

Cerar also stressed the importance of tackling security challenges in cooperation with other countries and within international organisations, most notably NATO.

Slovenia strongly believes all agreements and treaties reached should be respected and decisions by international courts fully implemented.

Respecting the principles of the rule of law in the international environment is important not only because it protects weaker countries in relation to the strong but because the rule of law is an important value of this civilisation, Cerar said.

"The EU too could fall apart if democratic values and the rule of law were not protected," he warned.

Turning to Slovenian-Croatian relations, he repeated that the condition for the bilateral relations to improve was the implementation of the border arbitration award. Croatia should also refrain from causing incidents in the Bay of Piran, he said.

Pahor suggested the two countries should focus on what unites them and deal with problems in a wise and prudent way. Problems should not be put in the forefront unless that is urgently needed for things to be cleared up, he said.

In the light of recent attempts from abroad to influence Slovenian media and controversial statements by some foreign politicians, Cerar said Slovenia "rejects attempts to interfere with the freedom of our media, revision of historical facts and inciting of intolerance."

Cerar called for the strengthening of relations with partner countries, and pointed to the strengthening of relations with the US. He added that the country would also maintain dialogue with other countries, including Russia.

Regarding the Western Balkans, he said the countries from the region needed positive and realistic prospects for joining the EU based on their achievements.

Pahor stressed the importance of Slovenia's efforts for the integration of Western Balkan countries, including through the Brdo-Brijuni Process. He said the EU's enlargement in the region should be considered a geopolitical issue.

Turning to economic diplomacy, Cerar said Slovenia should continue to focus on innovation and new technologies. Business cooperation with Africa and Latin America should be boosted, he added.

The minister also sees many opportunities to enhance business ties within the existing initiatives such as the Bled Strategic Forum and the Three Sees Initiative.

Tomorrow, the diplomats will be addressed by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.

According to the Foreign Ministry's data, Slovenia has 55 diplomatic representation offices and consulates around the world, including 40 embassies, seven permanent representation offices, and five consulates general.

15 Apr 2019, 15:51 PM

STA, 15 April 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar received US Republican congressman Paul A. Gosar on Monday to discuss bilateral relations between the US and Slovenia. After the meeting they both stressed the importance of strengthening the dialogue between the two countries.

Cerar pointed out that quality political relations could contribute to better economic cooperation as well. He said that Slovenia has had good relations with the US, which he would endeavour to further improve in the future.

The minister also acknowledged that Gosar has recently founded the Friends of Slovenia Caucus in the House of Representatives, while another US politician of Slovenian descent, Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar established a similar caucus in the upper chamber of the US congress.

Stressing the importance of such groups, Cerar added that both friendship societies could assist Slovenia in pursuing its political interests.

Despite the estimated good bilateral relations over the past ten years, Cerar said that there was not enough direct contact on the highest political level.

"I wish to improve that as foreign minister," said Cerar, stressing that he would not do that at the expense of Slovenia's relations with other countries.

The US is one of the most significant investors in Slovenia, said the minister, who like Gosar believes that the economic cooperation between the two countries could be further improved.

Gosar, who is visiting Slovenia at the invitation of President Borut Pahor, said that bilateral discussions significantly contributed to the cooperation between the countries since they were a way to look for solutions and clinch victories together.

The congressman also stressed the role of friendship societies as important opportunities for maintaining and strengthening the dialogue.

The two politicians also addressed current political issues, including the Western Balkans situation and international agreements with Iran, Russia and China.

Gosar has been visiting Slovenia since Friday, when Pahor bestowed on him the Golden Order of Merit, one of Slovenia's highest state decorations, commending the congressman for his contribution and cooperation in strengthening relations between Slovenia and the US.

On Saturday Gosar and Pahor attended a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of a US bomber's crash during WWII at the Andraž settlement near Polzela, addressing the event as keynote speakers.

Today, Gosar also met Dejan Židan, the speaker of the National Assembly, and Alojz Kovšca, the president of the National Council.

Židan and Gosar discussed the countries' respective political systems as well as the current political situation, including the upcoming May EU elections.

According to Židan, the majority of Slovenians are in favour of the EU for many reasons, including because they feel safer as part of the bloc.

Gosar also met with the chair of the Foreign Policy Committee and Parliamentary Friendship Group with the US Matjaž Nemec.

21 Mar 2019, 12:50 PM

STA, 20 March 2019 - Prime Minister Miro Cerar reiterated at a session of the Foreign Policy Committee on Wednesday Slovenia's position that it would make sense to postpone Brexit, but not beyond the date of the May EU elections. He also expressed hope the situation in Serbia will not escalate.

Asked about Brexit, Cerar said that in case a justified reason for a postponement of the deadline is put forward, Slovenia will be ready to support this within reasonable limits. Presently, Cerar is waiting for the message of British Prime Minister Theresa May at the EU summit.

He assessed that 23 May would probably be the latest deadline, since going beyond that would raise a number of questions, including of legal nature, that would have to be resolved by the European Council.

Repeating a deal would be in the best interest of everyone, Cerar said Slovenia was also ready for a no deal Brexit, having prepared an emergency bill governing the rights of Slovenians in Britain.

Meanwhile, quizzed by coalition SocDems MP Milan Brglez about Slovenia's take on the US no longer seeing the Golan Heights and other territories under Israel's occupation as occupied, Cerar said Slovenia's positions remained unchanged.

Thus Slovenia supports a peaceful process and a two-state solution with Palestine within the 1967 borders. Cerar repeated Slovenia would recognise Palestine if or when a group of EU members also decides to do so.

Asked by Brglez about European parliament President Antonio Tajani's recent statement about Benito Mussolini "also having done some good things", Cerar said the statement was met by a quick response from members of the European Parliament, which is supported by the Foreign Ministry.

Tajani issued a public apology "and we find that this ends this story". Still, if this repeats, the Foreign Ministry will have to respond, Cerar added.

As for the developments in Serbia, a topic raised by coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) MP Ivan Hršak, Cerar said he was following them closely and was concerned. He hopes that things will not escalate and that the conflict in the country will be resolved in a democratic manner in line with the rule of law.

Zmago Jelinčič, leader of the opposition National Party (SNS), wanted to find out if Slovenia planned to rescind its recognition of Kosovo.

"I believe our recognition of Kosovo was justified," Cerar said, while adding Slovenia was aware that a number of issues remained open in the region.

Another issue raised was Croatia's decision to limit transit for heavy trucks at the Petišovci border crossing (NE) at the start of 2019. Cerar said that business has asked the relevant ministries to intervene with Croatian authorities and that the situation has already been discussed at an interdepartmental meeting.

18 Mar 2019, 19:24 PM

STA, 18 March 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, speaking to the press on the margin of the EU Council for Foreign Affairs session on Monday, believes a Brexit postponement until 23 May would be an option.

 

He is in favour of a Brexit postponement until 23 May at the latest, that is until the EU elections, provided that the British parliament backs the exit deal.

Cerar feels this could be the right way if the EU-27 is united on it and if it is very clear what both sides want to achieve, he told the press in Brussels.

"If extending the deadline brings more clarity without endangering the EU's unity and European institutions, then it would make sense and I'll support it."

Making sure EU institutions function normally means it is clear who takes part in them; in case of Brexit, UK representatives cannot be MEPs and cannot become commissioners, the minister explained.

He reiterated it was very important to make sure EU citizens, including Slovenian ones, enjoyed the same rights as now after Brexit, stressing he had been reassured today this would be the case.

However, as things stand now, the British parliament is hardly likely to back the exit deal it has rejected twice already.

It is also not very likely the next vote will take place on Tuesday as planned at the moment, since a rejected accord cannot be put to another vote without any changes.

An EU source meanwhile said today the EU-27 could decide on a UK postponement request as late as "an hour before midnight", or just before the scheduled exit date of 29 March.

All out stories on Brexit are here

14 Mar 2019, 16:00 PM

STA, 13 March 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said on Wednesday that he personally believes Britain's exit from the EU would probably be best postponed a little as things currently stand. He feels Slovenia would be ready to back a postponement provided that other member states did the same.

Speaking to the press during a two-day visit to Egypt, Cerar said a postponement "would probably make the most sense right now, but not for too long, since the matter is becoming unbearable".

Responding to Tuesday's rejection of the exit agreement by the British parliament, Cerar said an extension would still be better than a no-deal situation.

He repeated that an extension would need to be reasonably short, since all the cards have been on the table for some time.

"It is truly only about the UK government having to find some kind of path as soon as possible; things have been finalised enough on the EU27 side," Cerar said.

While stressing this was his personal opinion on a situation that still needed to be coordinated at government level, the minister said Slovenia would also be ready to back a reasonable extension should other member states do the same.

In any case, it will be first necessary to wait for a final decision by the British parliament, which will be deciding on a possible no-deal Brexit today, Cerar pointed out.

If this option gets rejected, a vote on an exit deadline extension will follow on Thursday.

All our stories on Slovenia and Brexit are here

27 Feb 2019, 16:32 PM

February 27, 2019

In an article by Siol, published today and titled “He talked about ‘Soviet vassals’ and lobbied for ‘fracking’ in Pomurje” (Govoril o "sovjetskih vazalih", lobiral pa za "fracking" v Pomurju), the authors claim that one of the main reasons behind the British Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt’s visit to Slovenia last week was to lobby for environmental permits for the ecologically controversial gas extraction in Pomurje.

Although most of the Slovene public remembers Mr Hunt’s visit last week for his patronising appraisal of Slovenia’s progress from a “Soviet vassal state” to an EU and NATO member, little has so far been said about the alleged other purpose of his visit, nor the topics of discussion with his Slovenian counterpart, the Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, beyond Brexit-related matters.

Hunt brought up environmental permits for “fracking” at Petišovci

However, the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed to Siol.net that the Petišovci project was one of the topics discussed during the visit. Siol quotes the Ministry’s response to their inquiry as follows:

"The Foreign Minister also addressed investment cooperation, including the investment of the British company Ascent Resources in Petišovci. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Miro Cerar, explained that the procedures in this case are in line with Slovenian legislation, in accordance with the prescribed high environmental standards.”

According to information Siol claims to have obtained from diplomatic circles, the Petišovci project was one of the priority topics in Hunt’s meeting with Cerar. Furthermore, Ascent Resources CEO Colin Hutchinson was also in Slovenia last week, albeit only meeting with partners on the project. Hutchinson emphasised that he did not meet with the British Ambassador on this trip, and has never met Jeremy Hunt.

Environmental permits for “fracking” at Petišovci

ARSO (Agencija Republike Slovenije za okolje, the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning) is currently deciding on two environmental permits applied for by Ascent Resources and a local partner and minority shareholder Geoenergo: a permit that would allow for the operation of a gas processing plant, and another to boost production of the two existing wells by the method of “hydraulic stimulation”.

Although ARSO refused to comment on the possible results, Siol reports that based on unofficial information it will order the applicant to carry out an environmental assessment, which in turn means that no “fracking” permits will be granted for now.

Meanwhile Leben offers his resignation to PM Šarec

Hunt’s visit coincided with what Siol termed a “media war” against Jure Leben due to controversial second-rail model public procurement when he still served as a state secretary at the Ministry of Infrastructure of the previous government. Jure Leben offered his resignation to the Prime Minister Marjan Šarec yesterday. The news of his departure has been met with approval on social media by Ascent Resources shareholders, who have seen Mr. Leben as one of the main obstacles for gas extraction in Petišovci.

Siol also claims that the British Ambassador, Sophie Honey, met with Mr Leben last year to discuss the issue, a meeting that the report says ended with “raised voices”. Leben then made a report to the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (Komisiji za preprečevanje korupcije), while the British Embassy in Ljubljana issued a strong denial that it had attempted to influence the decision of the Slovenian authorities.

All our stories on fracking in Slovenia can be found here.

25 Feb 2019, 10:18 AM

STA, 24 February 2019 - Slovenia's Foreign Minister Miro Cerar has expressed regret after UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt described Slovenia as a former "Soviet vassal state" during his visit to Ljubljana last Thursday.

Hunt made the comment as he commended on Slovenia's progress over the past 30 years during a joint press conference with Cerar.

"I'm really happy to be here, because as a fellow European country the UK is very proud of the transformation there has been in Slovenia over the last 30 years.

"A really remarkable transformation from a Soviet vassal state to a modern European democracy, a member of the EU, a member of NATO, a country with a flourishing economy, growing its tourism year in, year out, and this is really an example of Europe at its best," Hunt said.

Before declaring independence in 1991, Slovenia had been one of the six republics of the former Yugoslavia, a socialist country that was not part of the Soviet bloc but formed part of the Non-Aligned Movement.

It was Cerar's former party colleague and former speaker of the National Assembly, Milan Brglez, who spoke out to criticise both Cerar and Hunt for what he called an "arrogant insult".

In a post on his Facebook profile, Brglez, an MP for the coalition Social Democrats (SD) after defecting from Cerar's Modern Centre Party (SMC), said the minimum he expected of the country's representatives was a prompt and adequate reaction to insults directed at the country and its citizens.

In a press release issued by his party on Sunday, Cerar said that Hunt came to Slovenia to discuss the UK's future relations with Slovenia and other EU countries after Brexit and the rights of Slovenian citizens living in Britain and British citizens living in Slovenia.

Cerar noted that Hunt complimented Slovenia on its transformation and that he also talked about Slovenia as a partner country from the perspective of the UK as an architect of peace after Second World War.

"This is why during his public address at the press conference I didn't want to respond and interrupt him as a guest.

"Unfortunately, the Soviet vassal assessment was an inappropriate and inaccurate one ... at the first opportunity with my British counterpart, on the sidelines of the EU ministerial meeting, I will talk with him about the matter and instruct him about our past. I believe there will be no similar rhetorical awkwardness in the future," Cerar said.

This was not the first embarrassing error for Hunt. During his debut visit to Beijing as the UK foreign secretary last year, he referred to his Chinese wife as Japanese.

TSN seems to have broken this story in the English-language media, which soon ended up in The Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail and other sources. Read our original article here

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