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03 Mar 2020, 14:17 PM

STA, 2 March 2020 - Miro Cerar, Slovenia's outgoing foreign minister, announced on Monday he was quitting the party he founded, saying the Modern Centre (SMC) lost its face after joining a coalition led by Janez Janša, the leader of the right-wing Democratic Party (SDS).

Speaking in parliament, Cerar said he did not wish to be party member any longer, let alone "an honorary member of a party that has ended up without honour".

Cerar had been staunchly opposed to the SMC joining a Janša-led coalition since before the 2018 general election, but the party changed its mind under its new leader Zdravko Počivalšek.

However, despite his decision "in principle not to take part in the Janša government, I seriously considered Zdravko Počivalšek's proposal to head the National Assembly".

"The SMC could thus protect the principle of the division of power and serve as a liberal corrective to a right-wing government."

Cerar said that he had been encouraged by many within and outside the SMC to bid for the post of the speaker, but that after his discussion with Počivalšek last night he realised "it's all manipulation, empty rhetoric and private ambitions of individuals."

Meanwhile, Počivalšek suggested his decision not to put Cerar forward as candidate for the speaker under the Janša government was the reason behind Cerar's quitting the party.

Unofficially, the candidate for the post is Igor Zorčič, the leader of the SMC faction in parliament.

Cerar said that by opting to join the Janša-led coalition, the party had lost credibility to implement its founding values.

He said the party leadership did not see beyond themselves, not even as far as party members, let alone as far as their voters.

Cerar, a jurist and constitutional law expert, founded the SMC shortly before the 2014 election, leading it to victory and going on to serve as prime minister until 2018.

After the party's poor showing in the following general and EU elections, he stepped down as SMC leader, handing over to Počivalšek in September 2019.

Cerar said SMC MPs had forgotten not only who invited them to the project, but mainly who elected them, so he urged them to start thinking with their own heads.

"If this doesn't happen I appeal to party members who want to remain true to the SMC's founding values, democracy, rule of law, human rights and the freethinking liberal stance not to betray those values and leave the party that no longer deserves to be called Modern Centre Party".

"The SMC long ceased to be the party of Miro Cerar, and sadly even the Modern Centre Party, unless modernity is understood as following the latest fashion and turning the way the wind blows," he said.

Cerar would not say whether he will return to serve as MP after his ministerial job ends.

Looking back on the past six years as party leader, PM and party member, Cerar admitted that he may have made some mistakes.

"What hurts the most is that I was wrong about certain people that I proposed for senior positions: from ministers to the head of the deputy faction and others," he said.

In response, Počivalšek said that he had set out the situation in the party to Cerar; unofficial information suggests that they met on Friday morning and again on Sunday evening.

He said that after a long period of turbulence the party needed to undergo a consolidation, which he said could not happen if the party kept returning into the past.

This is why he told Cerar that he would not put him forward for the speaker once he returned to parliament, a decision that Počivalšek said was hard but required for the party to go forward.

Počivalšek, who has served as economy minister in the governments of Marjan Šarec and Miro Cerar, said that the SMC was keeping its social, liberal and sustainable profile.

08 Nov 2019, 12:30 PM

STA, 7 November 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar started an official visit to Jordan on Thursday by meeting the country's senior officials, including his counterpart Ayman Safadi. The first such visit in almost two decades is designed to boost bilateral political and business links.

According to a press release from the Foreign Ministry, Cerar and Safadi talked about the combat against terrorism, development aid, the countries' cooperation in the Union for the Mediterranean and the situation in Syria.

Cerar hailed Jordan "as a pillar of stability, peace and religious tolerance in the Middle East". He also expressed interest in enhancing cooperation with Jordan and other countries in the region.

Cerar expressed Slovenia's unflagging support for political efforts to resolve the Syria crisis under the sponsorship of the United Nations and under a Security Council resolution.

The Slovenian-run international demining fund ITF - Enhancing Human Security is supporting a two-year project in support of Syrian refugees in the Irbid province in north Jordan.

Safadi noted that the two countries shared views on foreign policy issues such as their advocacy of effective multilateralism and looking to preserve water resources.

The Jordanian foreign minister called for improving air links between the two countries, with him and Cerar agreeing on the need to revive partnership between the Slovenian port of Koper and Jordan's Aqaba in a bid to increase bilateral trade.

Calls for cooperation between the two ports also ranked prominently as Cerar met Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Tariq Hammouri.

The pair urged the implementation of the memorandum of understanding signed between the two port operators in 2015.

The talks showed potential for cooperation in agriculture, energy, information technologies, telecommunications, logistics, medicine and tourism, said the Foreign Ministry.

The Slovenian foreign minister also met Upper House Speaker Faisal Al-Fayez as well as Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh. They all agreed that the relations between Jordan and the EU were good and could serve as a stepping stone for creating numerous new jobs in Jordan through reinforced trade and investment cooperation.

They also called for the inter-parliamentary cooperation and focussed on the Palestine and Syrian situations.

Moreover, Cerar met Tourism Minister Majd Mohammad Shweike, with the pair discussing options for setting up a direct charter route between Jordan and Slovenia in summer as well as for the collaboration between the investment and entrepreneurship promotion agency Spirit and Jordanian tourism organisation.

The visit is designed to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two countries, in particular reinforcing political and economic relations.

Jordan is also seen as a port of entry for some other markets in the Arab world with the Foreign Ministry noting the importance of the Jordanian market, also because of the country's good relations with all countries in the region.

Jordan and Slovenia also cooperate well in the Union for the Mediterranean, where Slovenia has been focusing on supporting empowering young people through education and intercultural dialogue as part of the initiative Positive Agenda for Youth in the Mediterranean.

The country will host in 2021 a ministerial conference of the Union for the Mediterranean on higher education. Cerar has invited representatives of Jordanian companies to take part in the conference.

Cerar was tonight scheduled to take part in a working dinner hosted by Slovenian Consul General Ali Haider Murad which will also be attended by representatives of the Jordanian Senate and Jordanian tourism organisation.

16 Oct 2019, 11:43 AM

STA, 15 October 2019 - The Slovenian public has been able to witness an unprecedented exchange between two Constitutional Court judges in a row over political bias after the court released the long-expected ruling on the foreigners act yesterday (details).

In a dissenting opinion opposing the court's decision to annul the controversial provision creating a legal basis to trigger a mechanism that would effectively suspend case-by-case handling of asylum seekers under special circumstances, judge Klemen Jaklič exposed his colleague Matej Accetto for trying to exert pressure on him, accusing him of lies and political bias.

He alleged that he had been pressured over his dissenting opinion "with suggestions that I change it", and that Accetto had announced he would counter in his own opinion Jaklič's claim that the judges had aimed for a certain result, in the "sense this is the right result, it only remains to ascertain the easiest way to arrive at the decision".

Jaklič accused Accetto of lying when he said that no judge had spoken about the result in that sense.

In his opinion endorsing the court's decision yesterday, Accetto denied "politically-motivated result bias" in any of the judges.

Jaklič also accused Accetto of lying in denying his being involved in the creation of the political platform of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) when the court was deliberating on a petition challenging the result of a 2017 referendum against the Koper-Divača rail project.

The referendum petitioner Vili Kovačič had called for Acetto's recusal at the time, arguing that Accetto had collaborated with the SMC of the then PM Miro Cerar in compiling the party's platform.

Accetto denied being involved in the creation of the platform, which is why the judges voted against his recusal at the time.

The web portal Požareport yesterday released correspondence between Accetto and senior SMC members allegedly confirming that Accetto made quite extensive and detailed proposals in the SMC platform compilation process.

Jaklič, said that he had known about the correspondence beforehand, so he voted in favour of his recusal. He said that in the correspondence Accetto expressed his "tacit support" for the SMC.

Both Acetto and Constitutional Court President Rajko Knez denied the allegations on Tuesday with Knez saying that Accetto did not mislead the court about his ties with the SMC. Knez found the attempt to publicly discredit Accetto unacceptable.

Knez explained that Accetto's role at the time before the SMC's foundation prior to the 2014 general election had been subject of deliberations at the court several times. "The judges always reached a majority decision that there were no reasons for his recusal." he said.

The SMC said in a statement that Cerar invited Accetto to help draft some opinions, but this was before the party was established, as part of a civil movement. Accetto had never been a SMC member and had never consulted the party or Cerar.

Describing Jaklič's accusations as an attack on his integrity as a judge, Accetto underscored today that he had never lied or misled the court, explaining that the correspondence dated back to the time before the formation of the SMC party.

"I never denied my being a good personal acquaintance of Miro Cerar nor that before his entering politics I had worked with him as part of a civil society he gathered to advance debate on topical issues," said Accetto.

However, he said that he had not opted to enter politics, also because he had lived and worked in Portugal between September 2013 and September 2016. "I was hence not involved in the foundation of the SMC, nor became its member or ran with it in the 2014 general election race."

He attributes the situation prompting Jaklič's accusations to his own objection at a court session "against - in my opinion - too light and inappropriate making of value judgements and attribution of political bias to other judges in dissenting opinions".

In response to the exchange, Ernest Petrič, the former president of the Constitutional Court, said that the Constitutional Court should be as unbiased and unblemished as possible and comprised of mature personalities.

When an individual becomes a constitutional judge, "it is right they ask for their recusal for the sake of the court's good name even if there is only a possibility that their biased is questioned by sound arguments".

He believes that this depends on the individual's maturity, so "it is better for constitutional judges to be persons in mature age than a young person who has other ambitions".

Petrič was critical of the way constitutional judges are selected: "There is too much looking for judges who may be ours, negotiation on how many of them will be ours and how many yours. The result is far from having a balanced court. This is not the right path, the right path is aspiring for the best."

12 Sep 2019, 10:08 AM

STA, 11 September 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar does not believe PM Marjan Šarec's official visit to Russia could worsen Slovenia's relations with allies, either the US or the EU. The visit is very important, especially from the economic aspect, Cerar told the STA on the margins of the prime minister's first visit to Moscow.

The visit, during which Šarec has already met his counterpart Dimity Medvedev, is a follow-up to the story which began at July's session of the Slovenia-Russia commission, which plans joint business projects, said Cerar.

"We can see these projects already bringing concrete results," Cerar said, noting Slovenian energy company Petrol signed two contracts with Russian partners on Tuesday.

"In this way we preserve geopolitical relations and create room for our businesspeople. Slovenia is a responsible and trustworthy EU member and joined the sanctions [against Russia], but our business, cultural and political ties must live on."

In this context Cerar highlighted the role of a memorial to all Slovenians who died in the territory of Russia in WWI and WWII which Šarec and Medvedev inaugurated yesterday. "This is a very important element which brings us closer together in a historical, cultural and human manner."

The minister rejected second thoughts voiced by some that the high-profile Russia visit, featuring three ministers in Šarec's entourage, could in any way deteriorate relations with Slovenia's allies.

He stressed that as foreign minister in the Šarec government, he set himself a goal of balancing relations with the US, after Slovenia's foreign policy had been criticised for favouring Russia under his predecessor Karl Erjavec. "I've made an effort to intensify relations with the US."

Cerar also stressed the US was still the third largest investor in Slovenia, the two countries cooperated in many fields, and were allies in NATO.

He believes the visit does not worsen Slovenia's relations with either the US or other allies in any way. "On the contrary, I think that with a successful foreign policy in business diplomacy and through many contacts, we have opened Slovenia to all parts of the world."

As for Russia's annexation of the Crimea, Cerar said that "despite the amicable relations with Russia, we are critical towards it whenever it comes to the respect for international law".

Cerar notes other EU states also had very intense political and economic relations with Russia. "We are no exception here. And we do it with a feel for our EU allies. Slovenia is doing absolutely nothing wrong."

He said he was pursuing the policy he had started as prime minister in 2014-2018 to be in close contact not only with Germany, France and Italy, but also with the Benelux countries as some of the core EU members, so he sees the Russia visit could not jeopardise Slovenia's position in the EU in any way.

All our stories on Slovenia and Russia are here

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.

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