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Prime Minister Janez Janša at Bled Strategic Forum on challenges following the COVID-19 epidemic

Prime Minister Janez Janša today attended the 15th Bled Strategic Forum and participated in the introductory European Leaders' Panel on "Europe after Brexit and COVID–19".

Mr Janša first expressed his pleasure that so many European leaders accepted the invitation and congratulated the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković for carrying out the first presidency of the Council of the EU during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic.

He expressed hope that the period of Slovenia's presidency would be the period after the coronavirus, although we will still be dealing with the consequences of the epidemic. It will certainly be the after-Brexit period when Europe will be shaping a new balance of power. Mr Janša believes that Central Europe will play a key role in this. He pointed out that in the coming period we will also face the economic consequences of the epidemic and highlighted the importance of the successful financial EU level deal reached at the EU Summit in July. He expressed hope that the challenges of the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council would be dealt with in a better economic situation than it is today.

During the discussion, Mr Janša also highlighted the problem of double standards with regard to the issues of the rule of law. He recalled that the elections in 2014 were stolen, but there was no broad discussion about it. He was then a political prisoner, but nobody identified him as such and nobody highlighted the issue of the rule of law in Slovenia.

Mr Janša emphasised that political leaders are primarily responsible to their voters and not to other segments of the public. With regard to the future and visions for the future, Mr Janša stressed the importance of the enlargement of the EU and the Schengen Area and identified maintaining the safety and health of people and the good functioning of the economy as the short-term challenges.

In addition to the Slovenian Prime Minister, the panel of European leaders included the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and the Bulgarian Prime Minister Bojko Borisov. For the first time at the Bled Strategic Forum, the Chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, and the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, also participated in the leaders' discussion. All the esteemed guests expressed their gratitude to the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša for hosting the strategic forum and for the participation of so many heads of states. The discussion was led by dr. Nik Gowing from King’s College, UK.

At the beginning of the discussion, the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach emphasised the importance of today’s meeting and welcomed the high number of participating leaders that accepted the invitation and attended the Bled Strategic Forum. In his address, he emphasised the universal importance of sports, which also play an important role in economy. The president of the International Monetary Fund Kristalina Georgieva expressed optimism that the world will successfully overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. The Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš underlined the importance of EU enlargement and freedom despite the epidemiological restrictions. In the discussion, the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki highlighted the obstacles faced by the Eastern European countries and warned about the prejudices of Western countries towards the stance of Eastern European countries. He also emphasised the importance of NATO and of the Eastern European countries as Europe’s driving force in the near future. He also underlined the meaning of true mutual understanding in Europe. The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban highlighted the importance of making the right decisions in a timely manner, which enabled Hungary to efficiently deal with the epidemic of the novel coronavirus.

He also highlighted the importance of EU enlargement and the acceptance of Serbia as a full EU member. Without EU enlargement, he says, we cannot ensure an adequate security environment. According to Mr Orban, solidarity means joint success and Europe cannot be successful as a whole if each of its parts is not successful. The Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković underlined the success of Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU despite the difficult situation they were facing due to the novel coronavirus epidemic. The Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić emphasised his wish for Serbia to become part of the European Union for which, he feels, they have a lot of support.

The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that the European Union is not a utopia, but a story of success. He expressed his wish for Europe to become a promoter of solutions. “The crisis is a unique opportunity for a stronger and more cohesive EU,” he concluded. The Bulgarian Prime Minister Bojko Borisov expressed concern for the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic and emphasised the importance of a unified approach of European countries in tackling the epidemic.

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