Prime Minister Janez Janša: It is in our joint interest that we each do everything that measures against the spread of the coronavirus are observed
Today, at the conclusion of the European Council meeting, Prime Minister Janez Janša, in his statement to the press, spoke of today’s agenda, which included Brexit negotiations, the assessment of the epidemiologic situation, discussions on climate change, EU relations with Africa, and the main conclusions reached by European leaders
“With regard to Brexit, the EU accepted the starting points for future negotiations, but these were rather bleakly accepted in the UK,” said the Prime Minister, expressing his hopes that the negotiations will continue at least in the same scope, and if no complete agreement can be reached that agreements will at least be reached in individual open segments, i.e. fisheries, competition rules, and how the deal is enforced. “We are running out of time and we need to get ready for a no-deal and all the arising consequences,” emphasised Prime Minister Janša.
The leaders also focused on the emissions reduction target of at least 55% in the climate change proposal. “In terms of the objective, there were no major reservations expressed. There are reservations however on how to achieve the objective and the price that needs to be paid as well as the fair approach,” said the Prime Minister, adding that these questions also pertain to Slovenia. “The objectives need to be met and kept sustainable. We should not focus only on achieving some formal objectives regardless of the price and consequences,” said the Prime Minister. He added that rational limits simply must be considered in this respect.
Another important question associated with climate change is the question of global competitiveness. “If Europe, whose emissions represent about 10% of total global emissions, strictly abides by the rules and limits its own industry to its own detriment, its competitiveness will decline and there will consequently be less money for research and innovation,” said the Prime Minister. He estimated that innovation is the only way to reach the long-term climate objectives by 2050 with sustainable development and maintaining our way of life and civilisation in general, especially as the current level of development makes it clear that these objectives cannot be achieved without innovation, new breakthroughs, and the use of nuclear power. “However, there are states that have problems with and limitations on the use of nuclear power,” added Prime Minister Janša.
“From the viewpoint of fairness, it is important to see which natural resources are available to individual states. If a state does not have sufficient natural resources to generate electricity from uncontested sources, it is at a disadvantage from the start,” said the Prime Minister, adding that these weights must be added to the final decision.
“Yesterday evening was marked by the discussion on COVID-19. The situation is deteriorating across Europe. The second wave was neither unexpected nor a surprise, as it has been clear since May that, without a vaccine, measures will have to be taken also in the autumn, including the standstill of public life and partially the economy, if we are not able to prepare and introduce an electronic application, which could significantly limit the spread of the virus,” said the Prime Minister. He added that there were too many obstacles to introducing the application at European level and “no agreement was reached”. “Even at national level, due to mixing of jurisdictions, none of the states implemented it in full. The electronic application could bring major benefits. Some effect on the limiting of the spread of the coronavirus is evident in states where the citizens voluntarily downloaded the application and this, to a certain extent, helped epidemiologists track the infections,” said Prime Minister Janša.
“There are two things that need to be appreciated when it comes to the efforts of European institutions made for improving the situation, so that we are not faced with the same things as in the spring, i.e. the bumper-to-bumper traffic jams on borders, congestions, logistic problems, etc. The recommendations concerning the crossing of borders and the labelling of high-risk regions have been prepared and are of a good quality. Slovenia has been observing them in full for quite some time and the same goes for the majority of other states. This way, even if the coronavirus situation deteriorates in the future, I believe that we will be able to avoid the problems that we faced in the spring when it comes to the crossing of borders, logistics, and supply,” said Prime Minister Janša.
“The Commission has prepared its recommendation on preparations for vaccination, once a vaccine is available, as well as priority groups to consider for vaccination first. An approach for fair distribution of vaccines has been defined, vaccines from European purchase agreements, with Slovenia being included. This recommendation was issued on time and is helping us all prepare for this long-awaited step which, in light of all that we saw and experienced, will probably be the turning point when we will be able to hold a more optimistic view on the success of the struggle to curb the spread of the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Janša believes.
He emphasised that a lot of the time at the Council meeting focused on the denial of the virus and the dangers it poses, adding that this is a phenomenon witnessed across Europe. “There is a segment of the population that was not affected in the spring. There were relatively low numbers of young people falling ill or dying and the mindset emerged that the coronavirus is exclusively the problem of specific age groups, even though it is a problem of all, especially endangered groups with chronic diseases,” said the Prime Minister. He added that there are currently hundreds of young or younger people lying in hospital beds across Europe, including in intensive care units. “It is therefore impossible to employ an approach in which the society would be divided into the at-risk and not-at-risk ones and that measures would apply only to one of the categories,” emphasised the Prime Minister. “As the spreading of lies and falsehoods is the spreading of something that is absolutely not true, something which becomes evident to all visiting any one of the COVID hospitals across Europe, this spreading across social networks and media is an actual health problem,” said the Prime Minister, adding that European leaders spoke a lot about how to deal with these fake news.
Concerning the discussions on EU-Africa relations, the Prime Minister believes that the conclusions present a good starting point for the next meeting, “for which we hope will be held within a few months with representatives of the African Union.”
The Prime Minister added that one of the most important points addressed in the discussion was the issue of development aid. “There were many of us who emphasised that the current distribution of development aid was not yielding all the required results and that a lot of the aid was lost somewhere along the way. The method needs to change; Africa is not a single country but a continent with a different situation in different countries. A specific approach needs to employed for specific countries, an approach that derives from the actual situation. Otherwise, all the European billions, which are allocated to development aid, are to a large extent empty investments,” said Prime Minister Janša.
“The issue of illegal migration was also discussed at large. Africa is a major source of illegal migrations for Europe and for the first time in history since this issue has been addressed at the European Council, the word readmission entered the conclusions. The next steps in EU-Africa relations will include the readmission of illegal migrants coming from Africa to Europe,” said the Prime Minister.
“With regard to Turkey, this subject was not on the agenda but, since 2 October, i.e. the last European Council meeting on this subject, there have been new provocative actions and the European Council issued another warning to Turkey. Furthermore, stronger solidarity with Greece and Cyprus was expressed by states who proposed a double approach in the beginning of October. There is much less patience now and in this respect, we are actually looking at the last opportunity before the December summit, when the EU will decide how to proceed,” concluded Prime Minister Janša.
The Prime Minister was asked about the COVID situation and estimated that unfortunately, in light of the predictions and experience, we are most certainly facing a few more days when we can expect new record highs, as, obviously, the gentle measures, which depended on voluntary observance, did not work. “Slovenia is no exception in this respect. The same approach was employed across Europe, rather leisured and focused on the faith that things will get better on their own,” said the Prime Minister. He emphasised that the plans, which had been prepared in the summer, foresaw all situations. “Measures are prepared and we will adopt them, but I reiterate that each further measure, which represents additional restrictions of specific services, is reflected in financial and social consequences. It is therefore in our joint interest that we each do everything that these measures are observed”, emphasised Prime Minister Janša. He added that he was aware that some of the measures are a nuisance, such as the wearing of face masks, “but this is the cheapest and the most effective way.” “Numerous countries managed to curb the spread of the virus with this measure,” emphasised the Prime Minister.
He added that the government was monitoring the situation daily and would continue to do so and react correspondingly. “The declaration of an epidemic depends on the numbers, whereby the parameters have been determined by health professionals. When and if these parameters are reached, an epidemic will be declared,” said the Prime Minister, adding that as soon as a vaccine becomes available, “we will promptly and in line with the priorities recommended by the European Commission, begin with vaccinations so that there will be no hold-ups in this respect.”