Prime Minister Janez Janša addresses the diplomatic corps
Prime Minister Janez Janša today gave his annual address to the diplomatic corps. Owing to the current epidemiological conditions, this year’s event took place in virtual form. The diplomatic corps was also addressed by President Borut Pahor and the Most Reverend Jean-Marie Speich, Apostolic Nuncio to Slovenia and Doyen of the diplomatic corps accredited in Slovenia.
Prime Minister Janša and President Pahor had a meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio on Wednesday, 3 February 2021.
The text of the Prime Minister’s address to diplomats is reproduced below.
Your Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio, Doyen of the diplomatic corps,
I bid you a warm welcome to this virtual New Year’s diplomatic reception.
The year behind us was a year of great trials. Every country in the world was compelled to face a pandemic and its numerous consequences – security, economic, social and psychological. The crisis forced us to confront our vulnerability, and also our powerlessness as individuals. As a result, we once again recognised the value of belonging, and the need for mutual responsibility. These ties build the kind of mutual trust that enables cooperation. It is on the solidity of these ties that our resilience depends. Without cooperation and solidarity, it is impossible to combat an epidemic or any other major crisis effectively. I would like to begin by highlighting the commitment and sacrifice of all health workers and other workers, and of everyone who has followed the measures we have put in place and has understood the need for such measures in order to stem the spread of infections. They have been an essential support for the efforts of the Government, whose chief concern in these conditions has been and remains the protection of lives and health and efforts to ensure the well-being of citizens, for which reason we have already proposed an eighth package of measures designed to mitigate the consequences of the epidemic.
In tackling the pandemic, seeking help and resolving many problems, trust, cooperation and solidarity have also proved themselves to be key values and principles at the level of neighbourly relations between countries and other wider, regional level. Our experiences of interdependence and mutual aid as we have tackled this shared crisis have strengthened neighbourly and regional relations. This has been an important experience that reinforces our belief in the benefits of cooperation and integration.
The pandemic has also been a major test for our wider homeland, the European Union. After the initial shock, our common institutions reacted with important measures, and the intensity of the coordination of the efforts of Member States has increased. The adoption of the Multiannual Financial Framework and the Recovery Fund was only possible because of strong mutual understanding and solidarity. The joint approach to financing the development and manufacture of vaccines and their distribution among Member States according to the principle of equality is also the result of a strengthened sense of mutual solidarity.
Slovenia played an active part in seeking the consensus of Member States for the historic decision on the Recovery Fund and was likewise actively involved in discussions on further strengthening respect for the principle of the rule of law in the Union. During the search for suitable approaches, Slovenia emphasised that monitoring the implementation of this principle must take place in a transparent manner, using uniform criteria and reliable and comparable sources, on the basis of legal assessment, and taking account of the specific characteristics of Member States and structural obstacles to the rule of law, which in some cases may also be historically conditioned.
Allow me also to highlight the importance of neighbourly relations. I am happy that our relations are characterised by strong understanding and solidarity. I welcome the two symbolic acts which President Pahor participated in last year together with the presidents of Italy and Austria. The year 2020 was marked by two historic events: the restitution of the Narodni Dom in Trieste, combined with the homage paid by the presidents of Italy and Slovenia at memorials to the victims of fascism and communism; and the words of apology spoken in the Slovenian language by the president of Austria to mark the centenary of the Carinthian plebiscite. We want to build on our good economic relationships with all our neighbours through new infrastructure connections that are vitally needed for the digital breakthrough and green breakthrough of all the countries in the European Union. Intensive dialogue is also taking place with all our neighbours on current EU topics and regional issues. Here it is worth highlighting the dialogue on the management of the Adriatic that was begun by three coastal states in 2020.
Within the Union, we have devoted more attention to Central Europe, which is our natural cultural, historical and geographic environment. Particularly through strengthened cooperation as part of the Three Seas Initiative and in the new informal “C5” group of five Central European countries, we have developed ambitious plans in the field of infrastructure cooperation, where this part of the European Union still lags behind. We have also strengthened cooperation within another dimension of our foreign policy identity – in the Mediterranean.
I would also like to emphasise the importance of bilateral relations with the USA. Slovenia passed from words to actions in 2020, strengthening relationships and cooperation through an exchange of visits at the Foreign Minister/Secretary of State level and cooperation agreements on cyber security and energy security. By beginning a strategic dialogue with the USA, we have laid solid foundations for a continuation of bilateral cooperation.
The Government has also made efforts to balance the country’s economic and other vital interests with the national security system and consolidation of Slovenia’s security policy position. In doing so, it has also followed the objectives and interests of allies and partners and taken advantage of good relations with neighbouring countries to avert threats and guarantee and strengthen peace. Due attention has also been paid to protection against natural and other disasters and to migration issues. In the defence and military sphere, the National Assembly has adopted the Act on the Provision of Funds for Investments in the Slovenian Armed Forces in the Years 2021 to 2026.
As the year begins and we look at the challenges and tasks that lie ahead of us, all these experiences inspire us with hope and the confidence that we will overcome this crisis together, through our combined efforts. Our experiences of cooperation, the strengthening of mutual trust and solidarity are the basis on which we will build our policies in 2021. For us, the EU and NATO represent the two solid anchors of the global political West. We want to contribute to the further strengthening and protection of its fundamental values and interests. This is something that will be on our minds more than ever this year, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Slovenia’s proclamation of independence. The efforts of the Slovenian nation for freedom and independence have found successful realisation in a framework designed and consolidated by European integration. With the fall of Europe’s totalitarian communist regimes, the creation of a Europe that is whole and free and at peace with itself became possible. This goal has still not yet been fully realised and remains the task of the present political generation.
Our most important task will be the presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2021. I would like to take this opportunity to set out our key priorities – crisis readiness and resilience. The pandemic has taught us that we must develop ways to tackle and manage crises rapidly and effectively at the EU level. The importance of the resilience of social systems, which are even more exposed to risk as a result of rapid digitalisation, has also crystallised. For this reason, improving pandemic resilience and readiness and improving cyber resilience will be the priority tasks of our presidency of the Council of the European Union. The countries of the Western Balkans and the realisation of their European perspective will also be high on our agenda.
The keyword for the future will be the stabilisation of the European Union, and above all its post-Brexit and post-COVID consolidation. In these conditions, the consolidation and stabilisation of the existing, Lisbon framework are essential, along with a focus on key themes and challenges and on improving the efficiency of the Union’s functioning in specific fields. The internal market and European economic and monetary union must become fully operative and show long-term stability. In this way, they will be able to contribute to the stability of the whole of the EU. Efforts need to be made, in accordance with the treaty provisions, to enlarge the Eurozone and Schengen area. In a very important sense, the Union will not be consolidated and stable until its external borders are also the borders of the Schengen area.
The EU can only be strong and united if in our joint cooperation we respect the principle of subsidiarity and the freedom of European nations to implement European principles, values and policies in their own way, in accordance with their own history, cultural and social specificities, while respecting the rule of law. In the EU we know that we are capable of facing any crisis provided we remain free, united and in solidarity with each other.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me at this point to offer my sincere thanks for your cooperation and efforts to strengthen the friendly relations of countries you represent with Slovenia, and the help that you have offered us in a variety of ways during this pandemic crisis. Thank you for your solidarity. Ahead of us is a year full of challenges, but our experiences of solidarity and cooperation fill us with the firm hope that we will be capable of meeting them. I wish all of you, and the countries and nations you represent, a year filled with health, happiness and prosperity. May this year see a further strengthening of the ties of friendship that bind us.