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Prime Minister Janez Janša: The European way of life and the rule of law will be the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Prime Minister Janez Janša is on a working visit to Greece today. During the visit, the Prime Minister addressed the 6th Delphi Economic Forum. This is the central event and annual conference of the organisation of the same name, which brings together leaders from different countries who are committed to implementing and promoting innovative ideas for sustainable and competitive growth in Europe and the wider Eastern Mediterranean region. At this year’s conference, Prime Minister Janez Janša spoke about the future of Europe and presented the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the European Council, as well as addressing other current topics in the conversation with the moderator.

During the introduction to the 6th Delphi Economic Forum Prime Minister Janša said it is “refreshing that we are in Athens physically, which is a sign that the pandemic is coming to an end, and this is something we all want.” He also said that Slovenia has many reasons to celebrate, not only because it will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1st, but also because we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of our statehood.

He then highlighted some historical events connecting Greece and Slovenia. He emphasised that Slovenia, and thus Ljubljana, was at the centre of Europe 200 years ago when the Ljubljana Congress, the second of the three congresses of the Holy Alliance took place in our capital, where European political leaders gathered to try again to establish a balance of power in those times. The Greek struggle for independence and sovereignty also began in 1821. “Though our independence is more recent, we still have a realistic sense of that time 30 years ago, nevertheless, the time of independence is always a sacred time in the history of every nation, I congratulate the Greek nation for that,” said the Prime Minister. He also spoke about Ioannis Antonios Kapodistrias, a Greek statesman who had attended the Ljubljana Congress.

The Prime Minister emphasised that the challenges faced by the EU today are no smaller than those of 200 years ago. “The EU must find new mechanisms to maintain national sovereignty, to be strategically autonomous, and to pursue European interests globally,” he said, adding that without so-called strategic autonomy, it is impossible to be strong and co-ordinate interests with other global powers.

He also spoke about the opening of a debate on the future of Europe during the Slovenian Presidency of the European Council. “We have different views about our future, and it is correct that these views be freely expressed, that we make compromises where there are differences and that we strengthen our European values,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša. According to the Prime Minister, the goal is to ensure a European Union that is united and free and at peace with itself. “We still have some European countries that are not members of the EU, and the enlargement process is must continue,” said Prime Minister Janez Jansa.

According to the Prime Minister, the priority for the next six months is resilience. “The COVID-19 pandemic has hit us all hard, and shown the vulnerability of the European Union. I think we have all learned a lot in recent months, and that the vast majority of Europe agrees that we have to build a Europe that is resilient to future epidemics, as well as other challenges that we need to be more prepared for, one of which is cyber security. No country in Europe has the capacity to face such challenges on its own, but Europe as a whole does, and if we are able to unite then we are also able to overcome common challenges,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša.

The priorities of the Slovenian Presidency will be the European way of life and the rule of law. “We have to restore the Union’s balance of rights and duties, we must strengthen the protection of human rights, especially the right to freedom of expression, which is not only the right of the media but of every individual, and is the basis for many other rights,” he said.

The Prime Minister emphasised that the EU must be aware of the differences that exist between countries when deciding on various measures. “It is completely different to carry out reforms in countries with a 30-year history of democracy than in countries with a democratic tradition that spans a century. The length of democratic life and transition have their own strategic consequences. Therefore, a policy of ‘one size fits all’ is not always appropriate, more care must be taken and an approach tailored to the needs of the member states must be used,” said Prime Minister Janez Janša.

“When we talk about a secure Europe, we must be aware that there are authoritarian countries around Europe, some of which have revisionist agendas that threaten the values of Western civilisation and the values which we have written into the foundations of the Lisbon Treaty. We know what was happening in the Eastern Mediterranean, and we must be aware of this when attempting to ensure a secure Europe. We also need to be aware that we can do this when we are united and fighting for each other. When we defend a common family together, it does not matter where the threats come from, whether from the North, South, East or West,” stressed Prime Minister Janez Janša.

When asked about COVID-19 vaccine patents, Prime Minister Janez Janša replied that in the short and medium term it is more important to increase the production of vaccines. “We are dealing with this problem at the European level and we have come to the conclusion that we need to increase vaccine production in the medium and short term, because if companies that are developing patents for mRNA vaccines share their knowledge freely, then countries like Cameroon or the Democratic Republic of the Congo would not be able to produce vaccines, so in the short term such a patent proposal does not help,” the Prime Minister said.

According to him, as far as the economy is concerned, the optimistic scenario is that the pandemic will end this summer. “The European economy will recover quickly because of the resources provided by the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The pessimistic scenario, however, is that because vaccine production is so poor, new mutations of the virus will occur in Europe and catch us in a renewed fight with novel versions of the virus, in which case we will require a new resistance package, which I believe the EU will provide,” the Prime Minister said.

Regarding the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Prime Minister said that the European Council is in favour of a two-track approach against Turkey, which will only succeed “if we are united in this regard.” “We are not there yet because differences remain, but we are going in that direction and during the coming six months, when our country will have more responsibility, we will do everything in our power to reach a consensus and act as family. When we are united, we can also reach a joint agreement with Turkey and the situation can improve,” the Prime Minister stressed.

Regarding the enlargement process in the Western Balkans, Prime Minister Janez Janša said that Slovenia was planning an informal summit between the EU and the Western Balkans in October of this year to discuss the situation and take steps to accelerate the enlargement process. “Little attention has been paid to the enlargement of the EU in the Western Balkans due to the economic crisis, the migrant crisis and now the pandemic, but the time has now come for us to focus on enlargement,” said Prime Minister Janša. When asked about the non-paper, which has been the subject of much debate during the past month, the Prime Minister said “the non-paper is something that does not exist and therefore I cannot comment on it.” “Some non-papers are published only to speed up a debate that is in the interest of one side or the other. Slovenia is trying to help the region of the Western Balkans by making the European perspective of the Western Balkans a reality. The informal conference that we shall organise will not be a conference on border changes, but on the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries,” concluded Prime Minister Janez Janša.