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Prime Minister Janša on US radio NPR’s "All Things Considered"

  • Former Prime Minister Janez Janša (2020 - 2022)
Prime Minister Janša was a guest on NPR’s "All Things Considered" yesterday, where he spoke about the visit of the three prime ministers to Kyiv and the war in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Janez Janša

Prime Minister Janez Janša | Author Kabinet predsednika vlade

The host was first interested in why it was so important for the three leaders to meet with President Zelensky, given the security situation in Ukraine. "This idea originated from personal experience. Thirty years ago, when Slovenia was invaded by the communist Yugoslav army, we were quite isolated, so we know how our Ukrainian friends feel, and we know that it's a completely different thing to talk to someone by videoconference rather than to go there in person. President Zelensky said that we had been the first delegation to come to Ukraine since 24 February. Embassies were already leaving before the invasion; President Zelensky was also asked to leave the country and they, too, felt isolated," said the Prime Minister. Slovenia will send our ambassador back to Ukraine within a week and we are trying to convince our European friends in Brussels to also send their ambassadors to show them that they are not abandoned, that we are standing with them and not just helping them with words and help from afar, but giving them hope that they will survive, that they will win and that we are counting on them.

The host went on to ask how Ukraine’s EU membership would change things. "The fact is that Ukraine has written EU and NATO membership into its constitution, and now that they are ready to give up the pursuit of NATO membership, they seek institutional guarantees, which they see within the EU. I agree with their position. Twenty-seven years ago, Ukraine was a country with one of the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, which it abandoned because it was assured by the major powers in Budapest that it would retain its territorial integrity. That Budapest agreement turned out to be worthless; now they are no longer naive and seek institutional guarantees," said the Prime Minister. He added that the Ukrainians had his full support. "We are trying to convince our colleagues in the European Council that these are not normal times, that there is a war going on, that people are dying and that we need to speed up the procedures. This week, the European Council will meet to continue to discuss this issue," said the Prime Minister, adding that the vast majority of EU countries support Ukraine’s European path, but there are perhaps only three to four countries that resist this idea, given their political situation.

The Prime Minister does not believe the arguments that there are no mechanism for faster accession to the EU. "When we needed mechanisms, we created them. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany became part of Germany, the EU and NATO without lengthy procedures. It was a political decision and we need to make a similar decision now. When we talk about candidate status, we are talking about setting a specific date by which Ukraine will become a full member, which would be sooner than 10 years from now," said the Prime Minister.

The journalist went on to point out that after his visit to Ukraine, the Polish Prime Minister stressed the need for a peacekeeping mission. "A peacekeeping mission in Ukraine first requires some sort of a peace agreement, or at least a ceasefire agreement. A peacekeeping mission can be established when there is peace, but at the moment, there is a war which we have to stop first," said the Prime Minister. He added that, if we reach that point, there is no other institution that is more organised and able to put it in place than NATO. "Similarly, in Bosnia, when the Dayton Agreement was signed, the peacekeeping mission remained there, with NATO very much involved. We know the procedures and we know which organisation is capable of doing something like this, but unfortunately we are not there yet," the Prime Minister said regarding the peacekeeping mission.

Asked whether Russia was negotiating with Ukraine in good faith, the Prime Minister replied that it was not. "They are not negotiating in good faith. We can see what is happening. Even when there is agreement on humanitarian corridors, the Russian side does not respect it. We have heard from our friends in Kiev how the humanitarian corridors that were negotiated were not respected. When the people of Mariupol attempted to leave, Russian tanks prevented them from doing so. Russia is using the meetings and the so-called negotiations as something to divert public attention from the killing of civilians in Mariupol," stressed the Prime Minister.

At the end of the interview, the journalist also pointed to the criticism of the government’s attitude towards the media. "If you come to Slovenia, you will see that the same people who accuse us of being hostile to the media are supporting Mr Putin, and this is a sad image of our country," said the Prime Minister, adding that the figures also showed Slovenia moving up the media freedom ladder in the last two years, that is during the time of the current government.

"I myself was a journalist under the Communist regime, I was persecuted, imprisoned and I know what media freedom means. Now, however, only journalists who criticise the former regime, or are more supportive of our political option are harassed, persecuted and beaten," said the Prime Minister, inviting the journalist to come to Slovenia to see for herself who is being criticised.

In closing, the Prime Minister thanked the media for all their support for Ukraine, "because it is deeply important". "This is what convinces the governments of countries to support Ukraine," concluded the Prime Minister.

Transcript of the conversation