Prime Minister on an official visit to the Republic of Austria
Prime Minister Robert Golob today paid an official visit to Austria. He and his host, Austrian Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer, discussed the close relations between the two countries, Austria's temporary border controls on the Slovenian border and the improvement of the situation of the Slovenian national community.
The talks between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor focused mostly on Austria's border controls on the internal Schengen border with Slovenia. Prime Minister Golob pointed out that this was a disproportionate and unjustified measure, in which Slovenia is disappointed. "The figures in Austria and Slovenia show that these measures are not stopping migration," the Slovenian Prime Minister made clear. He therefore urged Chancellor Nehammer to follow the example of Denmark, which recently abolished border controls along its border with Germany and introduced controls in the country’s interior. He affirmed that Slovenia would not introduce internal controls on its southern border, despite the increase in migrants crossing the Slovenian-Croatian border. This means that Austrian tourists will not have to stand in unnecessary queues when returning to their home countries. "We do not want this to affect our own population or that of our neighbours," Prime Minister Golob stressed. He proposed to Chancellor Nehammer a regional approach to migration management, which requires a great deal of hard work and joint efforts.
The Prime Minister explained that "border control at any one given point cannot produce results. Border controls are unnecessary and ineffective. I myself believe that a regional approach and in-depth controls are much more effective than border checks," he stated, expressing his conviction that a regional approach would reduce the number of irregular migrants.
The two leaders also discussed the situation of the Slovenian minority in Austria. The Prime Minister expressed his strong support for the current efforts of the national community to fully realise their minority rights and his expectation that Austria would continue to take tangible steps to aid the Slovenian national community. These include the conditions for high-quality education in the Slovenian language from kindergarten onwards and the implementation of the reform of the Austrian bilingual judiciary. "We are aware of the enriching potential of minorities. Cultivating and protecting the Slovenian language is one of our country’s key concerns, and the aim of the umbrella organisations is to strengthen Slovenian language proficiency in pre-school education. It is right that we support this at the level of the Federal Government and the Government of the Republic of Slovenia," said the Prime Minister.
The two leaders also touched upon their countries’ excellent economic cooperation. Austria is Slovenia’s third-biggest foreign trade partner and the second-biggest investor in the Slovenian economy. In his press statement, the Prime Minister also stressed the need for independence from Russian gas because of the war in Ukraine. "In this respect, the Chancellor and I discussed alternative sources, not only Algerian gas, but in particular an alternative source from Croatia, from the Krk terminal," summarised Prime Minister Golob. He pointed to the possibility of forming a consortium of companies from the hinterland countries; in addition to Slovenia, Austria and Croatia, Germany could also be involved. The consortium of energy companies would build an alternative source and bring natural gas from the island of Krk all the way to Bavaria via Slovenia and Austria. "Such an initiative requires changes in the existing gas network for reverse flows, but could significantly reduce Austria's dependence on Russian gas. The proposal has been positively received and I am confident that experts will actively continue their work in this area," the Prime Minister said.
In the margins of the visit, Prime Minister Golob and Chancellor Nehammer confirmed that the two countries share the same views on the situation in Ukraine and the Western Balkans. The two leaders agreed that the Western Balkans belong in the European Union; in this regard, Prime Minister Golob pointed out that the current enlargement process is not working. In fact, some Western Balkan countries have been waiting for more than 20 years to take the next steps on their path to the EU. "If there is no change in the process, the Western Balkans will remain outside the EU," assessed the Prime Minister. He said that a change in the EU's enlargement policy should soon be addressed by the Union as a whole, with the key objective of bringing the Western Balkans into the EU as soon as possible, along with Moldova and Ukraine.
The Prime Minister also discussed the intensive relations between the two countries and the situation of the Slovenian national community with the President of the Austrian National Council, Wolfgang Sobotka, who received him in Vienna.
Today's visit was the first visit by a Slovenian Prime Minister to Vienna since 2018, and the last time an Austrian Federal Chancellor visited Slovenia was in 2020.