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Tanja Fajon: We seek intensive cooperation with Styria and support for the Slovenian minority

The Joint Committee Slovenia - Styria, which meets once a year in plenary session, held its sixth meeting in Celje. It was co-chaired by Tanja Fajon, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, and Christopher Drexler, Governor of Styria. In a joint statement, the two sides welcomed the initiative of the Slovenian minority to establish a "House of Cooperation" in Graz.

"Slovenia attaches great importance to cooperation with the neighbouring region of Styria, and I am honoured to have the opportunity to co-chair the 6th meeting of the Joint Committee. It is a special pleasure for me to host today's meeting in Celje, a city of remarkable cultural richness and diversity, with a valuable historical and cultural heritage dating back to Roman times. I am pleased to note that the ten years of joint work within the framework of the Joint Committee have led to improved and intensified cooperation in many areas," said Tanja Fajon, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, as she and Governor Christopher Drexler addressed the plenary session of the Joint Committee Slovenia - Styria and the participants from both sides of the border. The plenary reviewed the achievements made so far and agreed on further cooperation between Slovenia and Austrian Styria. Slovenia and Austria will continue to work together and exchange experiences in the fields of public administration, education, social and health policy, spatial planning, environment, protection against natural and other disasters, economy, tourism and culture. At the meeting, the participating sides adopted the Joint Statement of the Joint Committee Slovenia - Styria .

The Joint Statement is also available in German.
Prior to the plenary session, the Joint Committee met in three separate working groups and presented the agreed arrangements at the plenary. The topics discussed include public administration, education, social and health policy (1); spatial planning and environment, protection against natural disasters (2); and economy, tourism, culture (3). "Slovenia engages in intensive economic cooperation with Styria - trade in goods accounts for almost a quarter of the total trade between Slovenia and Austria. The two economies are also linked by direct investments, with almost 140 investments from Styria in Slovenia and around 100 Slovenian companies operating in Styria. Today's arrangements will further strengthen economic cooperation and pave the way for technological innovation and a circular economy with a focus on the green and digital transition. Joint activities to protect against natural and other disasters are of paramount importance - the floods of last August showed that networking, joint action planning, information exchange and communication can make a significant contribution to saving lives and property on both sides of the border. I would also like to underline the importance of enhanced cooperation in all areas, especially education and culture, for the Slovenian minority in Austria," the Minister added after the successful meeting. 

Minister Fajon and Governor Christopher Drexler met separately in the margins of the meeting, with Minister Fajon thanking the Governor for his support of the Slovenian minority in Styria. "Slovenia is committed to supporting the efforts of the Slovenian minority in Austria to secure long-term and systemic solutions for the implementation of their rights under Article 7 of the Austrian State Treaty. I hope that the Styrian Government will continue to work constructively with the Slovenian minority in Styria and listen to their proposals on how to strengthen minority rights, for example as regards the teaching of the Slovene language." She added that the Joint Committee Slovenia-Styria is a good platform to promote the implementation of the rights of the Slovenian minority, "especially through projects such as the House of Cooperation in Graz, which would bring together cultural, economic, tourist and other activities of common interest and mutual benefit.” The Minister also conveyed Slovenia's views on the Schengen area and called for the rights of the Slovenian minority in Styria to be implemented. 

Joint Committee Slovenia – Styria, background information:
In 2013, during a meeting between Minister Erjavec and the then Governor of Styria, Franz Voves, Slovenia and Styria agreed to establish cooperation in the form of a joint committee. The agreement was the result of a mutual interest in strengthening cooperation between Slovenian ministries and the departments of the Styrian Government. The Joint Committee addresses issues of common interest, seeking effective cooperation on joint projects and synergies in shared work. On the occasion of its annual meeting, which is held alternately in Slovenia and Styria, the Committee also meets in separate working groups. The annual meetings, which are organised in cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia and the Styrian Government, are attended by representatives of Slovenian ministries, departments of the Styrian Government and representatives of some other institutions. Cooperation in individual areas takes place on an ongoing basis, including in the period between the annual meetings of the Joint Committee. The competent authorities on both sides organise cooperation on separate areas.

The first meeting of the Joint Committee Slovenia - Styria took place on 14 May 2014 in Graz, after the then Slovenian Foreign Minister, Karl Erjavec, and the Governor of Styria, Franz Voves, agreed to establish cooperation between Slovenia and the Austrian Styria in the form of a joint committee. Since then, the Joint Committee has met every year for five consecutive years, alternately hosted by Slovenia and Styria.