Thursday, 15 December 2022 12:37

Borut Pahor: The European idea is first and foremost a peace project

Caspian Energy (CE): Your Excellency, what is your assessment of the work of such global forums as the G7, G20, and COP-27? To what extent are small countries involved in solving the global problems of the modern world order, which concern every inhabitant of the planet?

H.E. Borut Pahor, President of the Republic of Slovenia: None of the challenges we face – and we face plenty – can be solved by individual countries alone. We need to work together, and multilateralism is crucial for every country, regardless its size.

Slovenia is a part of neither the G7 nor the G20. Nevertheless, these forums serve their purpose in providing platforms for multilateral cooperation.

On the other hand, we are part of many other forums and international actions. COP27 is certainly one of the most important. It brings together political leaders from around the world, and represents a strong sign of the political will needed to address climate change and related challenges.

 We in Slovenia firmly believe in multilateralism, with the UN at its core. We play an active part therein, and contribute in different ways. Currently, we are a candidate country for the UN Security Council 2024/25. We certainly do count on the support of your country as well.

CE: What are Slovenians most concerned about today?

Borut Pahor: Slovenians are concerned about energy security, climate change and security in general – after all, we are rather close to the biggest armed conflict in Europe since WWII. The Russian military aggression against Ukraine has of course negatively impacted also our economic growth.  But nevertheless I want to reaffirm the strongest support of the Republic of Slovenia for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We strongly condemn this unprovoked, unjustifiable attack and its war of aggression against Ukraine. We call on Russia to immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. Russian war against Ukraine is a serious breach of international law.

We need to be aware that the war in Ukraine has spill-over effect on the security in Europe, in particular in Western Balkans. In the EU, we have a wonderful tool on disposal to strengthen our security – this is the enlargement process.

I strongly believe that faster EU enlargement to all of the Western Balkan countries would help stabilise the region. I hope the European Council will grant candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina before the end of this year. I also wish for faster negotiations for EU membership with those countries that already started the process. I also expect more sincere engagement by Belgrade and Pristina to resolve their open issues.

CE: Is it possible to say that your presidency has achieved its goals within two terms? What are the issues on the agenda of the future President of Slovenia?

Borut Pahor: In my political career, not just in the role of President, but also before that, as Prime Minister and Speaker of the Parliament, I devoted special attention to the issue of reconciliation – both inside our society, and with our neighbours. A lot has been achieved in this regard.

My intention has also been to further open a space for wider public discussion of several pertinent issues, from various health-related topics to the green transition and climate change.

I am convinced that sooner or later the moment will come when we European nations and countries will once again decide on even closer cooperation and strengthening of our European idea with a new European convention. The Russian Federation’s aggression against sove­reign Europe will, I think and hope, further accelerate these processes. Let us not forget that the European idea is first and foremost a peace project. The fact that the countries participating in it have not been at war for three quarters of a century says everything about it. Our general standard of living has also risen. This is the only way Europeans can intervene in global affairs.

CE: To what extent does the current pricing system in the oil and gas market comply with today’s ecological transition?

Borut Pahor: Unfortunately, it does not. We should use the current energy crisis as an opportunity to push forward our climate and green transition agenda. Otherwise, we could end up years behind, and we could lose years of efforts at ensuring more sustainable development.

CE: How does the economy react to high energy prices?

Borut Pahor: Higher energy prices are a burden on the economy. The Government of Slovenia has adopted several measures to alleviate them. There are also joint efforts on the level of the EU. Our economy needs to stay competitive.

CE: Slovenia is one of the main transport corridors linking Southeastern and Central Europe with global trade routes – Gibraltar and the Suez Canal: how does this influence the EU economy and European markets? Is it possible to expand geographically toward the markets of the Caspian countries?

Borut Pahor:  Indeed, Slovenia lies at an important strategic crossroads. Perhaps we are not aware of it. We should invest more in infrastructure – both traffic (I have the modernisation of our rail system in mind) as well as energy infrastructure. Our Port of Koper is of crucial importance for many Central European countries. We should certainly learn to think more strategically – and expansion towards the markets of the Caspian countries is a good idea.

CE: What potential do you see for the expansion of Slovenia’s relations with Azerbaijan today?

Borut Pahor: The relations between Slovenia and Azerbaijan are good. We could of course further strengthen them in particular as regards economic matters and energy. I have met President Aliyev a couple of times and have fond memories of our talks.

CE: Which countries does Slovenia find the most important for cooperation?

Borut Pahor: Our biggest trading partners are Germany, Austria, Italy, as well as France and others. With some of the countries we have established more strategic partnerships, such as with Germany, France and Türkiye. As members of EU and NATO, we work closely together with our allies. In general, we aim for good relations with everyone.

CE: How developed are the industrial and agricultural sectors?

Borut Pahor: Slovenia is one of the most industrialised countries in the EU, with industry accounting for nearly 30% of GDP. Industry is developing well – for example, we have the highest number of industrial robots per capita. On the other hand, agriculture represents only 2% of GDP. We need to adapt our agriculture to harsher climate conditions.

CE: To what extent is it relevant to build a new nuclear power reactor while other EU countries are reducing the number of power plants using this dangerous fuel?

Borut Pahor: Most probably, Slovenians will decide on a possible new nuclear reactor at a referendum. The fact is that we have limited options for renewables, despite being a very green country. If we want to be at least partly self-sufficient, we need to seriously think about nuclear energy as well.

CE: What can you say about the cooperation with the V4 countries (Visegrad Four)?

Borut Pahor: Slovenia is a Central European, Mediterranean and Balkan country. We are also amongst the most integrated EU Member States. The cooperation with Central European Countries, such as V4 and Austria is important and only natural, as is our cooperation with other neighbours and countries in general.

CE: How developed is the Slovenian banking sector?

Borut Pahor: The Slovenian banking sector is well developed and stable.

CE: How does the Slovenian economy react to new green initiatives?

Borut Pahor: Slovenia is firmly committed to the green transition. We are very satisfied with the EU policy in this regard. There is no bright future without transfor­ming our way of living to a more sustainable one.

 

Thank you for the interview.

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