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At the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly (September 2005)
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The interview of the President of the Republic of Slovenia dr. Janez Drnovšek for Russian TV station Ren-TV is attached.

Ljubljana, 08/25/2006  |  interview

  • Mr President, the first question relates to Russia. As we know, you were a guest of honour at the Economic Forum recently held in Saint Petersburg. What was the main issue of the Forum? What was the most interesting? With whom did you manage to meet and what are your conclusions regarding your visit in Russia?
Dr Janez Drnovšek: The Saint Petersburg Economic Forum is a major, important meeting of economists and politicians. I spoke of the challenges of globalisation and the necessity of sustainable development in the future. The forum was also important for getting to know the Russian economy. I met the Governor of Saint Petersburg, and we established that there were many opportunities for co-operation, which actually is progressing well and at a brisk pace. I met certain economists, for example Mr Miller, Chairman of Gazprom’s Management Committee. Some large Russian companies headed by Gazprom have been very interested lately in coming to Slovenia and investing in Slovenia. Therefore I think that ahead of us is a period of more intense co-operation than to date.
  • Relations between Slovenia and Russia started five years ago? What were they like and what have bilateral relations between the two countries turned into, in particular in the economic and political context? Is Slovenia important for Russia as a partner? What about Russia – do Slovenes need it?
Dr Janez Drnovšek: Relations indeed started to develop more intensely five years ago. At that time President Putin and I had our first meeting and agreed on closer ties. In five years co-operation has increased considerably; trade levels have doubled and I think that Russia is indeed an important economic as well as political partner for Slovenia. Our political dialogue is good and friendly. I see in Russia a long-term partner, a friendly country with which Slovenia wishes to co-operate. And I think that Slovenia is also interesting for Russia, although it is not a big country. After all, Slovenia is a Slavic country that has a great deal in common with Russia – there are many warm feelings. Moreover, Slovenia is an EU Member State and will hold the presidency of the European Union in two years’ time. I think that our positive co-operation can thus be important for both sides, and I shall always support the policy of Europe and the European Union having close ties and partnership with Russia.
  • Currently, the situation at the Georgian-Abkhazian border is tense and a delegation of OSCE ambassadors is scheduled to go to Abkhazia. Slovenian diplomats will be among them. What is your position on these issues?
Dr Janez Drnovšek: This is a complex case and a rather difficult situation. I think that in any event this situation needs to be dealt with, like all situations, in a peaceful way, by seeking agreement. It is necessary to establish trust, which has not been the case to date. Abkhazia does not trust the Georgian government sufficiently, nor does it trust the Abkhazian leadership. Without trust, it is difficult to deal with problems, and without mutual trust it is unlikely to expect that Abkhazia will accept closer integration in Georgia. The Georgian leadership should be aware that threats will not work and that there should be no sabre rattling; on the contrary, mutual trust must be created. This is then a basis for seeking a relevant political solution.
  • What is your position to the breakaway of Kosovo, and do you think this will lead to another area of conflict in the Balkans?
Dr Janez Drnovšek: Kosovo was the first area of conflict in the Balkans. Because of Kosovo, the Yugoslav crisis started, followed by the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Now this last unresolved point, the last unresolved issue, arises from the former Yugoslavia. I think that this issue must now finally be solved. Kosovo cannot become a crisis area any more – Kosovo is de facto already independent and everyone is aware of this. As a result, the Kosovar Albanians, the majority population in Kosovo, indeed expect sovereignty and independence. And, ultimately, this is the only real option. The problem now is to protect the Serbian minority in Kosovo, to give the Serbian minority relevant guarantees, to ensure security, to ensure autonomy and participation in the Kosovo government and to safeguard and preserve Serbian historical and religious monuments in Kosovo. Indeed, there has been no actual Serbian sovereignty in Kosovo since 1999; there is an international administration in Kosovo and the politics of Miloševič in the past decade made Serbia lose Kosovo because he wanted to deal with this issue with repression and force. Now the Albanian population in Kosovo has lost all trust in Serbia. There is no trust today and it is not possible to build a common state between Serbia and Kosovo on this basis.
  • Do you see a way out of the Israeli-Lebanese conflict?
Dr Janez Drnovšek: This is a sad situation and I deeply deplore that it has occurred. I indeed condemn any violence, and it was not right that the Palestinians and Hezbollah resorted to violent acts, kidnappings of Israeli troops and launching rockets to bomb areas in Israel. But Israel is responsible for disproportionate bombing in return, for using excessive force and military power against the independent state of Lebanon, which is contrary to international law. There are many civilian victims among those killed; and I think that this is utterly unacceptable. The Middle East crisis will not be solved in this way. Violence always generates new violence. The little trust that may have been there is gone now. There is no trust, only more hatred. On this basis there can only be more exacerbation and the continuation of the spiral of violence that has sadly persisted there for too long.
  • Mr President, your country is called “the other Switzerland” because of the quality of life of its inhabitants. Unlike the Swiss, who have clearly opposed the euro and opted for the franc, which is, like other things Swiss – cheese, chocolate and watches – an object of national pride. You are adopting the euro starting on 1 January next year. Why have you decided to take this step and what are your feelings about it?
Dr Janez Drnovšek: Slovenia has decided to become a Member State in the European Union. We see our future in a united Europe in which every state and every nation will preserve its identity and a considerable part of its sovereignty. However, we will do a great deal jointly in Europe, more effectively than if we did it on our own. A common European currency therefore makes sense; it is also much simpler to travel around Europe using the same money everywhere and not having to change it at every border. This stands to reason for smaller countries more than for larger ones, although it is also true of the larger ones. We have had no problems with this decision in Slovenia. Although our present currency, the tolar, is strong, we have opted for the euro, and since we believe in a common European future we also believe in a common European currency.
  • Slovenia and Russia are two Slavic countries steeped in rich history of cultural and spiritual interaction. What is currently happening in this field? Which way is Slovenia turning – to the West or to a side nearer to it spiritually?
Dr Janez Drnovšek: Indeed, Russia and Slovenia co-operate fairly well now in the cultural field. Jointly we started the Forum of Slavic Cultures, in which the majority of Slavic countries are already participating. I expect that in the future this forum will play quite an important role in cultural exchange and in maintaining contact – maintaining what is positive in our culture and in Slavic nations, and maintaining contact with each other. I, for one, do not see Slovenia as only a Western country or a country with goals directed to Western values – not at all. There is a great deal amiss in the Western, developed world. There is a great deal of imbalance and difference in wealth. The developed Western world does too little to help the poverty-stricken Third World. People are still dying of hunger. They do too little to protect the atmosphere, water and soil, and this brings about environmental disaster. Thus a great deal needs to be changed in the Western world, indeed on the spiritual side. It is developed materially, perhaps even too much, because values are often reduced to material goods only. I therefore think that Russia and Russian culture and its spiritual tradition can contribute a great deal to our common human values. Jointly, Russia and the developed West, and Slovenia somewhere in between, could be successful in tackling the challenges that mankind is facing, making this world a better place than it is today.
  • Ljubljana will hold the EU presidency in 2008. What do you expect from this political event? Are relations of Russia and the OSCE going to change?
Dr Janez Drnovšek: Slovenia will be the first new Member State in the new European Union to hold the EU presidency. This a great challenge for Slovenia and a very demanding task. This presidency will be held during a period in which several major topics will have to be discussed: the European Constitutional Treaty, a new budget, revaluation of the priorities of the European Union and agricultural policy – and of course, relations with Russia will be important in this context. But these relations must be as close as possible, they must be partner relations. Russia must be a long-term partner of the European Union. I myself see, and hope to see, Russia in the future of a united Europe. I hope that Russia joins in European integration at some point so that Europe is not divided and that it carries great weight on a global scale and in global relations, and that it will be more efficient in addressing the issues that challenge all of mankind. This is my vision and in this vision I see an important role for Russia.
  • Mr President, you have made some unusual statements – on food, medicine, health, animal protection rights, rescuing mankind from increasing disasters, on the harmful influence of technology. Do you have a PC on your desk?
Dr Janez Drnovšek: These statements are only unusual in light of the existing systems of the world as it is. Otherwise I think that they are the right ones, that they are the right ones that mankind needs. We shall all, every individual, have to change a great deal about ourselves in order to jointly change the world. To make the world a more equitable and better place so that every person can live a decent life, not only the few who have too much while the majority has little or nothing at all. Sometimes I point out that we have become too dependent on modern technologies, that we spend too much time watching television, that we are dependent on computers. What if these systems crash all of a sudden? What happens then? We have to think about these possibilities and prepare ourselves. Large-scale disasters are not excluded: on the contrary, they are becoming ever more probable. There is no PC on my desk here in my office; I do have one at home, at the place where I live, outside the town on a hill, in a secluded place and there I communicate with the world chiefly through the computer. I write and then send messages where they need to be sent. Here, at my office, I usually hold talks.
  • One last question, Mr President. Do you like Moscow, do you like Russia, do you appreciate Russian art, music, theatre, etc?
Dr Janez Drnovšek: Yes, Russia is a special country and I have always been interested in it. As I child I was interested in Russian history. And then later in Russian art and culture. I hold Russian artists in high esteem – they are top-level and exceptional. Talented artists, musicians and ballet dancers are often on tour in Slovenia and it is a special treat to attend their performances. Moscow is a beautiful city and so is Saint Petersburg, where I have been recently. Old tradition and history must be preserved. There is plenty of both in Russia. I shall always be delighted to come to Russia.
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