Take the best we have to offer to the capitals of Europe!
Ljubljana, 09/15/2003 | speech
Address by the President of the Republic, Dr Janez Drnovšek, at a reception for representatives of the Slovenian diplomatic corps participating in the Slovenian diplomatic service consultations on functioning as members of the European Union (unofficial copy).
It is a matter of great pleasure that I have an opportunity to join you here today at these working consultations. It seemed fitting that we too should meet on this occasion.
The phase we are currently passing through is a transitional one. Together we are preparing and becoming accustomed to the fact that after ten years of campaigning and preparations for EU membership we will finally become members. We are learning what being a proper member entails. As I understand it, your consultations are focused on these preparations and I hope you have been successful. Our information management system is very important. The Government must prepare itself across a whole range of fields to be ready to respond consistently to events within the Union. We will have to find friends and allies on a case by case basis. There will not be fixed groups of countries with which we will cooperate, but rather groups will form around specific interests arising from specific situations. This will demand a high level of communication and an ability to provide a quick response. The months that lie before us are very important from this point of view. We must make use of them to prepare ourselves as best we can for EU membership. Our role in the Union and our profile have yet to take shape. I do not think we will accept the suggestion made some time ago that it may be better for new and smaller members to be quiet and not put forward their positions. I think that we should state our positions and I think that we will. We should also have positions.
It is my view that Slovenia will have to actively participate in discussing and preparing the EU's new financial plan for the following budget period. In this relation we will also have to hold serious talks and appraisals at home. The debate is not yet over, not does it remain wide open. It is my view that Slovenia must join the group of countries demanding more profound changes to the entire finance structure of the Union. To continue directing as much money into agriculture as at present will probably be untenable in the long-term. The compromise already achieved among the current member states is probably inadequate. This has been further demonstrated by the collapse of the World Trade Organisation negotiations in Cancun, where the main topic was farming subsidies. They represent a fundamental issue, for the EU as well, because it wants to be a leading and progressive force in changing global relations. The EU must take action even if it affects the financial position of individual members, especially the larger members. We know that this process is a very difficult one. This is one area in which I believe Slovenia can move unequivocally and actively and take a position alongside the countries wanting the EU’s priorities to change, that want to speed up the Lisbon process, making the EU economy the most competitive in the world. Agriculture must be preserved in all its functions, but we must make changes to turn the current system of inflated subsidies into something much more reasonable.
The next issue where I think that we will always have a visible and active part to play is in our relationship with South-Eastern Europe and our role in the region. I am sure that the other EU member state in the future will always want to hear our opinion and I am convinced that we must continue to maintain our credibility on issues relating to South-Eastern Europe. The credibility of a country that has extricated itself from regional unrest, from the former Yugoslavia, and that can be an example to others, is extremely important and we cannot allow our reputation to be harmed. This also holds true for our current relations with neighbouring Croatia. We know that these relations have at times been fraught. We know that we have worked very hard on these relations and that we have tried to resolve all the open issues. We are aware that the current Croatian policy in the pre-election period is an attempt to divert attention away from domestic issues and onto relations with their neighbours. That is quite easy and quite convenient for politicians in that situation. At the same time we are aware that EU policy is different, that just such policies in the past have led to war and conflict in Europe, most recently to the wars in the Balkans. Slovenia cannot, in relations with its neighbours, consent to or accept these games, the spiralling of harsh words, the escalation of antagonistic rhetoric. Slovenia must peacefully and patiently put forward its position and assert it through dialogue and the correct legal avenues. I am convinced that in this way we will sooner or later resolve this problem in a successful and adequate manner. The European Union expects us to act in this manner. I think that we should set ourselves the same criteria and demonstrate that we have already crossed the line demarcating the Balkans and Europe. Nor should we idealise Europe, as we are aware that such setbacks are possible and indeed do occur within Europe as well. However, this is something we should all distance ourselves from and find a different way of addressing. I myself have attempted in my foreign policy to draw attention to SE Europe. I have visited or invited to Slovenia the presidents of all the countries of former Yugoslavia. We enjoy good dialogue with all of them and positive exchanges of opinions, and they all expect us to support them as they move closer to the European Union. This is their principle expectation and the main political theme for them at present. At the same time these countries are all important trading partners for Slovenia and we must not forget that. This role will be extremely important for Slovenia in the coming years, which makes it even more important that we attempt to calm the situation with Croatia. Their elections will soon take place and dialogue will continue, and we will attempt to untangle the last few knots that remain after eleven or twelve years of negotiations.
As diplomats you will have a very important role to play in this. I wish you every success and hope that you will quickly bring the European spirit back from her capital cities to Slovenia and vice versa. Ambassadors, I hope you will take the best that we have to offer back with you to the capitals of the European Union.