The Slovenia Times

Brdo debate argues for inclusive Conference on Future of Europe


Brdo pri Kranju - Prime Minister Janez Janša and President Borut Pahor argued for making discussion within the Conference on the Future of Europe as inclusive as possible, as they addressed an opening debate on the topic at Brdo pri Kranju on Thursday. The same view was aired by some other participants, who advocated for pluralism in the bloc.

Janša said a joint decision had been made with other guests in today's debate back in March that Slovenia as the country presiding the Council of the EU in the second half of the year would seek to add value to the conference substance-wise.

The debate would be significantly affected by the EU's strategic agenda, that is green and digital transformation, which Janša said would change the way people live. He noted Europe's resilience for a more successful combat against the pandemic and similar emergencies as further central topics.

However, he said many other topics where there was not such a high level of unity in the bloc would also be broached, including the EU's own resources and majority decision-making on foreign policy issues. He offered the demographic picture as another important topic, which he described as a strategic problem.

Janša said it had been agreed within the current presidency trio (Slovenia, Germany and Portugal), as well as the next (France, the Czech Republic and Sweden) to open up discussion, to allow people with different views to take part.

The government has thus decided to dedicate this year's Bled Strategic Forum, the country's prime foreign policy event, fully to discussions on the future of Europe. Janša said interest in the event was considerable and he expected many top officials from other EU member countries to attend.

A case for inclusive debate was also made by President Pahor. "Only inclusive discussion, both at the level of citizens and politics, makes sense and is useful," he said.

A strong and connected EU is in Slovenia's interest, he said, adding that he would like for Europe to become more connected internally and a stronger player outwards. "It is my wish to have the opportunity to elect a European Union president in my lifetime."

However, he also said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic and political and security situation, it could be expectations of the Conference on the Future of Europe were lower than he would want or that citizens and Europe deserved.

He would like to give a momentum to the Conference with his meeting with his German and Portuguese counterparts Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on 30 May. He also plans to visit EU institutions in Brussels on 4 June.

The president's adviser Ernest Petrič was one of the speakers that called for inclusive discussion of the Conference as the only way it can succeed.

Similarly, jurist Matej Avbelj argued for a bottom-up discussion as Europeans opt between three scenarios; to continue on the path of reform, to preserve the status quo, and disintegration. He advocates the first of the three scenarios, which he said was based on plurality, constitutional democracy and non-governmental federation.

Dimitrij Rupel, the former long-serving foreign minister, opined that the EU would need its constitution to become closely integrated. He noted the Ljubljana initiative as the Slovenian proposal for the European constitution, which he had been involved in himself.

Jurist Jurij Toplak called for plurality and freedom in political and other discussions in Europe. He would like to see more transparency at European institutions, fewer obstacles to getting employment in other member countries and less distance between institutions and people.

Appeal for the latter also came from Zofija Mazej Kukovič, a former MEP for Janša's Democrats (SDS), where she said the institutions themselves had a lot of work to do. Simplifying administration should be a short- and long-term goal.

The debate today launched the Conference on the Future of Europe in Slovenia. The Conference will provide a forum for Europeans to exchange views and look for answers on the course of Europe's development in the future and the EU's role and position in changed geopolitical balance of power. Slovenia as the EU presiding country will play an important role in leading the Conference.


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