The Slovenia Times

V4 prime ministers endorse Slovenia's presidency priorities


Ljubljana - The prime ministers of Visegrad Group countries endorsed the priorities of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU as they held talks with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša in Ljubljana on Friday.

The statement adopted at the recent summit of the Visegrad leaders "largely reflects our priorities and to a large extent the positions that Slovenia has about all these topical issues," Janša said.

"We are grateful for the support for the presented priorities. We're looking forward to visits by all four colleagues in the coming months."

Janša highlighted how well Slovenia has been cooperating with the Visegrad Group counties and how they had helped in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. "In the most difficult times, great solidarity was on display in Central Europe," he said.

Since it joined the EU, Slovenia has often cooperated with the V4 countries and coordinated priorities. "I'm glad that we are doing it at a time when Slovenia has additional responsibility ... and the EU faces many challenges that require timely answers," according to Janša.

Janša acknowledged there were differences between the 27 EU member states, some of them stemming from different histories.

"My generation knows what life was realistically like, the suffering on the unfree side of the Iron Curtain. Most of the colleagues from the West that we talk to were born in prosperity and sometimes it takes a while for us to explain how certain things were here and how freedom and democracy should not be taken for granted, you have to fight for them."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Janša faced the difficult task of uniting two Europes: countries that deal with migrants and record slow growth and high debt, and fast-growing countries that have protected themselves from migrations and are stable.

He said that the EU faced "very important six months" during which it will have to tackle serious issues such as migrations, the green transition, the post-pandemic recovery and EU enlargement. "We are fortunate that Slovenia is presiding the EU and that Janez Janša is the prime minister," he said.

Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heber said Slovakia was fully behind Slovenia's EU presidency priorities, expressing the expectation that the country would do a good job chairing the Council.

He highlighted digitalisation, improved cybersecurity and the fight against disinformation as areas of particular interest.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš highlighted the importance of the enlargement of the Schengen zone and said that Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, which already satisfy entry requirements, should join as soon as possible.

He said the Western Balkans should join Schengen as well and enlargement should be accelerated to prevent the spreading of the influence of countries such as China and Russia in the region.

Babiš also warned of the danger of a new wave of migrations from Afghanistan after the pull-out of foreign troops, and noted that the military presence in Mali should be stepped up.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressed opposition to centralisation and endorsed the idea of a Europe comprising strong nation states that cooperate with each other.

He said he was opposed to the five countries being merely "pawns on the European chessboard" and said their voice should be "very loud". According to Morawietski, there is no room in the EU for better and worse members. "We are all equal."

It was expected that the prime ministers would be quizzed about the Hungarian law on LGBTI in schools, which has been heavily criticised in Europe, but there were few comments at the press conference, at which there was only one question available for each prime minister.

Orban mentioned it when he said the EU Parliament was dedicating too much time to topics that are not essential, accusing it of waging "jihad" against the rule of law.

Janša noted that Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights provided for the freedom to found educational establishments with due respect for democratic principles and the right of parents to ensure the education and teaching of their children in conformity with their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions.

"Both rights are respected in line with national laws," he said, adding that what he had read about debates in which he personally participated featured only one side of the argument - discrimination.

"You have to look at the whole charter to see what falls under national and what under European jurisdiction," according to Janša. "Let's stick to the documents we have signed and stick to the agreed value frameworks."


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