The Slovenia Times

Nuclear energy and defence industry in focus of Breton's visit

European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton and Slovenian PM Robert Golob.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Prime Minister Robert Golob and European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton met in southwestern Slovenia on 20 April to discuss nuclear energy and efforts to boost the European defence industry. After the talks, Breton said Slovenia would play an important role in the development of advanced defence technologies, and Golob stressed the importance of supporting Slovenian high tech companies while increasing defence spending.

The pair shares the view that nuclear energy is an integral part of green transition, Golob said following the meeting at Zemono Manor House near the town of Vipava. He believes that nuclear energy should be financed using EU funds. "This is the only way in which Europe can secure enough energy for its needs in the coming 10 to 15 years," he said urging big steps forward in this field.

Breton, too, pointed to the role of nuclear energy in green transition, as it produces no CO2, as well as to the role of innovation. In order to reach the 2050 climate goals, the EU's share of nuclear energy should be at least 20% by then, he quoted the Commission's estimates.

The meeting did not only focus on EU members cooperating on building new units of traditional nuclear reactors, but also on how to create an alliance in researching new technologies such as small nuclear reactors.

"We must take both routes in the future, and then time will tell which of the two technologies has the biggest potential in the EU to provide clear and cheap energy for the future," Golob said.

Breton outlined to Golob and Slovenia's defence and economy ministers, Marjan Šarec and Matjaž Han, the European Commission's draft net-zero industry act to promote clean tech production in the EU.

The proposal puts clean technologies in two groups - the first encompasses all net-zero emissions technologies, including advanced nuclear technology, and the second consists of eight strategic clear technologies that would be prioritised in terms of siting.

Golob said that Slovenia and a number of other EU countries would like nuclear technology to be added to the strategic group, a move he believes is still possible.

The country has been championing the use of nuclear energy and the green label for such investments amid its plans for nuclear expansion in the form of a second reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Station.

EU funds may also be used to support green transition and related restructuring of the Slovenian car industry, since Breton has expressed support in principle for the plans for cross-border projects involving the Slovenian automotive sector and partners in Europe, Golob said.

Slovenia is the third most industrially-developed country in the EU, the prime minister underlined, and its industry is currently in the phase of extensive restructuring. "I think this is the moment when Slovenia can secure its future for the next 10 to 15 years by pursuing an ambitious industrial policy, investments - also of EU funds - and European partnerships," he said.

Turning to defence-related issues, Golob, who is confident that Slovenia is a leader in high tech equipment production, said the defence budget should be increased by supporting Slovenian high tech companies, which he considers the only appropriate way to do this.

The meeting was an opportunity to discuss investment in companies specialising in air defence systems or surveillance aircraft or drones. Golob and Breton as well as ministers Šarec and Han then visited Timtec, the Ajdovščina-based developer and producer of defence systems. They also learned more about another company from Ajdovščina, C-Astral, which manufactures small fixed-wing unmanned aerial systems.

Breton agreed with Golob that EU member states' defence spending increases in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine are also an opportunity to develop advanced technology expertise and capacities. "Slovenia will play a very important role in this," he said.

The Commission is working on additional support to promote ammunition production, and efforts to increase production capacities of the defence industry are one of the three pillars of the EU's plan to supply ammunition to Ukraine. The other two focus on the supply of ammunition coming from member states' existing stocks and the joint procurement of 155 millimetre artillery shells.

Earlier in the day, Slovenia joined the EU's joint purchases of ammunition for Ukraine. Once Defence Minister Šarec signs the project arrangement with the European Defence Agency, the government will endorse it.

The arrangement, which has so far been signed by more than 20 EU member states and Norway, brings merely a framework for countries' further cooperation and as such has no financial consequences for Slovenia, the Defence Ministry said.

At the press conference, Golob did not wish to go into the details of Slovenia's participation in the project, but he did say that the meeting with Breton had not been focussed on production of ammunition for Ukraine because Slovenia did not have the capacities for this.


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