Border checks and cooperation in focus of as Golob meets Meloni
Slovenia's Prime Minister Robert Golob met his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni in Rome on 14 November for what was their first formal bilateral meeting, primarily to discuss migrations and border checks but also what Golob described as cooperation in strategic areas, foremost defence and energy.
Addressing a joint press conference with Golob, Meloni said Italy would lift police checks on the border with Slovenia as soon as the situation allowed.
She stressed the need to secure the EU's external borders. "The more successful we are in defending the external borders, the more efficient we will be in defending the freedom of movement within the EU," she said.
Italy reintroduced border controls on 21 October, prompting Slovenia to do the same on its borders with Croatia and Hungary. Just as Meloni and Golob were meeting in Rome, the Slovenian police proposed extending the measure for an additional 20 days beyond 19 November.
Meloni said she understood the grievances of the people living along the border, but argued that the checks were urgent due to the global situation, including the crisis in the Middle East and migrations.
Mutual interest in enhancing cooperation further
Golob said they discussed ways of making sure people in both countries benefited the most from bilateral cooperation.
He said Slovenia and Italy are bound by a rich history and especially by a "great and rich future".
Italy was the first to help Slovenia with a gas solidarity pact during the energy crisis last winter, he said, describing that as "a very important gesture".
Meloni lauded bilateral cooperation in particular in recent times, pointing to a record volume of trade.
Italy is Slovenia's third largest trading partner after Switzerland and Germany. Bilateral goods trade topped €12 billion last year, and from January to July this year, Slovenia exported €2.8 billion worth of goods to Italy and imported almost €3.4 billion from there.
Meloni said she and Golob discussed ways to boost cooperation in other fields as well.
Golob mentioned defence, where he sees Italy as an important partner in military missions and as a military equipment supplier. He spoke about the prospect of cooperation between the countries' military industries.
Commitment to dialogue on minorities
The countries' respective ethnic minorities also featured prominently on the agenda, with Golob saying the minority issues that might have been a source of conflicts in the past could now be a source of cooperation.
Meloni said the topic was dear to both, so Ljubljana and Rome intended to keep engaging in ongoing dialogue on the minorities.
Speaking to Slovenian reporters after his meetings in Rome, Golob said he had received "very clear expressions of inclination" for the Italian government to financially support the Slovenian minority in Italy.
The Slovenian delegation also brought up the issue of permanent representation for the minority. While permanent representation in the Italian parliament would "likely be a long-term project", Golob said an option of permanent representation in the regional council of Friuli Venezia Giulia was "more realistic".
Ukraine was also on the agenda, with Golob and Meloni stressing the commitment to support the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Discussing the conflict in Palestine and Israel, they expressed satisfaction that Slovenia will soon join the UN Security Council.
It is urgent to ensure delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, said Golob, adding that Slovenia would gladly join Italy should a humanitarian sea corridor to the Gaza Strip be opened.