US sees Slovenia as important player in Three Seas Initiative
Bled - Matt Boyse, deputy assistant secretary at US Department of State's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, says relations between the US and Slovenia are becoming markedly stronger. Boyse praised Slovenia's efforts in the Three Seas Initiative in an interview with the STA, expressing his belief its October summit will bring notable headway.
Boyse, responsible for policy towards Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Slovenia, sees the August visit to Slovenia by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as an important milestone in bilateral relations.
"The secretary was very pleased with the visit. It is very, very important that he came. We've been making some good progress in the bilateral relationship and we're sensing a receptivity on the part of the government to work with us. We wanted to acknowledge and pay attention to a very important ally," Boyse told the STA on the sidelines of the Bled Strategic Forum.
"The relations are on an upswing in terms of intensity. Last year we had the Three Seas summit, where we had several senior representatives visit, your foreign minister was in Washington and your president visited Washington in 2018 as well. We see each other regularly, on multilateral fora, in Washington, but also here."
Boyse argued "relations are not just measured by visits to a country, but need to be judged in their totality in all sorts of ways". "Like I said, we're sensing a receptivity to work more closely, an 'Atlanticist' orientation."
The official described Slovenia as an important country for the US. "It is a NATO member, it is an ally, partner and a friend. It is by definition important," he said.
While the US "of course noticed" that Slovenia had strengthened relations with Russia in recent years, "you are still an ally, friend, partners and our relationship continues".
Boyle was impressed by how the summit of the Three Seas Initiative - featuring 12 countries from Central and East Europe and focusing on joint infrastructure projects in energy and economic development in general - was organised in Ljubljana last year.
"Slovenia played an important role by hosting the summit last year. Everybody appreciated this, including in Washington."
While none of what are over 70 projects proposed is nearing implementation yet, Boyse said many are being analysed. "We're hoping that at least one or more will be announced before the Tallinn summit", which will be held virtually on 19 and 20 October.
"There is a certain amount of capital that is available and now these projects need to be racked and stacked and analysed as to which make the most sense economically, which also have the most buy-in from the member states themselves. That is a discussion that is under way."
He rejected claims that things are moving forward too slowly after the first projects were already agreed in Budapest in 2018. "It is a challenge to get 12 independent countries to agree on things, but there has been major progress since the Ljubljana summit," Boyse said.
"Since January the US has pledged up to a billion US dollars in investments. Moreover, an investment firm has been set up that is now looking at all these different projects and assessing their viability, feasibility etc.
"There are investments now pledged from many more states than before - Estonia, Latvia and Hungary are pledging publicly. Several more a close to the announcement phase. These are signifiant issues.
"We have political support expressed from the US president, bipartisan support in Congress, we have the EU continuing to be supportive. These things don't happen at the snap of finger. We expect the Tallinn summit to be an important milestone," he added.
The official rejected concerns that this is an initiative with which the US is trying to sow divisions among EU members, calling this "an absurd observation".
"This has to do with the desire to complete Europe - the infrastructural demands in this area are enormous ... and the countries want to do it, while we want to support them.
"There was indeed some scepticism in the EU a number of years ago, but at the most senior levels of the EU that's gone," Boyse added.