The Slovenia Times

Minorities, Migrant Crisis Discussed as Mattarella Visits


Finding that the two countries had a friendly relationship, the two presidents described the respective ethnic minorities as a "wealth that enriches the multi-culturality of both countries".

Addressing reporters after his first meeting with Italy's new president after he assumed the post in February, Pahor said "things are moving in the right direction" minorities-wise but that the atmosphere should be further improved.

He said he had briefed Mattarella on the difficulties faced by the Slovenian minority in Italy, asking him to receive its representatives, which Mattarella told reporters he was planning to do soon.

Meanwhile, Pahor announced that he would call a conference on minority issues before the summer.

Slovenian minority officials met Pahor last week, pointing to the planned changes of the electoral system and the implementation of a local government reform in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, which they fear could undermine the minority's rights.

Pahor also asked Mattarella to put in his word for the release in Italy of a report by the Slovenian-Italian historic commission examining events from 1880 to 1956, after it was published in Slovenia in 2001.

The presidents also discussed the inflow of immigrants from the Mediterranean, which are a big burden for Italy.

Mattarella praised Slovenia for showing responsibility by sending its Triglav patrol boat to take part in the Mare Nostrum operation in 2013.

According to Pahor, the two presidents are optimistic about the EU summit on Thursday hoping that EU member states will agree to share the burden of the migrant crisis relative to their size and capabilities.

The two presidents agreed that the crisis was not over yet and that it could even worsen, and established that the security issues in the Middle East moved through Egypt to Libya, which is geographically closest to the EU.

Mattarella said that he and Pahor shared views regarding all important issues, including the developments in the European neighbourhood. Europe is obliged to protect the principles of friendship, peace and democracy, he added.

According to Mattarella, Europe and the international community must also take responsibility for the situation in Libya in order to stop the civil war there. He is convinced that this would also stop abuses of refugees.

The Italian president said that Europe was also responsible for the Western Balkans and stabilisation of this region. Both Pahor and Mattarella called for an expansion of the EU to the Western Balkans.

Pahor invited the Italian counterpart to attend a meeting of the Slovenia-sponsored Brdo Process regional cooperation initiative next year, which Mattarella gladly accepted.

Mattarella also met Prime Minister Miro Cerar, with the officials confirming the excellent bilateral relations and calling for deepening of cooperation at all levels and areas, the PM's office said in a press release.

Cerar touched on the the planned natural gas terminal in Aquilinia in the proximity of the Slovenian border, and called for active and joint solving of the issue that would be in the interest of residents of the entire area.

Cerar and Mattarella also discussed the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea, with Cerar saying that Slovenia would examine possibilities to help Italy cope with the issue, and the situation in the Western Balkans.

The Slovenian prime minister said that the EU must not forget about the Western Balkan countries and called for Italy's further support for these countries on their way to the EU accession.

The Italian president also met parliamentary Speaker Milan Brglez, visited an exhibition on Emona, the ancient Roman settlement in the present-day Ljubljana, in the Ljubljana City Museum, and met representatives of the Italian minority in Slovenia.


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