The Slovenia Times

Dr Danilo Türk: "We have to demonstrate that European values are meaningful"


Q: In July 2015, Slovenia got a new declaration on foreign policy, replacing the previous declaration from 1999. At the time, you highlighted the need for understanding our own identity, which impacts "the quality of our foreign policy". In your opinion, does this declaration achieve this?

A: "A new declaration is the first step. It is essential to have a good political platform for the policy-making. The quality of foreign policy is something that is created and tested daily and on this, Slovenia has a lot to do. Our identity is still in the making. We are a country of triple identity: Central European, Mediterranean and Balkan and we have to work out a good mix that would create a foreign policy profile of Slovenia, adequate for the level of our development and our aspirations in the international arena. We also have to improve our level of self-confidence and raise the level of ambition of our foreign policy. We have a very good name in Europe and globally, but we have to participate more actively in international political and economic relations and in international trade, where we have to define our priorities and trade ambitions. This Declaration, however, could remain idle if is not immediately followed by a more specific plan of action."

Q: How would quantitatively defined objectives to strengthen Slovenia's competitiveness improve the functioning of Slovenian economic diplomacy?

A: "I think substantially. It is always necessary to have quantitatively defined targets in any policymaking, including in foreign policy. We have to determine the areas where we need to work and levels of cooperation that we want to achieve. For example, in the areas of the former Soviet Union, countries such as Belarus, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, we have many areas to cover. In the Gulf countries, we have to do more; in the United States we have stagnated for too long. These are the reasons to do this in a very precise and a quantitatively defined way. However, this can be accomplished only if we have good cooperation between the business sector, the Chamber of Commerce and the Government. This is a big task that should be performed and we cannot be satisfied with the level of achievement so far."

Q: The history of resolving the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia is long, around 15 years. This summer we witnessed disagreements that adversely affect it resolution. How much time do the two countries (still) have to reach a consensus?

A: "I am not sure that I agree with your question. I think it is clear that the two countries have concluded an arbitration agreement. This agreement is valid. Nothing that has happened in the past two months has changed the validity of the arbitration agreement concluded in2009. What happens now depends on the arbitral tribunal. The arbitrators will have to decide whether the allegations made by Croatia are strong enough to end the work of the tribunal. Croatia cannot simply walk away from a valid international treaty - it is bound by the treaty. If the tribunal pronounces its ruling then it will be binding for both countries. There is no legal way Croatia can escape its legal obligations and to everyone in the international community, it is very clear that arbitral rulings must be implemented, not avoided."

Q: Are we therefore approaching the beginning of the end?

A: "Well, I hope so. The president of the arbitration, Judge Gilbert Guillaume, has explained that the tribunal will sit in September and then we shall see; it depends really on the arbitrators, how they will judge the Croatian allegations and arbitrators' decision will then determine the future process - it is fair to expect that this process will continue and will be concluded with an arbitral award early next year. This scenario, I believe, needs to be the final legal solution to the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia."

Q: The refugee pressure on Europe has grown significantly recently. You recently said that, "the solution to a refugee crisis is ending the war" and that "fear is the greatest enemy of freedom". What action must be taken to restore freedom in the territory where people are leaving their homes?

A: "Each armed conflict has its own dynamic and its own way of ending. Today we are talking primarily about the conflict in Syria. There are possibilities to end this conflict. The permanent members of the Security Council have come to an agreement to put an end to the war. This is doable but, of course, it depends on the agreement of the big powers. The war in Syria has been going on for four years and has induced much suffering and huge destruction in the country. Two of the most able international diplomats have tried to mediate a solution but have both failed and resigned - Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi. Staffan de Mistura is now trying to do his best and the international community should help him and should press the principal powers, both in the region and globally, to find the way to end this war. The European Union should raise its profile in this context. The EU is now exposed to the flow of refugees and has every reason to participate in the search for a solution much more actively than has been the case so far."

Q: Most refugees arrive in Europe from Syria where the population has halved since the beginning of the war in 2011. What has to be taken into account so that the integration process is successful and running smoothly?

A: "You need humanitarian action first; the elementary needs such as shelter, medical care and education for the children. The question of integration comes later and one has to be very careful in handling it. I think that firstly, ghettoisation has to be avoided and secondly, there is the linguistic aspect. Refugees who wish to integrate have to learn the language and , of course, respect the laws of the country where they wish to reside. The host countries need organisations willing to help refugees in a more comprehensive way, making a sense of home for them. From the refugee's side, there has to be an organised effort to make themselves friendly to the new environment. I like to quote Mustafa Cerić, the former head of the Islamic community in Bosnia. At the time when many Bosnian refugees went to Europe, he advised them of three things: to obey the laws of the new country, learn the language of the new country and to try to do something good for the new country every day."

Q: Between 2015 and 2016, the EU plans to spend EUR 50m for the reception of 20,000 refugees. It is known that the majority of refugees are men traveling alone, with their families joining them later. How can the multiplication effect be managed and, at the same time, how can Slovenia manage financially?

A: "The number of refugees is getting larger and we cannot yet define a final number. It all depends on the employment possibilities, which are not very strong in Europe these days. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to each refugee individually, to figure out what his or her abilities are, who the person is and where they can be really effective. This is why we need big reception centres for them and EUR 50m is certainly not enough. One talks about EUR 1bn and more if one wants to be effective on this. The refugee crisis is about big costs. I would expect that the European Commission will come out with a good proposal based on a serious analysis of the needs. A needs assessment comes first in every humanitarian crisis. Quotas for individual member states are not going to solve the problem, they are about sharing the burden and not about a common policy. So, quotas are not a good sign for a union that tries to be an integrated community."

Q: So will this situation transform the future picture of the European Union?

A: "Certainly, this will have a transformational effect on the EU. It is the first time that the EU, as a union, has been confronted with a big problem humanitarian crisis involving a large number of refugees and is learning about the actual quality of its own institutions and policies. It is all fine to have superficial talk about European values, but now we have to demonstrate that they are meaningful and can be translated into an effective program of assistance for refugees and subsequently, to an effective integration. Once the war in Syria is over, many refugees will go back to Syria and other places. However many would like to stay and they have to be integrated. The EU must therefore demonstrate that we have a value system, which is real and not only intended for speeches."


More from Nekategorizirano