Berlin – Prime Minister Robert Golob met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday in what is his first bilateral visit abroad. After the meeting, Golob said the goal of getting through the winter without Russian gas is very ambitious but attainable if the EU works together.
The impact of the war in Ukraine, mainly the energy crisis, was one of the main topics of the meeting.
Golob noted there were synergies between EU member states that could be tapped into to get through this winter without Russian gas or any “imposed reduction” on gas supply provided there are adequate gas-saving schemes.
Together, the EU can get through this crisis and achieve this very challenging goal, he told a press conference after the meeting.
Golob said investments for the construction of gas pipelines and electric lines are needed, adding this is the only way for Europe to carry out the green transition. He suggests connecting the “windy areas of northern Europe and the sunny areas of southern Europe”, to build Europe’s own strong and stable energy system.
Scholz said that the EU will have to do its best to reduce its energy dependency on Russia, pointing to efforts to set up infrastructure that would enable oil and gas extraction from other sources in the short term.
He underlined the importance of renewable energy, above all wind and solar, with both Germany and Slovenia playing important roles in the field. Scholz said he and Golob talked about this in great detail.
He expressed belief that Europe must act in solidarity, adding that this will be Germany’s approach. When asked how it could be ensured that EU member states do not act with national interest in case of a crisis, Scholz said he was “certain we can make it”.
Both Golob and Scholz think that political, military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine must continue as should sanctions against Russia.
The pair also discussed EU enlargement to the Western Balkans with both of them highlighting that countries in the region had been in the waiting room for EU membership for 20 years – too long.
Golob believes that ways need to be found for these countries to take individual steps and achieve success on their path to EU membership.
“Unfortunately, this process, the way it has been done, is a process that led to apathy in these countries because it is absolutely too slow,” he warned.
He underlined the importance of the rule of law. “We agree that there can be no leniency as regards the rule of law, this criteria must be met beforehand and not after a country is already a member.”
In 2003, the six countries of the Western Balkans were promised a fast-paced and realistic EU perspective, but since then not much has happened, Scholz said, so Germany and Slovenia would like to work together to give fresh impetus to this accession process and to soon welcome the region’s countries into the EU.
Asked about Slovenia’s purchase of Boxer armoured vehicles that hangs in the air and may complicate Slovenia-Germany relations, Scholz said that he had briefly discussed this with Golob.
The Golob government may withdraw from the agreement, which was signed with the German supplier of Boxer carriers Artec, depending on the outcome of the review of the previous government’s deal. Scholz acknowledged the purchase is currently under review, and called for making rapid progress together on this issue.
Golob said that he and Scholz had talked potential cooperation in supplying Ukraine with weapons, but they had not discussed the ongoing review of the Boxer deal.
“We do not expect this review to complicate relations in any way, also because we are exploring different options on how to get out of this situation in the event the review shows that this purchase is inappropriate for us,” the prime minister said. There is not just one option, but several, and they will be presented to the public in the coming months, he added.
Scholz expressed satisfaction at seeing that the Slovenian government was a partner who actively defends European values.
He is confident that he and Golob will work well together, especially in light of challenging issues that face the EU and can only be tackled together, on both bilateral and EU levels.
This was Golob’s first bilateral visit abroad after he assumed office in early June. He told the press it was no coincidence that he visited Berlin first as Germany is Slovenia’s key trading partner and has been its “most important friend and ally” ever since Slovenia gained independence.
There are no open issues between the two countries, said Golob, who was accompanied in Berlin by Infrastructure Minister Bojan Kumer.