Pahor, Čaputova discuss EU enlargement, climate change, praise excellent relations

Ljubljana – The Slovenian and Slovakian presidents, Borut Pahor and Zuzana Čaputova, praised bilateral relations as excellent as Čaputova paid an official visit to Slovenia on Thursday. They discussed EU enlargement and the upcoming climate change conference, and stressed the role of cooperation to address social, political and economic issues.

The visit is “an expression of excellent bilateral relations, which are truly friendly, without open issues”, Pahor said at a joint news conference in Ljubljana.

Similarly, Čaputova said bilateral relations are very good and friendly, without obstacles from the past.

Čaputova said that they had also discussed challenges Slovenia and Slovakia had, including in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We both hope there will be more understanding among our citizens for the call of science for vaccination and respect of the measures necessary for this crisis to end as soon as possible,” said Pahor.

The pair also highlighted the issue of rising inflation, in which context Čaputova said the EU recovery facility will give a fresh impetus to reforms both countries need, pointing to green transition, education and healthcare.

She urged concrete measures to protect the environment, wishing the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow will bring concrete commitments, including to cut emissions and increase funds for green transition.

“Glasgow is a big opportunity, while at the same time we are all afraid that it might not meet the expectations, especially where the bar has been set very high,” said Pahor.

He announced the standing committee for climate change he had set up will hold at least one meeting of experts and politicians to discuss nuclear engergy before the Glasgow conference.

The pair also discussed EU enlargement, assessing last week’s EU-Western Balkans summit, held in Slovenia as part of the country’s EU presidency, as successful.

“Of course we wanted the common declaration to be even clearer about the EU’s commitment to admit the Western Balkans to the bloc not just sooner or later but as soon as possible, in order to protect peace, security and prosperity as well as reforms in this part of Europe,” said Pahor.

Even if it does not mention a specific date, the declaration is still a “pretty decent document”, said Pahor, adding a similar view had been expressed by Western Balkan leaders, who were “pleasantly surprised”.

Čaputova said Slovakia supports the enlargement to the Western Balkans but stressed the countries must implement reforms while the EU must pursue an open-door policy.

The Conference on the Future of Europe was another topic Pahor and Čaputova discussed, but they said they were worried about a new East-West division within the EU.

“We both think that we joined the EU in 2004 to have the same view on the values of the rule of law, media freedom and others, not to have different views because of our different historical experiences,” said Pahor.

Čaputova stressed one should be loyal to the values on which the EU is based and respect the principles of the rule of law, highlighting media freedom, judicial independence and citizens’ rights.

The Slovakian president also met National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič and Prime Minister Janez Janša.