Pahor sees Slovenian EU presidency as success

Ljubljana – President Borut Pahor discussed a variety of issues in an interview with Radio Slovenija on Wednesday, describing Slovenia’s presidency of the Council of the EU as a success, including with respect to the Western Balkans where he regretted Bulgaria’s blocking North Macedonia’s accession talks.

Pahor said the tragic drowning of a 10-year old Kurdish girl in the Dragonja, the border river between Slovenia and Croatia, had showed yet again the need for the EU to reach an agreement on the common asylum and migration policy.

Since there is no such agreement now, member states must act to the best of their abilities. Pahor also advocates the expansion of the Schengen area, which would allow Slovenia to remove the fence from its border with Croatia.

Commenting on EU enlargement process, Pahor noted that during Slovenia’s presidency the EU failed to make a breakthrough over Bulgaria’s blockade of North Macedonia’s accession talks. “The EU cannot do anything there and it is a threat to its credibility,” he said.

Nevertheless, he believes Slovenia has done a good job when it comes to the enlargement process in the Western Balkans as some dossiers are moving on with solutions no one had expected. “I’m thus proud of the work done and there’s no reason anyone in Slovenia should think we didn’t prove ourselves before Europe.”

The European Parliament will discuss a resolution on the rule of law in Slovenia, which Pahor says shows Europe has become attentive to what is happening in Slovenia.

“It took so little,” he said, listing defying the obligation of financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and delays in the appointment of European delegated prosecutors. “I couldn’t understand that we should have squandered the reputation we had over such ‘little’ things,” he said, confident the reputation could be restored.

Pahor also expressed concern over the latest steps taken by Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In numerous contacts with his counterparts he is advocating for the EU to start intensive and structured dialogue to help leaders in the country.

“I’m talking of the group of friends of Bosnia-Herzegovina, both on expert and political levels, that would help all three nations come to a more functional Bosnia-Herzegovina,” he said, adding that the current functionality had so far been efficient for peace but might no longer be enough even for that now.

“The time is thus right for those who need to so to make a move,” Pahor said, adding that he had dedicated his attention to the matter himself.

Pahor also discussed internal political affairs and the Covid-19 crisis in the interview with the national radio, saying he would put in his personal word for mandatory vaccination if experts proposed such a measure to politics as the only right path to end the health crisis.

He reiterated that the health crisis could only be overcome as a community. “We must defeat it together, rather than atomised,” he said, repeating his appeal for political unity over issues related to the efforts to contain the epidemic.

The president feels the appearance of new parties and movements in centre ground is a sign the current politics has become passe in a way. He would like for voters to show they reject radicalisms of all kinds in favour of dialogue and cooperation. He believes a majority of people are very moderate and desire a moderate political atmosphere.

He underscored the role of media for democracy, saying he was happier about the STA’s situation now than when the agency was facing a collapse. “The STA is a unique media institution with a mission without which there is no media freedom in Slovenia.”

As for the public broadcaster he believes the best solution would be for those who create the RTV Slovenija programme to set out their views on the broadcaster’s future in a white paper.

The president is optimistic about the future. The election year ahead could be an opportunity to change the things that we do not like, he said.