PM Golob going to Berlin on his first bilateral visit abroad

Ljubljana – Prime Minister Robert Golob will be on a working visit to Berlin on Tuesday to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in what will be his first bilateral visit abroad. They will talk current issues and further cooperation between Slovenia and Germany.

Golob’s visit comes after Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon picked Berlin as the destination of her first international bilateral visit as well, which shows how much the new government wants to strengthen cooperation with Slovenia’s main trading partner and the largest EU member state.

The previous government focused on stepping up relations with Visegrad Four countries, whereas the Golob government would like to steer foreign policy “in the direction of European core countries” and strengthen cooperation “on the Berlin-Paris-Rome axis”, as the new foreign minister has said.

During Fajon’s visit, she and her German counterpart Annalena Baerbock signed a joint action plan on three-year strategic cooperation in various fields and announced further efforts to boost cooperation.

Golob and Scholz will exchange views on current issues and discuss possibilities for further cooperation, the prime minister’s office said. In Berlin, Golob will be accompanied by Infrastructure Minister Bojan Kumer.

The war in Ukraine and its impact will be on the agenda as well.

Germany used to extensively cooperate with Russia and still heavily depends on its energy. At the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Germany was criticised by Kyiv for hesitating to supply heavy weapons to the war-stricken country.

Since then, the supply has been launched, including in the context of so-called “circular exchanges”, where the possibility of Slovenia’s cooperation has been raised, but these plans have not materialised so far. According to Germany, talks are still to be held at the level of defence experts.

In light of the war, Germany has decided to significantly increase defence spending, and Golob and Scholz will probably broach the issue of Slovenia’s purchase of Boxer armoured personnel carriers.

The Golob government may withdraw from it depending on the review of the deal that was signed by the previous government. Asked about alleged pressure from Germany for Slovenia to go through with the purchase, Baerbock said there was no pressure.

Both Slovenia and Germany are concerned over security risks in the Western Balkans that have been posed by the war in Ukraine, and support EU enlargement to the region, so this issue will be another topic Golob and Scholz will discuss.

Germany is Slovenia’s most important foreign trade partner, particularly in the car industry and new technologies, so the situation in Germany is of key importance for the Slovenian economy.

The outlook is not good though. The German economy is increasingly beset with soaring energy prices, logistical problems and material shortages, as well as high uncertainty on global markets. German consumer sentiment is also at a record low due to high inflation and fears of recession.

Last year’s trade between Slovenia and Germany topped EUR 13 billion, of which EUR 6.8 billion were Slovenia’s exports. In the first three months of this year, trade stood at almost EUR 3.7 billion, shows data by the Export Window portal.

Political relations between the two countries are excellent. Prior to Fajon’s recent visit, her predecessor Anže Logar visited Germany in February this year. Marjan Šarec was the last Slovenian prime minister to visit Berlin, in October 2018.

Scholz, who took office at the end of last year, has not yet visited Slovenia, but his predecessor, Angela Merkel, last visited Slovenia in October 2021. She attended an EU-Western Balkans summit at the time and received the Order of Merit for Distinguished Service, Slovenia’s top honour, from President Borut Pahor.