Pundits critical of Janša’s statements about Taiwan, China

Ljubljana – Ana Bojinović Fenko, a professor of international relations, and Marta Kos, Slovenia’s ex-ambassador to Germany and Switzerland, have criticised PM Janez Janša’s recent statements about China and Taiwan, as they spoke to the STA about the country’s new foreign policy strategy, which will be discussed in parliament next week.

Both agree that Slovenia opening a representation office similar to those other EU members have in Taiwan is not problematic, but also agreed that Janša’s statements about Taiwan were obviously not based on the new foreign policy strategy, which Kos said does not mention Taiwan.

Unlike Slovenia’s 1999 foreign policy strategy, this one does not mention the country’s support for the right to self-determination, pointed out Bojinović Fenko from the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences.

She labelled the prime minister’s statements as “non-strategic and unprofessional conduct”, adding that the reason for why such statements had been uttered “requires a different kind of analysis”.

Every foreign policy campaign that represents a detour from the planned strategic framework is bad in principle because it is not consistent, Bojinović Fenko added.

She also noted that Slovenia has so far advocated the One-China policy, which is also the EU’s policy. “And this should remain so in the future.”

On the other hand, Bojinović Fenko does not see opening an economic representation office as problematic. Similarly, Kos said one should not oppose setting up a representation office modelled after other EU member states, but she finds problematic Janša’s statements about how democratic Taiwan is or how undemocratic China is.

She said China is an important partner of the EU’s, but also a rival. It is a fact that it does not respect human rights, but the question is whether this should be highlighted as publicly as Janša did.

The ambassador also pointed to Slovenia’s bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2024/25, with the elections due in 2023.

Although she believes Slovenia has good chances to get elected, she underscored that China is a permanent member of the Security Council with the veto power.

Kos believes Janša is acting in contradiction with Slovenia’s foreign policy goal of enhancing the country’s reputation as a successful and visible EU member.

The centre-right opposition National Party (SNS), which often supports the current government’s policies, labelled Janša’s statements as “a mistake”.

Its leader Zmago Jelinčič stressed that China is a major player in the international community, “especially now that it’s linking up with Russia, India and the entire Asian region with the purpose to become a kind of a counter-weight to the US”, and it is also an important trade partner of Slovenia’s.

“I believe Mr Janša made a big mistake by declaring Taiwan as the main starting point for business deals,” he responded to a question from the press.

“Such mistakes will harm Slovenia and its economy. And most of all, such decisions should not be rushed, even if this means that we comply with the US.”

Jelinčič’s statement comes after three centre-left opposition parties requested a session of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee to discuss the issue, which has been scheduled for 28 January.

In an interview Janša gave to an Indian public service broadcaster on Monday, he said Slovenia and Taiwan were “working on exchanging representatives”, adding the representatives would not be at the level of embassies.

He was critical of China’s response to a decision by Lithuania to open a diplomatic representation office in Taiwan and allow Taiwan to open its representation office in Vilnius, and said that Slovenia would support any sovereign decision of the Taiwanese people, including independence.