Slovenia and Germany sign cooperation action plan

Berlin – Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon was in Berlin on Friday to meet her German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, with the pair signing a joint action plan on three-year strategic cooperation and announcing further strengthening of cooperation between Slovenia and Germany, also relating to Ukraine.

Fajon and Baerbock both expressed satisfaction at becoming the first female foreign minister of their respective countries. They also expressed confidence in good and constructive cooperation in the future.

Baerbock welcomed the fact that Fajon, who took over Slovenia’s foreign office a month ago, picked Germany for her first bilateral visit abroad.

Fajon said she wanted to send a clear message that Slovenia was dedicated to democratic standards and the rule of law and that “Slovenia’s foreign policy will truly be focused on the core of Europe.”

They both underlined the importance of the action plan on cooperation they signed today. The document spans a number of fields, with Baerbock highlighting energy, climate and environmental policies, as well as youth.

Fajon meanwhile talked about the potential of cooperation in providing aid to Ukraine, including aid for and rehabilitation of the wounded, as well as demining of the country. As regards the latter, Slovenia has excellent capacities in its ITF foundation, she added.

Baerbock expressed particular interest in cooperating in demining of civilian areas of Ukraine, above all small towns, like Bucha.

When asked about alleged pressure from Germany for Slovenia to go through with the purchase of Boxer armoured personnel carriers launched by the previous government, Baerbock said no pressure was being exerted.

She said that Germany was aware that the government in Ljubljana has changed and that the purchase procedure is under review.

Fajon underlined that the government had made it clear from the beginning that Slovenia would honour all its obligations toward international organisations, including NATO, also when it comes to increasing defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2030. “We are a country of modest military capacities, but we intend to meet our goals.”

As regards the possibility of Slovenia participating in circular exchange of weapons to the benefit of Ukraine, Baerbock said intensive talks were under way, while Fajon said that they had left the topic to defence experts.

Touching on the recent NATO summit in Madrid, the ministers underlined that defence policy must be understood in a broader sense. Not only in the military sense, but also “as defence of our values, democracy, freedom, the rule of law and human rights,” said Baerbock.

She also expressed hope that all NATO member states would ratify as soon as possible the accession agreements of Sweden and Finland.

Moreover, Fajon and Baerbock talked about the Western Balkans, with Baerbock repeating multiple times the region was a part of the EU, not only in geographical sense but also political.

The ministers share the view that the issue is a matter of the EU’s strategic interest and its credibility. “No niche can exist in the Balkans through which Russia or other players may get a foothold,” said Baerbock.

But while both she and Fajon are optimistic that a breakthrough on the launch of accession talks for North Macedonia and Albania, Baerbock’s response to Slovenia’s proposal about immediate candidate status for Bosnia-Herzegovina was more reserved.

She said the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina was very problematic and that this is not the right moment to make candidate status promises, as the country is heading to the polls in autumn to elect a new parliament.

Fajon said the ministers also discussed the 2023 Frankfurt Book Fair at which Slovenia will be a guest of honour, and that she informed her host that Slovenia’s government approved the country joining the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament, in which Slovenia now intends to take active part.