Ljubljana – Slovenian politicians, including Prime Minister Janez Janša, have expressed regret at the news that Erhard Busek, former vice-chancellor of Austria, has died aged 80. He was considered “a friend of Slovenia”, including during the country’s independence efforts, and an advocate of Slovenia’s EU accession.
Janša commented on the news of Busek’s death on Twitter, describing him as a “great statesman and a friend of Slovenia.”
“Rest in peace, dear Erhard, we will never forget your support for Slovenia in the most challenging times,” he wrote.
Former Prime Minister Lojze Peterle, who first met Busek at a time of Slovenia’s independence efforts in the late 1980s, said in a statement for the Austrian press agency APA that “we have lost a great figure in Austrian and European politics”.
Busek “was not haughty or obsessed with power” but always “intellectually fair” and a “visionary”, Peterle said, adding that Busek had been well acquainted with everything that had been happening in central Europe.
Peterle last met Busek last year in Vienna at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence.
Busek, chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, died unexpectedly on Sunday. Between 1991 and 1995, he was Austria’s vice-chancellor and the head of the Christian-conservative People’s Party (ÖVP).
Busek, coordinator of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI), was widely regarded as an expert on the Western Balkans.
Between 2002 and 2008 he served as special coordinator of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. He advocated EU accession of Slovenia and Croatia and a greater role of the EU in the Western Balkans.
He visited Slovenia on several occasions.
During a visit in his capacity as coordinator of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe in January 2005 he told the STA that he had expressed expectation at a meeting with the then Prime Minister Janez Janša that Slovenia as an EU member would continue to promote SE Europe.
President Borut Pahor decorated Busek with the Silver Order of Merit for his contribution to Slovenia’s independence and international recognition in December 2019.
His actions and statements significantly contributed to the internationalisation of Slovenia’s democratic efforts even before the breakup of Yugoslavia, Pahor’s office said at the time.
As chair of the European Forum Alpbach between 2000 and 2012 Busek actively participated in the development of the civil society in Slovenia, it added.
Busek had been striving for inclusion of the Slovenian economy into European and global trade flows also as chair of the Vienna Economic Forum.