President Pahor attends the 14th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) and discusses the future of the EU with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid

Ljubljana, 2. 9. 2019 | press release, speech

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, attended the 14th Bled Strategic Forum 2019, taking place under the title "(Re)Sources of (In)Stability" on 2 and 3 September 2019. President Pahor attended the opening of the Bled Strategic Forum 2019, where he spoke about the future of the European Union with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid. The presidents' discussion was moderated by Ali Aslan, a prominent German journalist and television presenter.

On the margins of the Bled Strategic Forum, President Pahor received some high-level participants for separate meetings. At a working lunch prior to the BSF opening ceremony, President Pahor hosted the President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, María Fernando Espinosa Garcés.

President Pahor attends the 14th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) and discusses the future of the EU with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

President Pahor met with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet, Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu, and Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, the EU and Cooperation Borrell.

Today, on the margins of the forum, the President met with the Board of Directors of the World Federation of Consuls FICAC.

President Pahor at the opening of the 14th Bled Strategic Forum 2019 (BSF) with Estonian President Kaljulaid
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

The text of the address by the Slovenian President follows below. The spoken word applies.

"Today, my friend the President of Estonia and I will be speaking about our views on the future of the European Union.

For you to better understand my views, I would like, in my introductory remarks, state the following.

I will start by stating that the European Union is at a stand-still. In all aspects. The same is unfortunately with the development of the European idea. Of course, the development of the European idea has had its highs and lows from the very beginning. However, I believe that the stand-still we are facing today is larger, deeper and more complex.

At this moment, nothing indicates the end of this stand-still. The risk that the trend (inclination) of many Member States to return to nationalist policies continues, is greater than ever. This is clearly contrary to the basic European idea.

I strongly believe that this situation, this stand-still, is not sustainable. It cannot last forever. In fact, it can only result in either the decline or the renaissance of the European idea. The belief of some people that status quo could go on permanently (without affecting the EU) is wrong. For this reason, I am fully committed to searching for ideas in support of the renaissance of the European idea.

Currently, the only structured debate on the future of the EU is taking place in the European Parliament (Future of EU Debate). It seems that for the renaissance of the European idea, there is no real political will or political power, or there is simply a lack of political vision for it.

There are some ideas - of some leaders, political groups, or non-governmental organisations. In Slovenia for instance we have the Ljubljana Initiative for a new constitutional process, with a draft European constitution. But it is clear that at this moment it is probably not possible to gather a critical mass of the will, strength and vision needed for this renaissance.

The longer this stand-still lasts, more the European Union will loose - both internally and externally. Therefore my proposal is that the European Parliament as well as the newly elected European Commission and European Council, all together, launch something similar to the Convention on the Future of Europe from 2002 and 2003.

The escape from the European Union’s stand-still is an issue of strategic importance. However, it is clear to me that it can only be successfully addressed if the current problems are addressed at the same time. At this moment there are two problems that are according to my view essential: Brexit and migrations.

About Brexit.

The British have the right to Brexit. The European Union has at the same time the responsibility to minimise its negative effects. At this moment I do not know whether the 27 Member States would be able to agree with the new British government on changes to the already concluded agreement. For the EU, the red line is the Irish government’s readiness to change the so called Irish backstop.

The possibility of a no-deal Brexit poses a risk for everyone. But it seems to me that it would be even worse if the 27 Member States get involved in the insoluble process of changing the current agreement. This would, apart from increasing the political uncertainty in the United Kingdom, negatively affect the political cohesion (and unity) of the European Union.

About migrations.

I believe that the new European Commission, in addition to immediately strengthening the security of the external borders, must - as soon as possible - propose a model of burden-sharing that will be acceptable to all involved.

I believe that the biggest problem at present is illegal migration. Three years after the major refugee crisis, the problem of illegal migration now presents a different challenge. There are significantly fewer applicants for asylum in comparison with 2015, and the EU must be more consistent with regard to illegal migrants from safe countries. But above all, the European Commission should do more to re-establish the functioning of internal Schengen area.

However, I remain an advocate of the principle of burden-sharing, and believe that the primary task of the European Commission should be the proposal of a new concept for the application of that principle that will be acceptable to all Member States.

Ladies and gentlemen,

from the strategic and global point of view it will be crucial in the coming years for the European Union to increase its internal connectivity and efficiency, and to strengthen its external power and influence in global matters. The EU will be globally powerful only to the extent that it is economically and socially powerful internally.

I am cautiously optimistic that the new European Commission will be able to move things forward. As I said, I believe it has to find answers to current challenges such as Brexit and migrations, and at the same time to find solutions to strategic issues - among those being, hopefully, a new Convention on the Future of Europe, but also climate policy, strengthening the role of multilateralism, as well as enlargement to the Western Balkans."

President Pahor at the opening of the 14th Bled Strategic Forum 2019 (BSF) with Estonian President Kaljulaid
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

President Pahor attends the 14th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) and discusses the future of the EU with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

President Pahor attends the 14th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) and discusses the future of the EU with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

President Pahor attends the 14th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) and discusses the future of the EU with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

President Pahor attends the 14th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) and discusses the future of the EU with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid
Photo: Daniel Novakovič /STA