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President Pahor at the annual EPC conference: "More Europe for a stronger Europe"

Ljubljana, 28. 10. 2021 | press release

Today, President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor was the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the European Policy Forum (EPC). The discussion with President Pahor was entitled "Can Europe thrive in a world of transitions" and took place via a video link.

The discussion was moderated by Jacki Davis and featured Ricardo Borges de Castro (Associate Director and Head of the EPC's Europe in the World Programme) and Corina Stratulat (Head of the EPC's European Politics and Institutions Programme).

President Pahor spoke about the role of the European Union in the world, its relations with other major players, in particular the US and China. He also assessed the situation in the Western Balkans and the enlargement of the European Union.

The President began by replying to the question of how he saw the EU's role in international relations and how he assessed the EU's response to internal and external challenges. President Pahor recalled the shift in geopolitical power – while Europe was the leading power in international relations before the First World War and the centre of gravity has shifted to Euro-Atlantic relations over the past century, the centre of gravity now appears to be in trans-Pacific relations. The President stressed that the EU could and should be a leader on the world stage, which could be achieved under certain conditions, in particular by making the EU more internally robust. "The relations between the 27 should be more intensive and more connected. More Europe for a stronger Europe", the President stressed.

The panellists then exchanged views on the objectives Europe should set itself to meet expectations. They agreed that more ambitious targets and a clearer vision were needed. On the Conference on the Future of Europe, they agreed that it was an intermediate – albeit very important – step towards more decisive change. President Pahor said that we should find the political will and adopt a new European Constitution in the next few years or by 2030 at the latest. He stressed that we needed a vision and more political courage to do that. The President said that, in his view, if we wanted to continue to have a voice in international politics, we needed to be more integrated, more ambitious and therefore we need more effective tools not only from an institutional point of view but also from a political point of view. He assessed that the international environment was changing and the EU may indeed be forced to take action if we wanted to preserve our way of life. "I believe that a convention on the future of Europe will be necessary before 2030."

The discussion continued with the view that Europe was the most important advocate of multilateralism in the world and that it was up to us to strengthen and maintain that position. They also discussed the relationship with the US. The President stressed that the relationship between the EU and Washington is very important because we share the same values, and are partners for better and for worse. At the same time, we need to be sufficiently independent. Important open issues, including those between the US and China, need to be resolved through dialogue. "Multilateralism is the answer to all these problems", said President Pahor, recalling the prudent decision of the US President to return the US to the Paris Agreement and to the World Health Organization.

Asked about the importance of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, President Pahor reiterated that the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans was a geopolitical issue and that the region must be considered as a whole, as it was a security and peace issue, not only for the region but also for the EU as a whole.

Finally, the panellists discussed the rule of law in the EU and the importance and understanding of a resilient Europe. President Pahor stressed that there were no historical reasons that could justify different understandings of the rule of law, democracy and freedoms. We joined the EU in order to have the same understanding of these values. The answer to the challenges, he argued, was to make the EU even more connected, which could also be demonstrated by taking pragmatic steps such as the efforts to create a health union. The President also stressed that, even in the face of the EU's current difficulties, he believed that dialogue was always the answer and that criticism alone was never enough. "We need an open dialogue and we need to get to the bottom of some problems and talk openly."

In conclusion, President Pahor said that the EU was the most beautiful idea of the old continent and that we should not take it for granted but preserve it for our children and their children and that it was our responsibility to do better because we could do better.