Migrations Main Topic of Talks as President Pahor Visits Czech President Zeman

Prague, 18. 2. 2016 | press release, statement

President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor visited the Czech Republic today, accompanied by Minister of Infrastructure of the Republic of Slovenia Peter Gašperšič, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia Dragoljuba Benčina, and State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology Aleš Cantarutti.

Migrations Main Topic of Talks as President Pahor Visits Czech President Zeman
Photo: STA

The aim of the visit was to reinforce the friendly relations between the Republic of Slovenia and the Czech Republic in matters of politics as well as economy and to reaffirm the position of Slovenia among countries of Central Europe. Slovenia shares a number of common interests with the Central European countries, especially in the fields of infrastructure, energy, and cohesion policy. As the Czech Republic sees Port Koper as a Central European connection to the world, one of the main topics during the visit was the improvement of transport connections between the Port and the Czech Republic. Special attention was paid to investments as the Czech investments are well-received and welcomed in Slovenia.

In the context of the presidential visit, the Minister and the two State Secretaries each followed their own itineraries and met with their Czech colleagues. Minister of Infrastructure Peter Gašperšič and State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology Aleš Cantarutti also attended a panel discussion on investment possibilities in Slovenia.

The official welcoming ceremony with full military honours in front of the Prague Castle was followed by a private meeting of both presidents, Pahor's signing of the Prague Castle guestbook , plenary talks between the delegations of the Republic of Slovenia and the Czech Republic, and by both presidents giving their respective statements for the press.

In his discussion with President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman, Pahor pointed out that the friendship between the Czech and Slovenian nations has its roots in historical past and is built on the matters of politics as well as the economic and cultural cooperation. The presidents acknowledged that the relations between the two countries are very good and cordial, especially in matters of economic cooperation. They agreed that effective future cooperation would depend on a bolstered and modernised railway connection between Port Koper and the Czech Republic. As pointed out by Borut Pahor, collaboration between Port Koper and the Visegrad countries was crucial as the V4 countries, as well as Austria, even now represent the principal foreign markets for the Port. On this occasion, Pahor extended his congratulations to Zeman on the 25th anniversary of the Visegrad Group and urged for better cooperation of Slovenia with the Group, particularly in the field of infrastructure.

The presidents then exchanged their views on the pressing issue of mass migrations. President Pahor took this opportunity to thank the Czech Republic for its assistance in the protection of the Slovenian border, and the presidents then agreed that the external EU borders should be reinforced, stemming the flow of migrants to the south of the Western Balkans region. They also agreed that a common European solution is needed for dealing with migrations, expressing hope that a compromise would be reached at today's session of the European Council. In this regard, Borut Pahor pointed out that Slovenia favoured a common European approach that would also include the fulfilment of commitments regarding relocation. The Slovenian president warned against decisions that would limit the Schengen arrangement, either temporarily or in the long term, stating that the Schengen area must be preserved and perhaps adapted to new challenges but it should by no means be dissolved. A dissolution would result in the decline of the European idea, said Pahor.

The two presidents agreed that it would be possible to effectively limit the flow of migrants only by addressing the heart of the problem, i.e. the war in Syria. Pahor and Zeman dedicated special attention to the situation in Syria. They also discussed other pressing international topics, jointly emphasising the importance of sharing opinions regarding the EU-related issues. Moving forward, Pahor informed Zeman of the Brdo – Brijuni Process initiative and of Slovenia's efforts to strengthen the bonds and foster understanding among the countries in the neighbouring region.

In their statement to the press made after their meeting, President of Slovenia Pahor and President of Czech Republic Miloš Zeman described the Slovenian-Czech relations as excellent and expressed the opinion that Pahor's visit would further improve the reputation of the Czech Republic in Slovenia as well as that of Slovenia in the Czech Republic. The presidents also answered journalists' questions regarding migrations and the possibility of implementing restrictions in the passing of internal borders of the Schengen area. In his answer, Pahor expressed concern that in the absence of a common European approach, the member states could start implementing uncoordinated national measures.

Prior to the press conference, Pahor awarded Zeman with the Order of Exceptional Merit for his contributions to the improvement of bilateral relations, his goodwill expressed towards the Republic of Slovenia, and his commitment to integration in the Central European region.

Continuing his visit, Pahor met with President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic Štĕch and Chair of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic Jan Hamáček. In his talk with Štĕch and Hamáček, Pahor focused on bilateral issues and matters of economy. They also discussed the current issues on the agenda of the European Union, particularly migrations. They paid special attention to cooperation in the area of infrastructure and to the presentation of investment opportunities in Slovenia. The two delegations also shared their experience in improving the investment environments and competitiveness of the economy in both countries.

Later during the visit, the Slovenian President will meet with Mayor of the City of Prague Adriana Krnáčova and, in the evening, he will attend a formal dinner held in his honour by President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman.

Justification for the award:

In his previous role of Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and his current role of President of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman has, for many years, shown goodwill and cordiality towards Slovenia. In the year marking the 25th anniversary of Slovenian independence, and in the very week marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Visegrad Group, the Republic of Slovenia awards this Order to thank President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman for his contribution to the improvement of bilateral relations and his commitment to cooperation with the Republic of Slovenia in the Central European region.

Miloš Zeman has always been aware of the close historical, cultural and social ties between the Slovenian and Czech nations, as well as of Slovenia's place in Central Europe. His support was particularly important at the time when Slovenia needed the recognition and support in the family of newly created European countries.

As Prime Minister from 1998 to 2002, Zeman continually expressed a sincere wish to strengthen constructive and cordial bilateral relations between the Republic of Slovenia and the Czech Republic, and he still remains committed to this policy. He actively supported cooperation between the two countries during negotiations for the European Union and NATO membership and worked towards improving both economic and political cooperation between Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

As President of the Czech Republic, Zeman is trying to take the Slovenian-Czech cooperation, both bilateral as well as regional and multilateral, to a higher level. He keeps introducing an honest and creative approach into the relations between the two countries, which includes broader discussions about the common challenges which a united Europe is facing now and will also face in the future.

Furthermore, Zeman is unequivocal in his endorsement for close coordination in the field of economy, energy and infrastructure in the Central European region, and is a vocal supporter of the Port of Koper being the most significant Central European port.

He is a great admirer of architect Jože Plečnik's work and genuinely supports the idea of his achievements in Prague being held in collective memory through, among other things, a joint Slovenian-Czech nomination of selected Plečnik's works for UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

As President of the Czech Republic, Zeman is also rewarded for the support that the Czech republic has demonstrated to Slovenia a number of times, e.g. during the ice storm of 2014 and in our current migrant crisis, when the Republic of Slovenia has required the assistance of other European countries in order to protect its borders as well as the borders of the Schengen area. In this case, the Czech government was among the first to help both with police and military personnel as well as technical equipment.