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At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, is on a state visit to the Republic of Turkey

Ljubljana, 9. 8. 2022 | press release, speech

At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, is on a state visit to the Republic of Turkey.

At the special invitation of the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, gave a keynote address today to the participants of the annual meeting of Turkish diplomats. He spoke about global security challenges after the Russian Federation's attack on Ukraine.

President Pahor met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, before the start of the annual meeting of Turkish diplomats.

At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, is on a state visit to the Republic of Turkey
Photo: Daniel Novaković/STA

Address of the President of the Republic of Slovenia (Check against delivery!):

Dear Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Excellencies, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Turkish diplomacy has a long tradition and an excellent reputation.

I am honoured to be able to address you and to exchange views with you on current international issues.

At this time I am in Türkiye on a state visit. Your President, Mr Erdoğan, and I have known each other for a long time and we meet regularly.

Eleven years ago – at that time as Prime Ministers of our two countries – we signed an Agreement on Strategic Partnership between Slovenia and Türkiye. Slovenia has not signed many such agreements, which shows the importance we attach to Türkiye.

The relations between the two countries are growing stronger every year. It is natural and normal to disagree on certain issues, but the most important thing is honest dialogue, which is the precondition for cooperation to overcome numerous challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In my opening address I will focus on the consequences of the war in Ukraine. Of course, only on the most essential ones.

In our subsequent exchange of opinions I will also address all the other issues that might be of interest to us.

Before I devote attention to the consequences of the war in Ukraine, I would like to say a few words about Slovenian-Russian relations and my relations with President Putin.

The decision of President Putin to attack Ukraine was a surprise and disappointment to me. A surprise because, in my opinion, all rational reasons spoke against this decision.

Now, I am therefore very cautious in my predictions about the development of events and the prospects for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Nevertheless, I dare say that the war will be long, its development unpredictable and its consequences huge and global.

The decision to go to war was also a big disappointment for me. As Prime Minister and Head of State I have had a very good relationship with President Putin over the last, almost 15 years until the war in Ukraine, and so had my country. Russia's decision in favour of aggression against Ukraine has dramatically worsened these good relations.

Allow me to say the following in respect of Slovenian-Russian relations before the aggression:

These relations were very good and all-embracing. The fact that Slovenia as part of former Yugoslavia was never a member of the Warsaw Pact significantly contributed to such relations.

I want to say that Slovenia has never had any such aversion to Russians, as was the case with practically all Eastern European nations in the European Union.

We have also never felt threatened by Russia, whereas our Eastern European friends have always described understood Russia as a direct or indirect threat to their security.

As I said, I have also personally endeavoured to build excellent relations with Russia and President Putin. I have always considered it important for peace in Europe that the Western world and Russia try to find a mutual understanding and to reach an agreement. With the war in Ukraine, this attempt failed, at least for some time.

Once the war is over in Ukraine, new efforts will be necessary. But there is still a long way to go.

In the context of the efforts for good relations with Russia, a year ago President Putin and I agreed that the traditional commemoration of the Russian victims of the First World War in Slovenia should be declared Slovenian-Russian Friendship Day. No other Member State of the European Union has such a day of friendship with Russia.

But the Russian aggression has changed that too. This year, there was no such Friendship Day. I must also point out that the prevailing attitude of Slovenians towards Russia has very much changed since the aggression and that Slovenians support Ukraine and criticize Russia.

Let me continue with the consequences of the war in Ukraine for European peace and security.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine has fundamentally undermined the already fragile trust between the West and Russia.

Restoring this trust, which from the perspective of the West can only be based on a just peace in Ukraine, will be a long and complex process.

The objective of Western support for Ukraine is not to change the regime in Moscow. That is a matter for the Russian people. However, it is difficult to imagine today, at least, that at some point in the future a new solid trust between the West and Russia could be built without a change in the policy in Moscow.

I would venture to say that the war in Ukraine will bring about a new bloc division of Europe and the world.

Without cessation of the war and a peaceful settlement of conflicts, which is unlikely in the current situation, the development of a new bloc division seems almost inevitable to me.

The borderline between the two blocs is already being drawn. However, it is far from being definitive. This may be one of the reasons for the prolongation of the war in Ukraine.

If President Putin's objective is to restore and consolidate a large Russian sphere of influence around the Russian Federation, in which there is no room for countries to accede to the EU and NATO, the turmoil will last for as long as he thinks it will take to establish such sphere.

From the countries situated at the border of the sphere, Putin will demand a decision one way or another. Otherwise he may take the decision himself by introducing sanctions or even by using force.

Where could the border between the two blocs in the Western Balkans run? This is one of the central questions related to peace and security in Europe here and now.

If we are right that within the newly emerging Russian sphere of influence there is no room for countries applying for EU and NATO Membership, it seems that in the new geopolitical division the Western Balkans will be part of the Western world.

But this depends on Brussels as much as on the countries of the Western Balkans. The longer the EU enlargement process will take, the more these countries will be exposed to Russian appetites or at least to increased Russian influence.

This is why I have been striving for years for a decisive and fast process of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans. This is a geopolitical issue of the first category.

There is also a fear that the new bloc division would run through the middle of the Western Balkans. I find it hard to imagine that this would pass without security risks.

In this respect Bosnia and Herzegovina seems vital to me. I am trying to do everything in my power to convince the EU and the West to admit it to the EU in a fast track procedure and, if possible, also to NATO.

If the lack of trust (misunderstandings) between the nations in Bosna and Herzegovina deepened, this could mean a major security risk for this country, the region and for the whole of Europe. Now it is time to understand and solve this problem.

The war in Ukraine has deepened and added to the problems left behind by the world health crisis. High inflation, low economic growth, problems with energy supply, high energy and food prices, even their shortage – all this has an impact on the political, economic and social life in Europe and beyond.

It is of utmost importance that the West, in particular the European Union, bearing the greatest burden of the war in Ukraine, unifies the various policies in tackling these problems. In doing so it must pursue two objectives:
- to solve the problems effectively and
- to urgently maintain unity on sanctions and other measures against Russia.

The compounding economic and social consequences of the war in Ukraine could undermine the political unity of the West and the European Union. This simply must not happen. We must therefore stand together – in the EU, as well as in (and with) NATO - until a just peace is achieved in Ukraine.

Anything else would mean a serious threat to long-term peace and security in Europe.


Finally, I would like to salute Türkiye’s efforts to play a mediating role between Russia and Ukraine.

I consider it valuable that it is not pushing for peace at any price but is endeavouring to solve those problems that alleviate the tragedies of the Ukrainian people and the problems of people everywhere in the world. What I find particularly valuable is the agreement on safe export of Ukrainian grain to global markets.

I would also like to welcome the compromises reached between Türkiye, on the one hand, and Finland and Sweden, on the other, which have finally enabled the two Scandinavian countries to join NATO.

I highly value the care Türkiye is providing for refugees fleeing wars or difficult living conditions. The European Union must fulfil its part of the obligations to which it has committed by signing the agreement related to this.

We are at a point, like in 1945 and 1990, where the old world has ended but the new world has not yet been born. The difference is, however, that the world is much more interconnected and interdependent, globalised.

It is in our strategic interest to avoid a new bloc division of the world and a new Cold War.

This requires more efforts to be directed towards building and nurturing peace and towards a more effective functioning of international organisations, such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations.

The world as it is being delineated to us by the war in Ukraine, is less friendly and much more demanding than the one we are used to. Returning to the fundamental principles of the United Nations, such as, inter alia, to live in tolerance and peaceful harmony and to have good neighbourly relations, and to cooperate in the maintenance of peace and security, is and remains our common commitment.