Mercredi 26 Juin 2019  

N°94 - Deuxième trimestre 2011

La lettre diplometque
  France-Slovénie : des relations renouvelées par le partenariat stratégique
  Les liens parlementaires au service de l’amitié franco-slovène
  Le Conseil de l’Europe : une enceinte essentielle pour la Slovénie
  La Slovénie, un membre jeune et déjà très actif de l’OCDE
  Le marché slovène surmonte la crise
  La Slovénie : un marché propice aux investissements des grandes entreprises françaises
  La culture et la coopération scientifique vecteurs majeurs des relations franco-slovènes
République tchèque
Stratégie, Défense & Sécurité
Enjeux Économiques
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Partenaire Lettre Diplomatique
La lettre diplometque
  Revoz D.D.
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La lettre diplomatique Haut
  S.E.Mme / H.E. Veronika Stabej

“Contributing to welfare and development around the world”


Slovenia’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2012-2013 is a move to step up its role on the international scene. H.E. Ms Veronika Stabej, Slovenia’s Ambassador to France, shared her thoughts on her country’s path towards Euro-Atlantic integration and the resources it is harnessing to rise to economic challenges down the road and cement regional and international stability, amid its 20th independence anniversary celebrations.

The Diplomatic Letter : Ambassador, Slovenia has been dubbed the Balkans’ “model student”. What, in your view, has it done over the two decades since it declared its independence to weather its political and economic transition successfully and earn that nickname? What do you think about your country’s successful steps to join all the prominent Euro-Atlantic organisations and other international organisations such as the OECD?

H.E. Veronika Stabej: It took a long time to hone Slovenia’s choice to emerge as an autonomous, independent country, but the drive started gathering serious momentum in the second half of the 1980s. A vast majority of Slovenia’s people chose to form an independent State in 1990 and declared independence on 25 June 1991, after its first free elections since World War II.
A number of reasons – including former Yugoslavia’s failure to build a sound democracy, the deep economic crisis and the inefficient, ineffective political system – led it to make that choice. We also wanted to protect our own identity, join the European and international family of nations, and take a stand on democracy, human dignity and human rights, and so on.
Slovenia is a modern democracy with a stable economy. Its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is higher than the European average. It is one of those countries that has developed a very keen environmental awareness. The crime rates are low and quality of life very decent, inter alia because its education system is well structured and everyone can access information technology.
We are also down-to-earth and aware of the challenges we all have to face today, including the financial and economic crisis, which has led us to reform our pension schemes, the administration and other areas, and to spur private enterprise, research and innovation.
Our desire to really belong to the international community and our eagerness to protect our national identity were the two main drivers that led us to declare independence. Slovenia looked to the European Union to secure peace, security and progress, and to protect Human Rights. We never saw autonomy as an end in itself: we saw it as one step towards joining a larger international community. And it took a fair amount of courage and determination, and a lot of patience.
Today, we are part of the EU (including the Euro and Schengen areas), UN, OECD, OSCE and Council of Europe. This shows that our country is stable and able to contribute to welfare and development on an international scale. We were the first of the ten newcomer nations to preside over the Council of Europe (in the first half of 2008).

T.D.L.: Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor signed a strategic partnership agreement with French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his official visit to France, on 7 and 8 March 2011. In your view, in what areas is this new initiative building fresh momentum in relationships between your two countries? What can you say about the historical ties between Slovenia and France, and about the cultural ties (Slovenia, for example, belongs to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie)?

President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Borut Pahor signed the political statement on the strategic partnership between France and Slovenia, and the attached action plan, in Paris on 7 March 2011.
These two documents spring from and indeed deepen our bilateral relations. They provide a solid foundation for cooperation in every area we share, i.e. encompassing the economy, innovation, energy, the environment, security, defence, development, science, technology, culture, education, etc.
This partnership also opens the door to direct cooperation between institutions in both countries and provides for consultation on all EU-relevant issues. This means that dialogue between Slovenia and France has moved up to the institutional level for the first time ever.
I can add that Slovenia and France took over the EU Presidency in turn (we did in the first half of 2008, France did in the second). Our cooperation during that period was exemplary, and we decided to deepen it by moving it further into the institutional realm.
The partnership between our two countries also has symbolic depth: it was signed the year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence, and it ties in French-Slovenian relations that stretch back at least two centuries, to the days of the Illyrian Provinces.
Slovenia’s far-reaching historical ties with France also earned it OIF Observer Member status in 1999. We are proud of the OIF’s position and role in today’s multilateral world. Needless to say, French language teaching in the Slovenian education system is one of the most significant aspects of this strategic partnership.

T.D.L.: The round table between France and Slovenia that your Head of Government attended with Economy Minister Ms Darja Radi  led to an agreement on the energy sector. What other sectors could you invest in together? Where would you like to focus to harness your country’s economic potential?

H.E.V.S.: Economic cooperation between Slovenia and France is already happening. Our two countries are working hard to create the right environment for firms to do business and invest both ways. But the potential for cooperation is especially exciting in areas hovering around innovation and competitiveness.
Beyond the energy sector, there are opportunities for industrial partnerships in the primary sectors. Slovenian groups and French competitiveness clusters could also work more closely together to flex Europe’s technological muscle and to establish trailblazing small and medium-sized companies. Slovenia is also banking on the automotive sector (the French Renault group’s Revoz plant in Novo Mesto is one example of developments on that front).
Economic cooperation between France and Slovenia should also focus on high-tech companies that create high-quality jobs. And it is vital to support Slovenian business firms with operations in France and French business firms with operations in Slovenia. Integrating Slovenian-capital companies into France’s economic life and vice-versa is also important. Slovenia would also like to exchange more experience and know-how in the tourism sector, especially to promote rural eco-tourism, beauty-care spas, mountain resorts and business tourism (MICE), by matchmaking public- and private-sector entrepreneurs.
Slovenia is also keen on other key areas, especially farming in general and food-processing in particular, and Trans-European railway networks (corridors V and X, and the TEN-T n. 6 EU project), and other large-scale infrastructure. We are also keen on our domestic transport programme, which for example involves assessing financial costs for road infrastructure within the EU Council and setting up the European Electronic Toll Collection System (EETS).
Slovenia’s main advantage on the economic front is beyond a doubt its highly qualified human resources. Slovenians thrive on blazing new trails, speak several languages and know computers. We also have high-quality infrastructure, good communication and information-technology networks, very decent standards of living, and cultural and geographic variety (we are at the crossroads between the Latin, Germanic and Slavic worlds). And remember that our geographic position has allowed us to build bridges with other regional markets over time – and that, in turn, has contributed to our political and economic stability.
The business sectors that concentrate most of Slovenia’s potential encompass chemicals and pharmaceuticals, renewable and other energies, information and telecommunication technology, research and development, logistics and distribution, automotive and equipment manufacturers, metal working and engineering, electronics, new materials, nano-technologies, tourism and financial services.

T.D.L.: The Slovenian economy grew more than 1% in 2010, and has embarked on an upswing after the fiercest recession in its history, in 2009. What measures is your Government taking to shore up that recovery? Besides revamping the pension schemes, what other structural reforms are you working on to cement Slovenia’s financial stability?

The Euro Zone’s economy grew 0.8% in Q1 2011 (mainly in France and Germany), and Slovenia’s economy slowed down by about 0.3%. Our domestic market has stabilised over these first three months, but unemployment has not started coming down yet (it is higher than it was in Q1 2010). Our banks, moreover, have limited resources.
Slovenia has not been growing as fast as the rest of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). But the bulk of its recovery from the big dip comes from its exports, which have increased by 10.6% (even if the balance of trade is back in red as imports have increased by 11.1%) and investment has rocketed (+17.5%), with the exception of the construction sector, which has stepped off a cliff (-22.6%). Domestic-consumption indicators were green in H1 2011 (+1.2% from households, +2.2% for the State).
The Slovenian Government’s measures to promote growth and kick-start the economy after the downturn mirror the Europe 2020 strategy, which self-explanatorily maps out the road to the EU’s development through 2020, through reasonable, sustainable and inclusive economic policy, high employment and productivity rates, and strong social cohesion. The Slovenian Government has carved out its national development strategy around this European strategy.
From a more institutional perspective, a bylaw on “planning documents for development and procedures to prepare provisional budgets” was passed to pave the way to roll out economic policy and identify top priorities in synch with preparing the budget. This bylaw has provided a framework for development policy: it instates a development planning coordination group and a fiscal policy commission, and task forces for each of those areas. A new law should be adopted in 2011 to stretch this approach across the spectrum.
The economic and financial downturn mainly shed light on a few of the structural weaknesses in our economy, which tie in with productivity, competitiveness and management issues. These macroeconomic imbalances take surgically targeted measures to boost public-expenditure effect, fine-tune labour conditions and costs, and regulate markets and business environments. That way, we will be able to increase our exports and provide more added value by sharpening our competitive edge (Slovenia is behind other countries on this score).
The Government’s economic policy is geared to consolidate public finances. We will only manage that by making tax burdens lighter, not heavier, while accommodating our top national-development priorities, i.e. creating new jobs, increasing knowledge to create more value, supporting growth and spurring new, innovative companies to nurture every individual’s creativity and activity – as well as stepping up the energy and communication infrastructure we need to fuel that development.
Our gradual shift towards an “eco-efficient” low-carbon society is embedded in all those top-priority measures. In a diagram, it would be a horizontal line cutting across every objective in the Government’s strategy.
Social cohesion will spring from a more efficient social security system. And, as you say, revamping our pension system is one of the main structural reforms we are running.

T.D.L.: Slovenia was the first Eastern European country to adopt the Euro, and the credit facility it granted Ireland showed that it is serious about solidarity with the countries that have been hit by the debt crisis. But to what extent, in your opinion, has this crisis undermined European construction? How do you feel about deeper-reaching economic governance in the EU in light of the Financial Stabilisation Mechanism?

H.E.V.S.: Financial market conditions during the crisis showed that financial difficulties in one country in a monetary area such as the Euro Zone can soon jeopardise the entire area’s macroeconomic stability due to several contagion factors. This is especially so in the Euro Zone, where the economic and financial sectors are closely intertwined.
That was why the Euro Zone countries were so determined to tackle the crisis with concerted measures to protect financial stability as a whole. That was also why it adopted a series of measures for Greece and then adopted the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which agreed to help Ireland under a specific economic programme.
In Slovenia’s view, financial aid for Euro Zone counties should first of all come from contributions (guarantees or capital) from the countries whose financial institutions are the most exposed to the country in difficulty, regardless of whether they are in the same area or not. Then, and only if the first step does not attract the necessary financial resources, it may be reasonable to expect Slovenia to increase its contribution to the EFSM.
We also agree with using EFSM resources – under very strict conditions – to buy vulnerable States’ bonds in order to contribute to bringing their debt burden under control and to award credit lines to States in order to protect their financial stability, within domestic procedures and legislation.
We are also for a European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to protect the entire Euro Zone’s financial stability. Slovenia agrees with plans to share ESM capital based on GDP, as well as the weight of the financial sector on the country’s economy and its public debt. That is why we are suggesting a composite indicator encompassing both those variables.
We are also in favour of stretching the maturity on Greece’s loans to seven and a half years at interest rates that will allow that country to access capital markets and make its public debt sustainable again.

T.D.L.: As a former Yugoslavian Federation member, Slovenia ranks integrating Balkan States into the EU among its top foreign-policy priorities. Besides the regional summit in Brdo on 20 March 2010, what is Ljubljana planning to do to consolidate ties in the Balkans? What new opportunities to join the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) might open up as a result?

The Western Balkans indeed rank among Slovenia’s top foreign-policy priorities. That is not only because those countries are our closest neighbours: it is also because, many times in the past, they have cemented stability or triggered instability in Europe.
The prospect of joining the EU and ongoing enlargement momentum will encourage the countries in this region to roll out the reforms they need to pave the way for long-term stability and progress. Slovenia is actively involved in efforts to drive this process forward, in the hope that all Western Balkan States join Euro-Atlantic organisations, and is backing their reform processes.
Slovenia has been promoting the Western Balkans since it served as the Presidency of the Council of Europe in 2008. The visa waivers were one of the tangible results, which led to a total waiver on all short trips within the Schengen area.
There is no doubt in our minds that local cooperation and appropriating regional processes (local ownership) are the keys to progress for the Western Balkan States. That is the only way to drive reforms that people embrace and grow deep roots. The Brdo process, which started as a joint Slovenian and Croatian initiative to gather the Western Balkan States Presidents and Prime Ministers for a meeting in March last year was an example of that local-ownership approach. One goal is to improve every Western Balkan State’s prospects of joining the EU by providing mutual support and sharing experiences throughout the process. Another is to strengthen this region’s awareness: a shared approach and similar projects can only boost this region’s impact. Infrastructure is only one area where we have made tangible progress and significantly deepened exchanges. We were also delighted to see Serbia at the latest minister meeting – the Justice Minister meeting, in this case – even though it is fair to say that every Western Balkan State is actively involved in the Brdo process.
The Brdo process is obviously not the only regional cooperation drive that Slovenia is actively involved in. We are doing our best to suggest other initiatives that will complement the ones that are already underway. The SEECP, which you mentioned, is organising its Head of State and Government meeting and at ministerial level, at the end of June in Montenegro. SEECP is also an opportunity, a forum, to start and build exchanges.
Slovenia is also an active member of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and SEDM (South Eastern Europe Defence Ministerial) process. And don’t forget the Ljubljana process to protect and refurbish South-East Europe’s cultural heritage. Those are only a few of the regional cooperation opportunities. Separately and together, they are playing a vital role opening up interaction and exchanges. And communication, precisely, is the key for every cooperation initiative.

T.D.L.: The Slovenian people put an end to the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia with the 6 June 2010 referendum. What measures have you taken to apply the agreement brokered in Stockholm in November 2009? How have relations between your two countries improved since then?

H.E.V.S.: The Slovenian and Croatian Prime Ministers indeed signed an agreement in Stockholm on 4 November 2009, during the Swedish Presidency of the EU. The law ratifying that agreement was put to a referendum on 6 June 2010, both countries officially ratified it on 25 November 2010, and it has been in force since 29 November 2010. Slovenian and Croatian authorities filed the entire agreement with the UN Secretary General on 25 May 2011.
The arbitration is over the land and sea border between the two countries, Slovenia’s access to deep seas, and the associated rights. The Court will count five members: three will be appointed by both countries and the other two by each country unilaterally. Under the agreement, the European Commission will be filling the Secretariat.
From a strictly temporal perspective, the arbitration procedure will start the day that Croatia signs its EU Membership Treaty. In other words, the process will kick off – and, specifically, the arbitrators will be appointed and the memorandum will be drafted – after that. The Court’s ruling will be binding for both parties, and they will be required to put it into effect six months after its adoption. That ruling will resolve a 20-year-long border dispute between these two countries.
Slovenia and Croatia have appointed their officials to liaise with the Court and the other party in the legal proceedings. Our Foreign Affairs Ministry has also appointed a special task force to coordinate preparation work on our case and to deal with the procedure.
The agreement between our two countries is a constructive compromise that has substantially improved our bilateral relations. The two governments have established a climate of trust and their political dialogue has deepened. That is the sine-qua-non for healthy bilateral relations and to settle other pending issues – especially to step up economic cooperation. We have agreed to deliver presentations together on other markets. We have also agreed to get more involved in the West Balkans region’s political and economic fields. The better relations between our two countries have already tangibly solved several issues affecting daily life for people living near the borders, and spawned cooperation projects on both sides of the border.

T.D.L.: Right after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Ljubljana on 20 March 2010, your country called for an “all-out, all-round” partnership with Russia (especially in the energy sector). Besides the South Stream gas pipelines, where are Slovenia and Russia talking about intensifying cooperation? Now that President Danilo Türk has made a case for concluding a European security Treaty, what is Slovenia planning to do to consolidate ties between Brussels and Moscow?

Slovenia and the Russian Federation can look back on a long history of cooperation. The many top-level political visits back and forth are only one sign of that. Political dialogue between our two countries gained momentum when Slovenia served as the OSCE’s Presidency in 2005, and when it served as the Council of Europe’s Presidency in the first half of 2008. It was precisely during the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of Europe that Member States agreed to ask the European Commission to start talks on a new partnership and cooperation treaty between the EU and the Russian Federation. Those talks began at the EU-Russian Federation Summit in Chanty-Mansijsk on 27 June 2008.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin paid his first official visit to Slovenia on 22 and 23 March 2011. The six seminal documents that were signed during his visit include the Treaty between the Slovenian and Russian Governments to create and operate cultural and scientific centres, and the agreement between Geoplin Plinovodi and Gazprom to set up a joint venture to run the South Stream gas pipeline through Slovenia.
Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Sergey Lavrov met his Slovenian counterpart Mr Žbogar in Ljubljana in April 2011, and they both inaugurated the Russian Cultural and Scientific Centre during that visit.
The Slovenian President, Mr Danilo Türk, was in Russia shortly afterwards in mid-May, after accepting President Dmitri Medvedev’s invitation.
The energy sector and South Stream gas pipeline are not the only areas where our two countries are cooperating – far from it. Slovenia and Russia are already working on several projects together, and we are expecting those projects to mushroom in the near future, especially after signing the partnership for modernisation and other documents on cooperation in the cultural, economic and educational fields, which will kick-start cooperation at practically every level.
It is also important to point out the “Programme” encompassing 31 economic cooperation projects between our two countries. It was cleared in February 2011, during the 8th Session of the Russian and Slovenian Intergovernmental Commission for Commercial, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, which stems from an MOU on large-scale economic projects to deepen economic cooperation between our two countries, which was signed in October 2010 during President Danilo Türk’s official visit to Russia.
The Forum of Slavic Cultures is also based in Slovenia. It was established on 28 June 2004 in Ljubljana, at Slovenia’s initiative, during US President George W. Bush’s and Vladimir Putin’s meeting in Brdo pri Kranju in June 2001. It counts Slovenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Russia, Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine as its members. The Czech Republic and Poland have Observer status.
Another interesting initiative: Slovenia has started working on the concept of “space culturalisation” through the Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies in Vitanje (KSEVT), and would like to include the Russian Federation and other countries. We have started working together on the first project – which is admittedly modest – around the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight.
We are also hoping to extend cooperation between archive offices in our two countries. In 2010, for instance, we gathered documents about Russian-Slovenian relations from the 12th century to 1914.
The Russian Cultural and Scientific Centre that recently opened in Ljubljana should do a lot to open up new options. It was built under the treaty that the Slovenian and Russian Governments signed on creating and running cultural and scientific centres during Mr Vladimir Putin’s visit to Slovenia.
The Russian Federation is beyond a doubt one of the EU’s key strategic partners. And they have “all-out, all-round” relations – besides the fact that they are geographically close and share so much history. And Russia is not just an important partner country in bilateral relations: it is also a pivotal partner in international organisations.
Tackling the 21st century’s safety and security challenges, and the threats we are facing, necessarily involves cooperating as equals with every stakeholder in Europe, across the European-Atlantic link and across the European-Atlantic link. This process has to be transparent and inclusive, and every country in each area must be able to draw attention to the threats jeopardising its security and stability.
President Medvedev’s initiative sparked debate on these issues and challenges. And that debate has to be open and inclusive: the notion of cooperative and complete security is one of the pillars of our own security, and will safeguard develop and international law over and above any unpredictable events that might occur. That is the OSCE’s job: it ensures countries can discuss the issues on an equal footing, and based on the values they share and consensus.

T.D.L.: Portoroz, a Slovenian seaside city, has been home to the Euro-Mediterranean University (EMUNI) since June 2008. How can your country use its Euro- Mediterranean expertise to contribute to revive the economic integration process under the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)? How do you think the revolutions in Arab countries will reshape relations with Europe? Do you think NATO’s intervention in Libya could stretch to other countries under a UN mandate?

H.E.V.S.: Education is one of the factors that could help people living on the Mediterranean Sea’s southern rim to understand what is happening today and find a way out of the crisis. EMUNI is one of the UfM’s six pilot projects and can of course contribute to raising education standards. Its drive to promote cultural diversity entails nurturing ties between people and cultures around the Mediterranean rim, especially in universities. Moreover, its capacity and connections with other universities can contribute to harmonising university and research standards, and to sustainable development and social and economic progress in Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EUROMED) countries. Here, it is also worth pointing out the important role that the Anna Lindh Foundation has played in efforts to bring Mediterranean cultures closer together.
Slovenia supports the Southern Mediterranean people’s hopes to live in a social and political system that respects their democratic interests, and economic and political rights. As we have been through our own transition, we are in a good position to understand the complexity inherent in any reform. We hope the people in that region build the democracy they are aiming for in the near future but we know, alas, that this processes can take much longer than we might expect, at least in certain fields.
We also commend the reforms that are already underway in Egypt and Tunisia. In both cases, we are highlighting the notion of “local ownership” in the process and the fact that the international community must provide urgent aid.
We hope that Libya, where Khadafy’s regime has lost all credibility and is no longer in a position to run the country, will create the right conditions for political change in the near future. The most urgent matter today, however, is to stop the fighting and ease the humanitarian situation.
Slovenia has joined the international community’s drive to bring relief to Southern Mediterranean countries. Our country gave the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) €50,000 to allay the humanitarian crisis in the region in March 2011, and delivered €20,000 worth of medicine to Misrata, in Libya, with the Arab League’s help. We are also preparing €10,000 worth of medicine and hospital supplies to send to the border between Tunisia and Libya, and €25,000 worth of similar supplies to send to Benghazi with Italy. We are also working on a psychological and social project for children victims of war (we will probably be providing medical care for a few victims from Benghazi, in Slovenia).
We can also help States in that region with our experience and expertise in transitions – bilaterally and via the EU. We believe that education is one of the keys to successful political, social and economic transitions. However, we are not planning to take part in the international community’s military operations in that region.
We are also watching and worried about the situations in Syria and Yemen, where the regimes are using violence to quell peaceful protests. We feel that is pernicious. We urge both regimes to open up dialogue with the opposition and the international community to take a single stand to achieve that.

T.D.L.: The upheaval in North Africa has spurred a tide of immigration, raising questions about Schengen governance efficiency. What do you think about that? Your country has close ties with Italy – in the economic realm and also as regards security issues: how are you liaising with Rome on migration issues?

H.E.V.S.: From our perspective, eliminating border controls inside the EU and thereby allowing people to travel freely is one of the most tangible results of the European integration process. The Schengen system is well designed. But, like any chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link, so it’s important to apply it properly.
Every Member State is answerable for its border with countries outside the Union. But it can also count on EU solidarity via its Frontex Agency –Slovenia is actively involved in its missions – and there is financial support (for example from the External Borders Fund).
The developments over the past few months have shown that migratory pressure can become very strong overnight and that Member States are not necessarily prepared for that. Slovenia believes in strengthening the Schengen area to step up security for all EU citizens. This includes an option to temporarily reinstate borders inside the Union - provided it is an exceptional measure to deal with an exceptional situation for a limited period of time. The core case for such a measure must be EU citizen security.

T.D.L.: Slovenia is bidding for non-permanent member seat on the UN Security Council for 2012-2013. Why do you want that responsibility? How do you feel, in light of the ties you have built with emerging countries over the past few years, about the UN reform?

H.E.V.S.: The Republic of Slovenia has indeed applied for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2012-2013. That seat is reserved for a group of Eastern European countries. We applied very shortly after our first non-permanent term on that Council in 1998-1999 ended. The fact that we applied so early for the seat assigned to our regional group added to our credibility and exposure, and attracted considerable support.
Slovenia bid for that seat because we believe in effective multilateral mechanisms. As a UN Security Council member, Slovenia can shoulder its responsibility vis-à-vis the international community and actively contribute to peace and security around the world.
We are planning to focus especially on averting conflict, establishing sanctions, protecting civilian populations, enforcing environmental security and encouraging international cooperation. We can also draw on our extraordinarily positive experience during our first term on the Council to discuss options to increase this international organisation’s efficiency, effect, clarity and transparency. Those are vital issues to cement its legitimacy today. Many of the discussions at the Bled Strategic Forum in September 2011 will be about the issues that Slovenia ranks as top priorities if it is chosen to sit on the Security Council.

T.D.L.: You are also Slovenia’s Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO. In what fields would you like to see your country more involved with this international forum? How are Slovenia’s distinctive cultural features contributing to its growing presence on the Europen and international scenes?

H.E.V.S.: Slovenia is fully aware of UNESCO’s importance and is keen on deepening cooperation in every field – and, especially, in education, communication and information.
In the field of education, Slovenia is hoping to push ahead with and consolidate the Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) and looking forward to its 15th-anniversary publication. We would also like to build more bridges between the various UNESCO programmes and operations, and the permanent education centres. We feel that an inter-disciplinary approach to education and information about climate change is essential today.
On the communication and information front, we would like to be more involved in UNESCO’s efforts to apply recommendation on multilingualism in the virtual realm, and in the Information for All Programme (IFAP) to circulate information about development. We are also keen on pushing ahead with the initiatives that kicked off at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
Intercultural dialogue ranks high on Slovenia’s foreign-policy agenda simply because we were part of Central and Southern European multicultural clusters so we have amassed a wealth of varied experiences encouraging and protecting cultural diversity. Intercultural dialogue was one of the top priorities of the Slovenian EU Presidency in 2008 and its Council of Europe Presidency in 2009, because it is an important factor for European reunification and part of the work we have to do to achieve our common objectives.
Over at the UN, Slovenia is a member of the Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations, where it is actively involved in efforts to promote better understanding between cultures. We are also working via the Human Security Network (HSN) on that front.
As culture permeates many aspects of Slovenia’s history and daily life, we are keen on promoting Slovenian art and creation abroad, to share it with others. Our embassies and Slovenian language lecturers in foreign universities are in charge of this project today. Our National Programme for Culture for 2012-2015 includes a proposal to create an agency to promote Slovenian culture and international cultural cooperation.
Over the past few years, Slovenia has been ramping up its cooperation with multilateral and regional organisations in a variety of networks, in the Council of Europe, and in UNESCO. We have made strategic moves to join the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Council of Ministers of culture of South East Europe, European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) and International Federation for Arts Councils and Culture (IFACCA).
All these organisations and networks are brimming with opportunities for direct, down-to-earth cooperation with producers and artists who have real projects. In 2010, we set up the coordination office for the Balkan Incentive Fund for Culture (BIFC ), which is working with the European Cultural Foundation to network artists and pool artistic projects in South East Europe. By way of conclusion, I would like to add that Slovenia is keen on protecting its cultural interests, and its artists’ interests, in the EU.   

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