Prime Minister of Slovenia

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 25 June 2009

greeted the Assembly and thanked the President for his kind welcome. He was happy to be present in the Chamber, which he knew well, and it was a pleasure to be returning as Prime Minister of Slovenia. He was also honoured to be addressing the esteemed Assembly as Prime Minister of the country which currently held the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. In 1993, Slovenia acceded to the Council of Europe and it was in that same year that he was head of the Slovenian delegation.

Today, Slovenia was celebrating its national day. Indeed, the principles which underpinned the Council of Europe had been Slovenia’s main guidance in achieving its goal of independence. This had required profound structural changes at crucial times. The people of Slovenia had understood that change had been necessary and it was thanks to them that Slovenia had realised its dreams of independence. Even with a favourable national response to change, the transition to a democratic state based on respect for human rights and the rule of law could not be achieved without the active will of the people behind it.

The Assembly had provided very good foundations for a new state learning to build a democracy. The Council of Europe had provided a great opportunity, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, for states from both east and west to engage in dialogue and learn from each other. In joining this process, Slovenia had learned a considerable amount, and this had contributed to a better understanding of Slovenia’s sense of belonging to Europe.

Slovenia’s national day in 2009 marked 18 years since independence. Slovenia had acquired both skills and experience in that time. In recent years, Slovenia’s role in the international community had evolved and it had been involved in international organisations at many levels. This had strengthened his country and prepared it for the tasks which it faced today. Slovenia’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers was proof of its commitment to international co-operation, respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

This year also marked the 60th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the 50th anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights. These anniversaries should remind us of how successful the Council of Europe had been and of the expertise and experience it had gained over the years. Numerous organisations were regularly faced with doubts about the reasons for their existence and they were sometimes subject to accusations that they existed for their own sake. In relation to the Council of Europe, there was concern about perceived competition from the European Union and about the effect of the economic crisis on its budget. He had spent eight years at the Council of Europe and knew it well. He considered it to be indispensable for the 800 million people whom it united and he could not imagine a Europe without the Council of Europe. If the economic crisis did raise doubts, these doubts should lead the Council of Europe to question whether its assistance for those most oppressed and needy had been adequate and timely.

History was not over. Someone’s past was another person’s present, yet the future belonged to everyone. Problems should be met as challenges and the Council of Europe could find a new place for itself by setting new standards in new fields. The Council of Europe should remember that the will of the people was paramount in a democracy and this should be the guiding principle as it strived to remain unified and committed to common goals. This guiding principle should also be paramount when considering recent developments in relation to the election of a new Secretary General and when planning further measures to address these problems. Only constructive dialogue between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly could lead to achieving these common goals and he was in favour of constructive dialogue in looking for the best possible solution.

Slovenia was in favour of constructive dialogue in order to find the best possible solution to the problem. The Secretary General must be someone who had the confidence of both the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly.

A priority of Slovenia’s chairmanship was to reform and improve the efficiency of the European Court of Human Rights in order to preserve its leading role in protecting human rights. Slovenia had ratified Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights and had agreed to the provisional application of other parts of the Convention. Protocol No. 14 bis, the interim solution to case load management by the Court, had been ratified by three Council of Europe members, including Slovenia, and signed by six further states, and would come into force – in relation to cases from those countries who had ratified it so far – on 1 October 2009. This would increase the efficiency of the European Court of Human Rights.

In some parts of the world, human rights remained a serious issue. Slovenia had supported the Council of Europe’s work throughout south-east Europe. However, the condition of the Roma people and of democratic standards in this region needed to be highlighted. Slovenia was committed to working with the Council of Europe to combat corruption and organised crime in the region as well promoting human rights.

With regard to Kosovo, Slovenia supported Council of Europe monitoring of the situation and had noted, with pleasure, the inclusion of children’s rights in the Kosovan curriculum.

Furthermore, Slovenia supported Council of Europe, EU and other international monitoring in Georgia. The international community had to be involved in Georgia and the problem of access to post-conflict areas needed to be addressed. Slovenia had supported the creation of the Council of Europe information point in Minsk opened by Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and Samuel Žbogar, the Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, this month. This was available to all citizens of Belarus and would promote the values of the Council of Europe. Tuesday’s debate in the Assembly confirmed the Council of Europe’s interest in Belarus and restoring its special guest status was an important step. Slovenia would act to encourage Belarus to abolish the death penalty and work with that country to achieve progress on other democratic reforms.

Slovenia had been worried by the conduct of the parliamentary elections in Moldova held on 5 April 2009. The Council of Europe’s actions in Moldova were welcomed and Slovenia would continue to encourage democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights in Moldova. Updating voter lists and improving media coverage of elections had improved the situation in Moldova. He looked forward to demonstrable improvements in the arrangements for the fresh elections planned for 29 July.

This week the Parliamentary Assembly had discussed south-east Europe. Europe, east and west, shared a common future and the Council of Europe had recognised this for a long time. The fall of the Berlin Wall had been an important event but unfortunately differences remained between east and west.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Thank you, Mr Pahor, for your most interesting statement. A number of important members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches.

The first question is from Mr Santini, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr SANTINI (Italy) (interpretation)

said that Slovenia had come of age very rapidly, as demonstrated by its presidency of both the EU and of the Council of Europe. He asked about the negotiations concerning the border between Slovenia and Croatia, how far negotiations had got and whether they would affect Croatia’s application to join the EU.

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

said that Slovenia supported the enlargement of the EU and that that process was not complete. All countries aspiring to join the EU should have the opportunity to do so. However, documents submitted by Croatia to the EU as part of its application process had pre-empted the outcome of the negotiations about the disputed border. This was a serious issue that Slovenia could not overlook but, until that point, it had fully supported Croatia’s application for membership. In December 2008, with the help of the French EU presidency, Slovenia had attempted to resolve this problem. They had failed on this occasion but were committed to removing their objections to Croatia’s membership as soon as possible. The efforts to reach a compromise had already gone too far for either party to turn back and, under the Swedish presidency of the EU, all options for resolution would be examined. If Slovenia and Croatia could agree their border it would be a great achievement for all the countries in the region and Croatia could continue its application for membership of the EU. It was important to conclude these negotiations before the Slovenian National Assembly was asked to ratify Croatia’s accession to the EU as a two-thirds majority would be required in the Assembly.

It was a great pity that only a temporary and ad hoc solution seemed possible. There needed to be a conclusive resolution to the problem. It also had to be recognised that the Slovenian National Assembly required a two-thirds majority for the adoption of any resolution.

Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland)

Mr Prime Minister, sir, let me express my best wishes. I want to go further into the issue under discussion, because it is crucial. To be frank, many members of this Assembly are concerned about the frozen territorial dispute between your country and Croatia, which is linked to the question of access to the sea in the area of Pirano. We understand that you have only 47 km of maritime border, but that dispute has some negative consequences. The whole issue should be solved within a multilateral framework rather than within a bilateral framework.

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

said that if Croatia’s negotiations with the European Commission did not resolve the outstanding border disputes, there would be a major problem. It was incumbent upon Croatia to find an adequate solution to the border problem. At the same time, Slovenia must protect its own vital interests.


Mr Prime Minister, I, too, congratulate your country on its national day.

Recent studies by the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance and other international, independent monitoring bodies indicate that discrimination and intolerance against groups such as Jews, Roma and Muslims in Europe continues to pose serious challenges. Will you elaborate on measures to improve the situation for those groups, and, in particular for migrants?

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

said that he had worked in the Council of Europe for eight years and across the river in the European Parliament for another four. Now he was Prime Minister of Slovenia. He had realised from his experience that Europe should consider concentrating not on what divided nations but instead on what united them. In a way, everybody was part of a minority. Although there were common identities based, for example, around religion or nationality, all people were individuals. Europe and its institutions must protect and safeguard all individual identities. Only then would everyone feel at home in Europe. During its presidency, Slovenia was committed to doing all it could to further that aim.

Mr KOX (The Netherlands)

You may have heard that this Assembly, just before you arrived, unanimously adopted an urgent appeal to the Iranian regime to end its brutal violence against its citizens, who are now bravely protesting in Tehran and other cities against the decades-long mullah tyranny and the total disrespect for human rights. What more may we expect from the governments of Council of Europe member states with regard to the dramatic developments in Iran? What is your appeal to the mullahs in Tehran? And what is your message of hope to the citizens of Iran?

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

said that developments in Iran were of major significance to the future affluence of the wider region. The will of the people in Iran must be followed and Europe must help them realise their will. Pressure must be put on Iran to engage in dialogue with the West so that commonly beneficial solutions could be reached. The international community wanted dialogue. There was some optimism that, through discussion, a peaceful solution would be reached.

Mr BÉTEILLE (France) (interpretation)

asked what steps should be taken to persuade the Russian Federation to adopt Protocol No. 14 to the European Convention of Human Rights.

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

hoped that the Russian Federation would listen to the concerns of Assembly members on that matter.

Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania)

Mr Prime Minister, you said in your speech that you would like to be the model for other countries, perhaps for the whole region. Of course, Slovenians do not like to hear that they are from the Balkans: they say, “We are from the Alps.” You spent many years in former Yugoslavia, so what is your suggestion for countries that are still not fully fledged, such as Kosovo? What is the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina? What model can you propose for them?

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

said that Slovenia was willing to share its experience in building and protecting an open and democratic society from scratch. Slovenia would willingly help new and small nations in that task. His country brought much experience to the task of nation building. It had experienced many conflicts since the Second World War and would share the lessons of that experience in any way it could.

The Dayton Accord of 1995, and other agreements, had made it possible to end hostilities in Europe and had hopefully resulted in long-lasting peace and security. Progress towards democracy in the countries of south-eastern Europe had been slow but with the help of the international community further progress would be made. When Slovenia had first campaigned for independence from the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the international community had acted slowly. The international community should learn the lesson that emerging nations must be supported in their journey.

Mr GROSS (Switzerland)

Mr Minister, you twice mentioned history. Today, Slovenia is very much confronted with a difficult history after the end of the Second World War. You discovered mass graves, and that Slovenians killed refugees. How do you cope with this history? Would you like to share with us lessons that you have learned for not dividing the country but not letting neighbours utilise the history against you?

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

said he had known Mr Gross for many years and was pleased to see him once again.

All countries had experienced painful events. It was important that they learned from those events and did not repeat them. More happy memories could be used as a source of inspiration. Slovenia’s National Assembly had set up a commission to consider that issue. It was very important that the issue was resolved without political interference. If it were resolved soon, then future generations would have had a weight lifted from its shoulders.

Mrs POSTANJYAN (Armenia)

Honourable Prime Minister, Slovenia was one of the few countries of the former Yugoslavia to exercise its right to self-determination, and it achieved its independence in a comparatively non-violent civil way. What would be your advice to other nations with similar histories, such as Nagorno-Karabakh and post-Soviet Azerbaijan, on accomplishing such a civil separation with a view to long-term peace and partnership?

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

said that he had answered the question in his introductory remarks but would reiterate his opinion. The continent of Europe must experience peace, security and well-being in the 21st century. The 20th century had witnessed a series of political experiments which had not been good for Europe’s citizens.

The Council of Europe and other organisations had been established to support those who wished for freedom and democracy. This was not an easy task. The Council of Europe should be more active in pursuing its goal.

Slovenia had not aspired to independence for nationalist egotistical reasons, rather it had been inspired by the European ideal of living peacefully with others, while at the same time respecting and preserving state sovereignty. Slovenia was willing to help all nations who were on a similar journey.

Mr DZEMBRITZKI (Germany) (interpretation)

said that approximately 500 million people lived in the European Union and approximately 27 million people lived in those Balkan states that were not members of the EU. What could be done to facilitate dialogue and understanding between the EU and those countries?

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

said that in Europe, it was possible to live with certain issues but opportunities to resolve problems should be seized when they arose. This issue of borders, such as the disputed border between Slovenia and Croatia, was a serious problem. In the context of the international community, and the future enlargement of the European Union to embrace the western Balkans, the best possible message was that the borders issue be resolved. That could inspire other countries to do the same and to improve their relationships with their neighbours but it would take political will on all sides. In 2001, Slovenia proposed a solution to the border question but it had not been accepted by Croatia.

Mr FLEGO (Croatia)

Prime Minister, as you said in your speech and in answer to the first question, every country should fulfil the same conditions. If I remember correctly, there are plenty of border questions and problems between states across the European Union, but we do not ask them to co-operate with each other. Slovenia itself became a member of the Union despite unsolved border problems. Why is it that Croatia should not become a member of the European Union with her unsolved border problems, especially if their immediate resolution is not a condition of joining?

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

said that it was right that this should be a question of great interest for the Assembly. Documents submitted by the Croatian Government had pre-judged the national border. This state of affairs was standing in the way of Slovenia’s support for Croatia’s bid for membership of the European Union. Croatia had to now resolve this issue itself, since it created the problem in the first place. He hoped that the Lisbon Treaty would be ratified this year in order to guarantee the institutional structure of the European Union.


Prime Minister, thank you for your statement. In this Assembly, we work together on our problems and issues, and we are grateful for the attitude you have reflected. There are certain problems between this Assembly and the Committee of Ministers. You have been a parliamentarian here for a long time and you know that if it is at all possible, we want to reach agreement with the committee. We appreciate the position of your country as outlined by you and your Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Mr Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia (interpretation)

Mr President, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary General, my old friend – if I am allowed to say that – for his work in that position. I have known him for a long time; he is an excellent person. Since you are coming to the end of your job here, Terry, I wish you all the very best in your private and public life.