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Start Of A New Joint Cooperation Within The European Family

Athens, 04/17/2003  |  statement

Click to enlargeOn the second day of the EU Athens Summit, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Janez Drnovšek, attended the European Conference on the common wider neighbourhood and the discussion on common values. The conference was also attended by the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Mr Javier Solana, the President of the European Commission, Mr Romano Prodi, and other senior representatives of the EU member states and candidate countries. Following the European Conference President Janez Drnovšek talked to the media.

President Drnovšek: "I should like to reiterate the significance of this event. This is a historic event. Slovenia signed the Treaty of Accession to the European Union, and the general atmosphere here in Athens is suitably ceremonial. We received many congratulations, for we have traversed a long path. Our preparations were extensive and so were our negotiations. At the end of this path a new one opens up, new cooperation within the European family. This is an important milestone and was also perceived as such by all of us here.

Click to enlargeAlthough we did continue today at the European Conference with the debate on the future borders of the European Union, the presence of the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, and his introductory speech triggered a general discussion on finding solutions to the Iraqi situation and overcoming differences in the EU resulting from different attitudes towards the Iraqi issue. I personally joined in this discussion and expressed my agreement with the declaration by the UN Secretary General that humanitarian action, the reconstruction of Iraq, is an activity which can re-establish bonds between the EU countries divided in their views on the developments and war in Iraq. Humanitarian aid is the very thing that can unite Europe in this urgent effort. Especially medical care for the victims of the Iraqi war is a matter of great urgency.

In the discussion, I introduced the issue of further enlargement of the European Union primarily to South Eastern Europe, the countries of the former Yugoslavia, starting with Croatia. The majority of other participants in the discussion agreed that the borders of Europe must remain open and that the EU must continue with enlargement. All those willing to accept European values must be given the opportunity to join the EU when they are ready.

Click to enlargeI should like to add a few words on the response of the Slovenian media that I find surprising and disappointing, i.e. the response that there were misunderstandings and disagreements in our delegation with respect to the signing and presentations at this Summit. This is not true. It is true that we were looking for the right formula for the appearance since this is the first instance of this kind – Slovenia's accession to the EU – but we did not argue. On the contrary, we reached agreements in a peaceful and constructive way and something entirely different went on at the end from what the Slovenian media are trying to present. There was no jostling about who was to do what. In the end I considered that, according to the given formula, it might not be appropriate for the heads of state to participate in the signing ceremony. It would suffice for them to merely attend this ceremony. Finally, however, on the day preceding the event, the decision was made that I would sign the Accession Treaty and give a short symbolic speech after signing in order to avoid the interpretation that the Prime Minister wishes to take over the ceremony. To sum up, the purpose was just the opposite, therefore I am very surprised at these reactions. I believe it was really not necessary that such writing should accompany this solemn event crowning our key efforts over many years. I appreciate the gesture of the Slovenian Prime Minister, although I did not insist on this and would also have been satisfied with a different role. In my opinion, such gestures should be welcomed and not speculated on. I think that such an occasion, the common Europe and Slovenia, do not deserve this."

To the question on the activities of Europe in providing humanitarian aid and Slovenia's participation, President Drnovšek replied:

"Humanitarian activity is the very activity in which Slovenia and all other countries must participate irrespective of their views on the war in Iraq. They must join in humanitarian activities. Slovenia must join this airlift that the EU wishes to establish in order to handle the most urgent medical cases presented daily on television. These are people without legs, arms who cannot be provided with suitable medical care in Iraqi hospitals and Slovenia must offer suitable assistance in this respect."