Prime Minister Janez Janša attended the second day of the European Council meeting in Brussels, where participants will discuss security and defence, energy, and economic issues and review the current challenges related to COVID-19.
On arrival at the meeting, the Prime Minister made a statement to the Slovenian and foreign media, speaking about the outcome of yesterday’s meeting and other topics of interest to journalists.
Prime Minister Janša began by saying that yesterday’s meeting was an opportunity for him and his Polish and Czech counterparts, with whom he visited Kyiv ten days ago, to convey the discussions and proposals of the Ukrainian side. “We did this both at the NATO and the EU summits. We also took advantage of the presence of the US President to inform him of the situation first-hand. However, the Ukrainian proposals have yet to be translated into formal conclusions, as they constitute proposals for concrete and targeted sanctions and specific assistance measures, which are usually not included in political conclusions,” said the Prime Minister. “I did not expect any more from the text that was elaborated at the EU Summit and which represents a political orientation, as it was already clear in Versailles exactly how far-reaching the European perspective and sanctions are when it comes to energy products,” he added. He continued by saying that the interest in the documents presented by the trio of prime ministers was exceptional. “The documents we brought from Ukraine also attracted a lot of interest, as they involve communication that is not possible by electronic means,” said the Prime Minister. He also expressed how glad he was that the delegation of the Baltic States’ prime ministers visited Kyiv yesterday and that some Member States’ ministers were already there, “so that this direct contact can continue”. According to the Prime Minister, the conversation with the President of Ukraine was also interesting. “His speeches have an impact, you see things differently after hearing first-hand what is happening,” said the Prime Minister.
When asked about the criticism of Ukrainian President Zelensky regarding Hungary, the Prime Minister replied that Zelensky was critical of both Hungary and Germany. “The case of Hungary concerns a dispute over the language and the Hungarian minority and the pre-election atmosphere in Hungary, so it is largely a matter of political rhetoric, but at the same time it should be noted that Hungary has not blocked sanctions or other measures, including many developments within NATO; Hungary is cooperating, but I regret the political clashes over an issue that is irrelevant at a time when people are dying,” the Prime Minister commented. He added that in yesterday’s conclusion European leaders had managed to directly incorporate part of the text adopted by the leaders of the G7. “It is a direct mention of Mariupol, where there is suffering of epic proportions at this time,” the Prime Minister said, noting that it was important to mention the places where this is happening, rather than writing about something in general. “So the Ukrainians know that they are not forgotten, it gives them hope, which is sometimes the most important factor for survival.”
Regarding high energy prices and setting a price cap on energy products, the Prime Minister said that “we will seek a compromise”. “We are in favour of a free market, even when it comes to the energy market, but we are not in favour of letting it run wild when we have an emergency situation on our hands,” he said and continued, “there is a middle way, which is to strengthen the European approach, i.e. joint procurement, joint price negotiations, joint construction of certain capacities, such as gas storage capacities which Slovenia does not have, and, common logistics. This is much easier to achieve if we have a common approach rather than each country speaking on its own and, for example, if 10 delegations of European countries go to Qatar in one week on the same topic.”
The Prime Minister also said that talks were being held directly between the US and the Commission on energy quantities. “Yesterday, the US President assured that when it comes to oil and gas, the US has huge reserves; they have 300 pumping stations that can be opened at any time, and by next winter the supply of liquefied gas and oil should not be a problem,” said the Prime Minister. “In terms of quantities and logistics, there is much more of these energy products than we have thought so far, even closer, and these capacities are available, but storage capacities and some pipelines need to be built,” he added.
When asked about the adoption of a fifth package of sanctions against Russia, the Prime Minister said that “we have proposed what the Ukrainians have proposed”. “These are interesting proposals, it is hard to be specific, but they are proposals aimed at stopping the Russian war machine.” These are proposals that could work in the coming weeks and months. I presented this in part at the NATO summit and the US President then summed it up at the EU summit as something that is an absolute priority,” said the Prime Minister.
With regard to the embargo on energy products from Russia, the Prime Minister said that this could happen much sooner than Russia would like. “Yesterday, the main topic was Ukraine, but of course there was also a discussion on energy. We also spoke to the US President about this. At the moment, we are gathering our strength to wean ourselves off dependence on Russian energy. Today, we will focus on how to keep prices down, and the solution, as I said, lies in common purchases, common logistics, common building of storage capacities. We know where the solutions are, but we need to be efficient and operational, as the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic showed,” said the Prime Minister. He added that no country was opposed to the approach to energy in general, but there were differences between countries depending on the degree of their dependence on Russian energy products. “This will happen later than we want, but sooner than Putin wants,” said the Prime Minister. He added that Slovenia would support the joint purchase of natural gas.
“Slovenian troops will arrive in Slovakia as soon as possible; the Government has already taken a decision and no confirmation by the National Assembly is required,” he said about the deployment of Slovenian troops to Slovakia, adding that the latest package of sanctions also includes an embargo on the import and export of diamonds.