Prime Minister Janez Janša attended a meeting of leaders of EU Member States in Brussels.
The European Council will discuss Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, security and defence, energy, economic issues, COVID-19, and external relations. On the first day of the meeting, EU leaders will be joined by US President Joe Biden; together they will discuss support for Ukraine and its people and the strengthening of transatlantic cooperation in response to the Russian aggression. The European Council will take stock of recent developments on the ground, including as regards the humanitarian situation and refugees. The EU remains committed to Ukraine and its people and seeks to provide coordinated political, financial, material and humanitarian assistance and support for the reconstruction of a democratic Ukraine.
When arriving at the meeting, the Prime Minister, in a statement to foreign media, said that he expected European leaders to take action regarding energy prices, which is one of the most important things in Europe. “The focus will, of course, also be on Ukraine. We must commit ourselves to giving Ukraine what it needs most at the moment, namely hope, military aid to be able to defend itself, humanitarian aid and money to help its economy survive,” he added. “Ten days ago, when we were in Kyiv with the prime ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic, we received quite some good suggestions from the Ukrainian Government on how to specifically target areas that were somehow forgotten in the preparation of the latest package of sanctions. We must target those directly linked to the war, and that will also be our proposal,” said the Prime Minister. He also added that the leaders have on the table an embargo on Russian gas, oil and coal. “Today we will reaffirm our commitment from Versailles, where we said that the EU should phase out its dependence on Russian energy products as soon as possible. This is, of course, an asymmetric approach, varying from country to country, but the agreement we reached in Versailles – “as soon as possible” – was something big, and of course that will not happen overnight either,” he said. “Although in Slovenia we are partly dependent on Russian oil and gas, I personally believe that this should be done as soon as possible, i.e. in the next few months, otherwise we are all financing the Russian war,” he added. “I also think that no one in Europe knows what roubles look like, and no one will pay for energy products in roubles,” the Prime Minister replied when asked whether Europe would pay for energy products in roubles as demanded by Putin.
When asked about China’s position, the Prime Minister said that if Russian President Putin had really succeeded in invading Ukraine within a week, it would have sent a signal to China. “But because the Ukrainians are defending themselves, this is now another signal to China and they are becoming more cautious, which is good. During the NATO summit, we heard from our American counterparts that there is a dialogue with China and that they are trying to persuade them to support efforts for peace in Ukraine,” the Prime Minister said.
“When we went to Kyiv, we saw how brave the Ukrainian people are. I think these are times of rebirth for the Ukrainian people. They will never be defeated, but every day of war means hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dead. We are sad to see what is happening in Mariupol, a city bigger than Ljubljana, where mass suffering is taking place,” said the Prime Minister, adding that he had also asked during the NATO summit whether we really did not have more things in our arsenal to help the Ukrainians. “We must help not only Ukraine, but also Mariupol, because it is very difficult to watch this mass suffering. Ukrainian President Zelensky’s very moving speech to the participants at the NATO summit has also prompted us to take some bolder steps,” said the Prime Minister.
On chemical and biological weapons, the Prime Minister said that all red lines on the use of weapons in war had already been crossed. “The act of shooting at civilians is already crossing a line,” the Prime Minister said. “The use of weapons that are specifically prohibited by international conventions is something, according to international law, that triggers a serious reaction from those who sign the various conventions, but realistically speaking, it makes no difference to the people who die whether they die from biological, chemical or conventional weapons,” said the Prime Minister. As for the security risk, the Prime Minister said that he sees a risk for the whole of Europe. “Russian aggression affects everyone, the security of everyone. We must be aware that if Ukraine is overwhelmed, Russia will become stronger, and who will be next will only be a matter of time. Stopping Russia means peace not only for Ukraine, but for the whole European continent, not just for our generation, but for all generations to come,” concluded the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister told the Slovenian media that Slovenia supported the political decision made in Versailles and today it will probably be officially confirmed that Europe is phasing out its dependency on Russian energy products as soon as possible. “This does not mean it will be done tomorrow, but we support the fastest possible way. Today, the European Commission will present various solutions, some of which we have already heard about and I dare say might be largely effective,” said the Prime Minister. He added that in the margins of the US President’s visit, there was a lot of discussion on how the US could help with liquefied gas already for next winter. “There are, however, also some proposals that we have received from the Ukrainian side which contain very effective sanctions and are not raising divergent views in Europe. We have already talked about some of this at the NATO summit, in particular things that concern military matters or things that are important in order to stop the Russian military forces, namely dual-use products which are bought as civilian products and used in for military purposes,” said the Prime Minister. He went on to say that “our colleagues from Ukraine have made a list of very effective proposals, or sanctions, which have a targeted effect on the situation in Russia and do not affect the entire population, but mainly those running this military machine.” While the exact timing of the embargo on Russian energy products is not yet known, the Prime Minister said it will happen. “Later than we want, but much sooner than Russia wants,” said the Prime Minister.
Regarding the Slovenian diplomatic representative, the Prime Minister explained that the decision was taken under the Foreign Affairs Act, where in an emergency situation the Minister can appoint and confer powers on a chargé d’affaires. “This has happened several times before and no intervention or other basis is needed. The fact is that diplomacy must also be given a voice. It is one thing to talk about proposals and solutions over the phone from Brussels and Ljubljana, but it is another to discuss views that are not usually communicated over the phone, or at a distance, in Kyiv with Ukrainian interlocutors,” said the Prime Minister. He added that of all the European countries, only Poland’s representative has stayed in Kyiv. “Today we will also discuss when the EU will send back its mission,” added the Prime Minister. He also thanked all those who had volunteered for the post. There were quite a few from different Slovenian authorities, “including people who have been in different governments, are no longer involved in diplomacy and have experience, and proposals are still coming in. The name will be announced once the Minister has signed the order.”