Prime Minister Janez Janša yesterday in a video speech addressed the participants of the National Conservatism Conference: The Future of the Nation-state in Europe, which was organised by the Edmund Burke Foundation in Brussels on 23 and 24 March 2022. Speaking in the panel “Facing the Russian aggression”, Prime Minister Janša talked about the war in Ukraine, his recent visit to Ukraine together with the Polish and Czech prime ministers and the situation in that country.
He explained that the visit to Kyiv was above all an expression of solidarity with Ukraine. “We genuinely care, we want to help, we will not abandon Ukraine or leave it to fend for itself. We need to show this not only with words but also deeds, with concrete action. Ukraine needs four things: hope, modern weapons, money and humanitarian aid. We must do everything in our power to strengthen the Ukrainian defence and weaken the position of Russia.”
He went on to say that the most important part of the visit to Ukraine was to bring a strong message of hope to Kyiv: full support for the European perspective for Ukraine and its aspirations for membership of the European Union. “Nobody else is fighting for the true European values and our way of life as hard as the Ukrainian people.”
The Prime Minister added that in Kyiv they had received first-hand information about the situation in Ukraine. “To be there in person is something completely different than watching the developments from afar.” Furthermore, he stressed that what we see on screens is often nothing like what is actually happening. “We felt the energy among the people on the ground and saw how the Ukrainian people and their political class firmly stand behind the Ukrainian government and President Zelensky.”
The talks with the Ukrainian leadership focused on important issues, such as sanctions, aid to Ukraine, military aid, Ukraine’s future after the war and the framework for lasting peace. We emphasised that an ambitious plan to assist Ukraine after the war is being prepared under the auspices of the OECD. At this moment, however, it is most important to help Ukraine defend itself successfully. Time is of the essence here. Hundreds of lives are being lost every day and immense suffering is being inflicted on the people in Ukraine.
In his speech, the Prime Minister said that after talking to Ukrainians, it was clear to him that they will not give up, even in the face of unprecedented human suffering. “Russia’s strategic goal of taking over Ukraine and establishing a puppet government started to fail from the very beginning. It cannot and will not be achieved.”
“I am well aware of how Ukrainians feel these days. Slovenia was in a similar situation three decades ago, when we declared our independence and were attacked by the Yugoslav communist army. We too fought for our freedom, our independence and our lives. Every expression of solidarity, every gesture of support during that difficult time meant a great deal to us.”
Regarding the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the Prime Minister said that it is extremely worrying. “Russia is in flagrant violation of all its obligations under international humanitarian law.”
“When trying to understand Putin’s reasons for attacking Ukraine, there are a few more possible reasons in addition to the ones that have already been widely discussed. Putin also attacked Ukraine because it has the largest reserves of uranium ore, the largest amount of fertile land and the second-largest reserves of titanium ore in Europe. Ukraine has the third-largest reserves of shale gas in Europe and is also the third-largest European producer of nuclear energy. Ukraine is also an important country on the global scale. It has the world’s second-largest iron ore reserves, second-largest manganese ore reserves and seventh-largest coal reserves. Ukraine is the fourth richest country in the world in terms of mineral resources. It also has the third largest area of fertile black soil and 25% of the most fertile land in the world. The country is currently the third-largest exporter of grain in the world and has the potential to produce food for 600 million people.”
In his speech, the Prime Minister stressed: “For centuries, dictators have invaded neighbouring countries to steal their wealth and gain power. After conquering a neighbouring country, they move on. Anyone who thinks that appeasing Putin would satisfy his current desire for conquest and deter him from further aggression has failed to heed the lessons they should have learned from history.”
“The Ukrainians are ready to give up their aspirations to join NATO, because they need NATO now, not after they have won the war. At the same time, they want very strong institutional guarantees and they see them within the European Union.”
In his speech, the Prime Minister pointed out that Ukrainians had been deceived in the past, in particular in 1994 when the great powers signed the Budapest Memorandum, by which Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear arsenal. “The great powers assured Ukraine its territorial integrity and political sovereignty. In the last two decades, we have seen that no one has kept those promises. And Ukrainians will not again accept empty promises; they need very strong security guarantees.”
With regard to Ukraine’s European Union membership, which it has applied for, the Prime Minister said that a fast-track procedure was needed. “The procedural, administrative and institutional framework of the European Union should be adapted accordingly. This is a matter of hope. Huge financial resources need to be mobilised to help this process. We are convinced that the European Union’s extensive experience with various enlargement waves and processes should ensure that we are ready to take on this historic challenge and responsibility.”
At the end of his speech, the Prime Minister reiterated that Ukraine was a European country with its rightful place in the European Union. “Over the last two years, we have been discussing important European values. These were mainly theoretical debates. Then suddenly we realised that these fundamental European values do exist and that they are at risk. In Ukraine, these values are under attack and Europeans are defending them. With their lives. In Ukraine. That was the moment when the European Union finally started to wake up. To become more united than ever. Ukrainians are not only defending their homeland and Europe as a territory, they are also defending the very core of fundamental human values, above all freedom.”
Prime Minister Janša concluded his speech by saying: “Let us continue to help the Ukrainians, let us stand by them at all times. This aggression may continue for some time, but the Russian war machine is not as powerful as some thought. We must continue to provide, and even strengthen, our solidarity and assistance. We must never forget what is happening now. Let us do everything in our power to ensure that Ukraine endures, because Ukraine is fighting for us too. Thank you for your attention. Thank you for your willingness to help Ukraine.