The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, has attended this year's Prague European Summit, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and the Europeum think tank, which takes place in Prague from 12 to 14 July.
At the main event, the Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek presented President Pahor with the Vision for Europe award, which has been awarded since 1995 and has previously been presented to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Luxembourg Prime Minister and later President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the first President of the European Central Bank Wim Duisenberg, among others. President Pahor was awarded the Vision for Europe award for his efforts towards achieving a more integrated and democratic Europe.
President Pahor was the keynote speaker. In his speech he focused on the future of Europe.
The future of the European Union is a topic that is currently being discussed in the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe. A large part of the Conference, which started on 9 May 2021, will take place during Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU and will conclude in spring 2022 during the French Presidency. In his speech, the Slovenian President called for a committed engagement in the discussion on the future of Europe, which is an opportunity to recall the fundamental European principles and the purpose of the EU and to reflect on how to ensure its greater unity and effectiveness.
Afterwards, President Pahor met the participants of the Young European Leaders forum to discuss their vision for Europe's future. The talk with young people took place in the framework of the "Let's talk about Europe" discussions led by President Pahor.
The Prague European Summit is a high-level Central European political forum for strategic dialogue on common response to the challenges facing the European Union. It focuses on the European Union and global politics in a changing world. Under the title "Europe Reborn", this year's forum takes place between 12 and 14 July 2021. It is attended each year by around 400 politicians, opinion shapers, think tanks and public figures from around the globe.
Dear Mr Minister, It is an honour to be again in the beautiful city of Prague. I am honoured to receive the "Vision for Europe" award, and I thank the Minister for granting it to me.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
30 years ago, we - Slovenes and Czechs, have had a common goal – to join the EU and NATO. Not only that - we were the first and the second of the new EU Member States to preside over the EU.
On July 1, we started with our second presidency of the Council of the EU. The Czech Republic will take over from France on July 1 next year.
Slovenia’s EU presidency coincides with the 30 Anniversary of the declaration of our independence.
During the Presidency, when we will, among other things, co-chair the Conference on the Future of Europe, we should remind ourselves why we believed in the European family in the first place.
Together with democracy, the European idea was of constitutional importance for Slovenia's independence.
We wanted to understand and accept fundamental values, from media freedom and the rule of law to democracy and human rights, in the same way as Western European Member States did.
It was because of our past that we wanted to have the same understanding of these values.
I believe this was the case of other central and eastern European countries as well.
This understanding must also remain the same today - namely that the entire European Union understands the fundamental values in the same way.
So, let’s talk about Europe, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Conference on future of Europe has started two months ago. I would invite all EU citizens to use this unique opportunity to shape our common future. And I see this year’s edition of the Prague European Summit as a contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe.
I do remember previous attempts to adapt functioning of the EU to new challenges.
I was a member of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Committee in the time after of the Convention for the Future of Europe. I was able to follow very closely the debate that was much more ambitious that the current Conference on the European Future.
At that time, we had a clear vision of a more united, ever-closer Union.
Since then, the EU faced many crisis; from economic and financial, through crisis with illegal migration to the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The in-depth debate is really needed. Unfortunately, the Conference on the future of Europe will be a rather short one.
The Conference will nevertheless be an opportunity to remind ourselves about the uniqueness of the European project.
70 years ago, European leaders found ways to unify war-torn Europe.
30 years ago, Europe's East and West began to connect more closely.
The European project is a project of peace and reconciliation. It has been so since its conception and remains so today.
My strategic vision for Europe is Europe whole, free, united and at peace. That naturally means European Union enlarged by the countries of the Western Balkans.
Without enlarging to the Western Balkans, the European Union is unfinished project. Enlargement to the Western Balkans is a geopolitical question of the first order. The EU should look at the Western Balkans as “a whole”, and speed up the enlargement process.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of what is truly important in our lives: our health, our relationship with nature, our relationships with our fellow human beings, mutual solidarity and working together.
Sometimes, the European Union may seem ill-equipped to face challenges that have arisen over the last decade.
But, we are aware that it would be much harder for each of us if we were alone.
We are much better together. We should work toward a strong and effective European Union, a European Union that will be a global leader in the transition to sustainable, climate neutral, and digitally supported development.
To those who believe we do not need strong European Union, and would like to see more loose network of states I say that the EU will only survive if it will be united and strong.
I dream of a Europe that would respect diversity and different identities. And I wish someday I will be able to vote European President.
(EU is not Council of Europe, it serves a different purpose).
The Conference on the Future of Europe will be an opportunity to talk openly about the European Union and to listen our citizens, especially young people.
It creates a space for dialogue, conversation and discussions on of what we expect from the EU tomorrow and what we can contribute today.
I invite you to dream about Europe, to have a vision about our common future. We need a creative, out-of-the-box thinking how to achieve our goals.
I wish you an interesting debate today.
Thank you for your attention!