STA, 30 June 2022 – Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon will visit Berlin on Friday to meet with her counterpart Annalena Baerbock. Fajon’s first bilateral visit will focus on the crisis in Ukraine, as well as on bilateral co-operation, the EU and the Western Balkans, the foreign ministry said ahead of the visit.
The foreign minister will visit Germany ahead of Prime Minister Robert Golob’s visit to Berlin in July. This will also be his first bilateral visit since taking office at the beginning of the month.
In a recent interview with STA, Fajonova said that Berlin was chosen for the first trip, as Slovenia’s foreign policy is turning “towards the core countries of Europe” and strengthening cooperation with the “Berlin-Paris-Rome axis”.
She also emphasized that her goal was to strengthen Slovenia’s reputation abroad as a credible country committed to European values, the rule of law and democracy.
Her visit to Berlin will be dominated by the war in Ukraine and its aftermath, notably rising energy and food prices.
At the start of the war, Kyiv was criticized by Germany for hesitating in its decision to send heavy weapons. On the other hand, Germany’s response to the Russian invasion was decisive and praised by many, including Slovenia.
The war came after Germany had been stepping up economic cooperation with Russia for years and had become heavily dependent on its energy resources, with the North Stream pipeline being particularly controversial 2.
Now Germany has decided to increase defense spending, and Prime Minister Olaf Scholz, on the sidelines of the recent G7 summit, announced that the country would build the largest modern conventional army in Europe. Earlier, he also called for a Marshall Plan to help rebuild Ukraine after the war.
In addition, Germany has co-created a unified response from the EU, NATO and the G7, which has imposed the toughest sanctions against Russia to date and strengthened the deterrence and defense of NATO’s eastern flank.
Among other things, Germany sent hundreds of additional troops to Lithuania as part of the NATO battle group, and the supply of heavy weapons to Ukraine began. Initially, Slovenia was also part of this, but the plan was not realized.
Fajon, meanwhile, promised Slovenia’s strong support for the EU and NATO’s unified position on the war in Ukraine. She promised additional assistance, including military, but above all humanitarian and development assistance.
Slovenia emphasized its ability to assist in demining, which could be carried out in cooperation between Germany and the Slovenian ITF Foundation.
Fajonova also told STA that the concern about the consequences of the war for Slovenia was understandable, adding that there were questions about the effectiveness of sanctions and their effects on the European economy.
He wants to see an in-depth discussion on ways to strengthen diplomatic means to resolve the crisis and bring both sides to the negotiating table.
Slovenia is concerned about the security risks posed by the war in Ukraine in the Western Balkans and is trying to speed up the debate on EU enlargement in the region, including by proposing immediate candidate status for BiH.
Although there was no concrete progress at the EU summit last week, Fajon and Golob believe that starting a fair and comprehensive debate was a success in itself.
Germany has been a strong supporter of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, and in 2014 it even started the Berlin process. This year, Scholz and Baerbock visited the Western Balkans and promised to revive the Berlin process.
The agenda of Fajon’s meetings in Berlin will also include bilateral topics and economic diplomacy, possibly a renewal of the cooperation action plan until 2024. In addition, Fajon is expected to meet with representatives of German industry.
Germany remains Slovenia’s largest trading partner, especially in the automotive industry and new technologies. However, the outlook is not very good, as German industry is concerned about rising energy prices, logistical problems and material shortages, as well as serious uncertainty in world markets.
In addition, high inflation and fears of a recession have raised consumer confidence to record lows, while Russia is reducing the amount of gas supplied to the country and Germany is preparing for the possibility of a complete disruption of gas supplies.
Prior to the visit, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry said that Fajon and Baerbock would also discuss the Frankfurt Book Fair 2023, where Slovenia will be the guest of honor, and support for the 2019 Stockholm Nuclear Disarmament Initiative.
Political relations between Germany and Slovenia are considered excellent, with frequent visits and contacts. Baerbock hosted Fajon’s predecessor Anže Logar in February.
In October 2021, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Ljubljana, where she received the Order of Merit for Merit, the highest Slovenian award, for her personal contribution to the deepening of relations between the two countries and for credible and trustworthy European leadership.