Monday, 31 August 2020

Plenkovic: I Believe Slovenia will Differentiate Between Croatian Counties

ZAGREB, Aug 31, 2020 - "I believe that together with the relevant authorities they too will approach the matter by differentiating between Croatian counties on the basis of the number of people infected," Plenkovic said after meeting with Jansa on the margins of the 15th Bled Strategic Forum.

Plenkovic said that Slovenia is closely monitoring the daily situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak in Croatia and is aware that Croatian counties like Istria, Primorje-Gorski Kotar, and Lika-Senj have a relatively small number of people infected, even after the total number has increased at the state level.

"I believe that they will make that distinction," said Plenkovic.

Slovenia put Croatia on its red list in mid-August, introducing mandatory quarantine for anyone entering Slovenia from Croatia.

Plenkovic also had a bilateral meeting with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban has announced that Hungary will be closing its borders to all foreigners as of Tuesday. Hungarian citizens returning home will have to spend two weeks in isolation and have at least two negative Covid-19 test results.

The main reason for the ramped-up measures in Hungary, Slovenia, and Austria is the start of the school year which begins one week earlier than in Croatia, Plenkovic underlined.

"In a way that was expected. We managed to delay their measures as much as possible until the end of August so that Croatia's tourism season could be as good as possible," he added and concluded that not one country wanted to have restrictions in force for too long.

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Monday, 31 August 2020

Bled Strategic Forum: Europe Needs More Solidarity Now

ZAGREB, Aug 31, 2020 - Central European leaders gathered at the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia on Monday, saying that during the time of the coronavirus Europe needed more solidarity and should abandon double standards for its member states.

The Bled Strategic Forum, the most important foreign policy event in Slovenia, hosted a panel discussion on the topic "Europe after Brexit and Covid-19", with the prime ministers of Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, and Bulgaria, the president of Serbia and the director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in attendance.

At the start of the discussion, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic spoke about Croatia's presidency of the European Union in the first half of the year, underscoring that the maximum had been done in the circumstances of the pandemic, a crisis which "started as a health problem and grew into a crisis of all aspects of society."

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who participated via video link from Rome, said that the pandemic highlighted the value of solidarity and that the EU proved that it could respond as a community of interests inspired by common values.

He added that the present crisis was a great chance for a stronger and more cohesive Union.

IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva, who too participated via video link from Sofia, said that there was the reason for optimism. Together we created ground under the feet of the global economy by creating liquidity, she said.

She underlined that the second round of financial aid to the world economy has to be tied to investments in digitization, education, and the capacity to deal with climate change that will affect us even more strongly than the coronavirus.

She added that it was natural that at the start of the pandemic each country shut itself within its own borders. However, with its Next Generation package of financial support, the EU proved that that was history and that observers from outside Europe were pleased because Europe showed its solidarity.

Plenkovic said that in the months to come it was necessary to reach a balance between national measures, which once again showed the importance of the role of states, and a European and global response, adding that there was a consensus n European policy that it was necessary to fight the coronavirus together.

Democratic standards topic at Bled Strategic Forum

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban denied the accusations against his country, saying that democracy in Hungary was at the same level as that in Germany and Italy, but based on a Christian and not a liberal model. He added that Europe needed a joint army that would be the driver of technological innovations.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that inequality still existed in the EU as far as freedom was concerned because companies from the Union's east did not have the same opportunities as those in its west.

We have to retain solidarity and unity in Central Europe but also be a part of the European Union. The Central European dimension is different but it is not contrary to the EU, he said. 

Janez Jansa, the prime minister of the host country, accused European policy of being hypocritical in 2014 because it did not condemn "election thievery" in Slovenia when he was a "political prisoner", while today it is condemning countries where there are no political prisoners.

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic spoke about double standards in western Europe, citing as an example attempts to storm the parliaments of Serbia and Germany.

When that occurred in Belgrade 27 people were arrested and that was presented as a dictatorship, and when such an attempt was made in Berlin and more than 300 people were arrested, that was then proof of democracy, said Vucic.

Serbia wishes to join the European Union, but Brussels should show more respect, Vucic said, adding that in his country the EU is perceived as an institution that is creating pressure for Kosovo's independence which is why 40 percent of Serbia's population is opposed to that integration.

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Monday, 31 August 2020

Plenkovic Wants Coronavirus Red List To Take Counties Into Account

ZAGREB, Aug 31, 2020 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Monday that he would talk with Slovenian PM Janez Jansa about putting counties and not countries on the coronavirus red list.

Plenkovic and six other European prime ministers are attending the Bled Strategic Forum, and on the fringes, he will meet with Jansa and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban.

Speaking to the press, Andrej Plenkovic said the meetings would discuss "joint efforts to reduce infection and its cross-border effects."

In mid-August, Slovenia put Croatia on the coronavirus red list, which means mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving from Croatia. In order to avoid quarantine, many Slovenian tourists left Croatia.

"Our position is to attempt, notably in Slovenia, not just because of Croatia but also for the sake of numerous Slovenians who are our frequent and dear quests, to see the county level of infection as a criterion, something like Germany has done. I think there is room for that and that that is the best option."

He said the Bled Strategic Forum, the most important foreign policy event in Slovenia, was a good opportunity for European states to analyze their management of the coronavirus pandemic so far.

We can slowly sum up what has been good since January, he said, "what we have done well together, and how to respond together in the future when it comes to a vaccine, the procurement of medical and protective equipment."

Slovenian reporters asked him if he and Jansa would discuss the territorial dispute between the two neighboring states.

"Our position has been clear the entire time. We had Slovenia's initiative before the European Court in Luxembourg and you saw the decision, that it's not competent. We are still willing to talk about the border with Slovenia and our stance has not changed during my whole term," Plenkovic said, adding that it was necessary to find a "good, sustainable solution acceptable to both countries."

The 15th Bled Strategic Forum is focusing on Europe after Brexit and COVID-19. Also attending are Czech PM Andrej Babis, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Italian PM Giuseppe Conte is participating via video link.

The foreign ministers of Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Romania also arrived in Bled for a panel in which the EU High Representative for foreign and security policy, Josep Borrell, will also take part.

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