“we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations”

A time for unity

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Anže Logar

 


April 2022 The Interview / Text by Andrew Howitt / Photos by Tamino Petelinšek


In 2003, Dr Anže Logar left the private sector to work as an adviser to Slovenian members of the European Parliament. Since then, he has held a number of government positions, including as head of public relations of the office for European affairs (2006–2007), as minister plenipotentiary for OECD relations (2013), and as a deputy in the Slovenian National Assembly (2014–2018) where he headed a committee of inquiry into abuses of the banking system. He also acted as official spokesperson for Slovenia when it held the presidency of the European Council, first in 2008 and again last year. Logar was appointed minister for foreign affairs in 2020.

Could you give me some details about your recent call with Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi?
This year is a special one for relations between Slovenia and Japan, as we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations; Japan recognised Slovenia’s independence on 17 March 1992. This is something Slovenia will always appreciate. I had been hoping to go to Japan for this anniversary but, unfortunately, the situation in Ukraine has prevented me from visiting.

However, I am pleased that I had an opportunity to exchange views with Mr Hayashi on a telephone call. He is a most knowledgeable partner. We discussed the bilateral cooperation between Slovenia and Japan, as well as relevant international issues, including the situation in Eastern Europe created by Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

With regard to bilateral cooperation, we took advantage of this opportunity to reaffirm our joint determination to continue promoting our relations on all levels. We can be truly proud of what we have achieved together over the past several years, but there is still a lot of potential to achieve more.

How would you describe relations between Slovenia and Japan?
Today, our relations are in the best shape ever. Slovenia views Japan as one of its most important political and economic partners in Asia. We share the same values — respect for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. During these past three decades, relations have developed enormously in many fields, including high-level dialogues, the economy, science, research, sport, and culture. In addition, we are strong partners within the framework of the EU–Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement and in multilateral fora where we are both dedicated to peace and security.

In what ways is Slovenia currently collaborating with Japan?
Japan is one of Slovenia’s most significant business partners, especially in terms of investment. Japanese investment into Slovenia has grown tenfold in less than 10 years. Today, Japanese companies are one of the most important investors in our country. The Slovenian government will therefore continue to support and accommodate future Japanese investments, as they have proved to be reliable and long-term, creating quality jobs and building on Slovenian expertise and experience.

Furthermore, cooperation between Slovenia and Japan in the economic field and in digitalisation is strengthening. Slovenia has set itself the goal of becoming the most digitalised country in the world and consequently is working to make the concept of Society 5.0 a reality. Japan, where the term was first used, is the most obvious partner in this segment.

I was pleased to announce last month that Slovenia will participate in Expo 2025, which will take place in Osaka. I also supported the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between our investment banks, the Slovenian Export and Development Bank and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. The memorandum will open the door to further investment and possible joint activities in the Western Balkans.

What is Slovenia’s current level of trade with Japan?
Economic cooperation between Slovenia and Japan has been rising steadily over the past few years. In the first eleven months of 2021, we recorded a 4.5% rise in bilateral trade. The value of the trade in goods reached €183.6 million.

I am confident that our bilateral exchange will grow even stronger as we work together towards a post-pandemic recovery. And we can’t forget the tourism sector. Slovenia is a beautiful country — the only one in the world that includes in its name the word “love”.

Of course, there are still many opportunities to further strengthen our ties, especially in the areas of high-tech industry, renewable energy, digitalisation, and artificial intelligence. There is also growing interest in collaboration between our countries, as well as opportunities for joint projects in the Western Balkans and within the framework of the EU–Japan connectivity partnership.

“Japan is one of Slovenia’s most significant business partners”

What is Slovenia’s current level of trade with Japan?
Economic cooperation between Slovenia and Japan has been rising steadily over the past few years. In the first eleven months of 2021, we recorded a 4.5% rise in bilateral trade. The value of the trade in goods reached €183.6 million.

I am confident that our bilateral exchange will grow even stronger as we work together towards a post-pandemic recovery. And we can’t forget the tourism sector. Slovenia is a beautiful country — the only one in the world that includes in its name the word “love”.

Of course, there are still many opportunities to further strengthen our ties, especially in the areas of high-tech industry, renewable energy, digitalisation, and artificial intelligence. There is also growing interest in collaboration between our countries, as well as opportunities for joint projects in the Western Balkans and within the framework of the EU–Japan connectivity partnership.

Could you tell me about the Slovenian presidency of the European Council that you held from 1 July to 31 December?
It was marked by dynamic developments in Europe and the world. The uncertain epidemiological situation due to Covid-19 has continued, and there were also unpredictable events to be considered — such as the crisis at the Belarus border, the situation in Afghanistan, natural disasters, rising energy prices, the AUKUS alliance, and others. They affected our work and required both a rapid reaction and European unity.

Slovenia’s six-month programme was based on four priorities: the resilience, recovery, and strategic autonomy of the European Union; the Conference on the Future of Europe; a union of the European way of life, the rule of law, and equal criteria for all; and a credible and secure European Union, capable of ensuring security and stability in its neighbourhood.
During the Slovenian presidency, the European Council adopted conclusions on enhancing preparedness, response capabilities, and resilience to future crises. We also did our best to facilitate the process of a speedy economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic for all member states.

You have been involved in EU-level discussions on sanctions against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Why was it important for the EU to respond this way?
The war in Ukraine is a very serious threat to European peace and security. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s narrative, aims, and actions are extremely dangerous, and we must do everything we can to end this humanitarian catastrophe. The invasion is not just an attack by one state against another, but an attack on a rules-based world order, world peace, freedom, and the democratic values on which our societies are based. These values are very important for Slovenia, too, a smaller country that has experienced similar invasions in its past, including by the Yugoslav army in 1991.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the EU — established on the values of peace and democracy — has reacted in a determined, forceful, and united manner with an unprecedented package of sanctions. This entails massive economic sanctions targeting several sectors of the Russian economy. Since 23 February, the EU has also imposed travel bans and asset freezes on many individuals and entities from Russia and Belarus for their role in undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine. If aggression continues, we will not stop here. We are ready to adopt further severe measures.

Unity of the international community is crucial right now to prevent erosion of the rules-based order and to coordinate sanctions against the Russian Federation with each like-minded partner, which Japan undoubtedly is. If we do not prevail now, then other authoritarian aggression will follow — we can be certain of that. So, we have to stop Russia, together. •

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