President Niinistö in Slovenia: We live in critical times in the EU

Photo: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic

President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö made an official visit to Slovenia on 23–24 May 2019

President Niinistö and President of Slovenia Borut Pahor held their official discussions in Ljubljana on Thursday, 23 May. In addition to bilateral relations between Finland and Slovenia, the Presidents discussed security policy, the future of Europe and climate change.

In the joint press conference, President Niinistö highlighted the excellent relations and similarities between Finland and Slovenia: “I think we have this advantage on our side: we are small enough and harmless enough. Moreover, we are not only united by being among the most densely forested countries in Europe but also sharing the same basic values. This is a good foundation for cooperation,” President Niinistö said.

Making the EU voice heard

The Presidents also discussed Finland’s EU Presidency starting on 1 July. As regards the European Union, President Niinistö urged everybody to find uniting factors: “We live in critical times in the EU. We should ask ourselves, what unites us? It would give rise to a lively debate, and I am sure that we would find a lot more in common. We should recall the original European ethos. It would help us understand that even if we may be apart on many issues, we still share the same mindset. We would get things done again.”

One of the main goals would be to make the EU voice heard again in international matters: “It is as if the EU had lost its voice in the international arenas. We no longer sit at tables where global crises are discussed. One of the main goals during Finland’s EU Presidency therefore is to make the EU voice heard again.”

According to President Niinistö, the most crucial topic of Finland’s EU Presidency may be climate change mitigation. “In Finland we believe that more action is needed. And since you cannot urge others to cooperate if you do nothing yourself, we also want to set an example in climate change mitigation. This also applies to the EU – the Union cannot tell others what to do if it is not doing more itself.”

President Niinistö also met Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Speaker of the National Assembly of Slovenia Dejan Židan in Ljubljana on Thursday.

Youth revolution

Climate change was also the topic at a seminar held in a secondary school in Kranj on Thursday afternoon. Presidents Niinistö and Pahor discussed with the students for over an hour.

“Do not lose your faith in a better future”, President Niinistö said to the students. He pointed out that people made mistakes before that have since been fixed: waters were ruined, DDT was used as an insecticide, heavy metal emissions were caused by fossil fuel consumption. “It happened, but then we realised that this is not what we want to leave to future generations. Even if people and communities woke up to reality late, we did eventually find the right way.”

Do not lose your faith in a better future

“I have said that there is a revolution going on: youth revolution with younger generation demanding a cleaner environment. It is the only revolution that I am committed to,” President Niinistö said. “Your voice will soon be heard in Helsinki, too, where young people from 70 countries will attend a climate summit. I hope to see you there.”

Renewable energy and ski flying

The second day in Slovenia began with a visit to the Jelovica factory in Preddvor. The leading manufacturer of prefabricated houses in Slovenia, Jelovica uses in its production process energy created by solar panels and its own hydroelectric power station.

In the ecovillage Suha pri Predosljah, the Presidents explored renewable energy storage. In an EU pilot project, energy collected with solar panels is recovered with a battery system to be used later as needed. The project is coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

President Niinistö’s visit in Slovenia ended at the Planica Winter Sports Centre where the Presidents unveiled a Finnish-Slovenian bench of friendship. The tour at the Centre was guided by Director Jelko Gros. The Planica ski flying hill is well-known in Finland: Matti Nykänen, Toni Nieminen and Matti Hautamäki all set new world records there. President Niinistö also visited the top of the hill.

Presidents Niinistö and Pahor met previously in February 2019 in conjunction with the Munich Security Conference. The previous presidential visit from Finland to Slovenia took place in 2005 when President Tarja Halonen visited the country.