As part of our Vocal Cast series, we have talked to Janez Janša, former Prime Minister of Slovenia and leader of the opposition party SDS. Among many relevant issues, we have talked about the current debates on EU army, the migration issue, the current state of the Brexit process and more.
Vocal Europe: Let’s start from a very debated topic at the moment. The creation of an EU army has been heralded by several key politician such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. Yet others believe that using funds for defense is a waste of money. As a former Minister of Defense of Slovenia, what do you think would be the key benefits and costs to the formation of an EU army?
Janez Janša: First of all, I don’t think that spending for Defense is a waste of money. Because the security is needed for all human beings, if you don’t feel secure then you can’t [have a] normal life, normal progress, you can’t deal with business, you can’t raise your family, children and so on. This is important. Unfortunately, people are not aware of it until it is too late. We know from history that even very prosperous and brilliant civilizations have collapsed because of the lack of a realistic approach to outside threats.
So coming to the question of a European Army; It is something that the European Union needs. I think that the EU is a great project. But in last few decades, especially during the last 10-15 years, it has become obvious that the EU cannot influence neither the global world or the neighbouring regions with only money, projects, developments, growth alone.
The EU’s use of soft power is not enough. We don’t need a EU army as a perfect structure with something built from the ground up, we just need to combine existing forces, we just need to make double purpose of those existing units. With the limited goal to just take care of the threats which are too big for single EU member States and which are not big enough for NATO to be involved, and these are exactly the cases and reasons for the previous failed States in our neighbourhood.
Vocal Europe: As you know, the global compact for migration is the first, inter-governmentally negotiated agreement of the United Nations to cover all dimensions of international migration in a comprehensive manner. The UN Migrations Compact is causing debates and contestations in many European countries and your party has recently called for an advisory referendum on the matter. What are the key strengths and weaknesses of the UN Migrations Pact? What is the stance of the Slovenian Democratic Party on migration?
Janez Janša: Well, this Compact is a very unfortunate issue these days. It is dividing parties, States, the European Union and the Global World, which is not needed now. Now, if you read this text you can find there are lots of very controversial goals.
Some ordinary citizens started to read this text and find several inaccuracies and stupidities in [it]. This is why many governments did not translate this text. Our government adopted the text against our Constitution without translating it. According to Slovenian Constitution, every act which is adopted by the Slovenian government or Parliament has to be written in the Slovenian language. We know that this was not the case. They adopted it without translating, only when we demanded the extraordinary session of the Parliament they translated the compact. And when people started to read this text in our native language, the objection started to rise. In a college class poll almost 74% of Slovenians are against it because there are paragraphs which are totally opposing.
So the narrative around the political debate going on now in Europe has totally changed on migration. For example, at the Congress of the European socialists in Madrid suddenly they are not advocating for an open-door policy to migration. They are speaking about security, which is the first concern of the European people. So now that the votes are coming, the narrative is changing closer to the will of the majority of the electorate in the new member states.
Vocal Europe: As the president of the European Council in the first half of 2008, you were there at a time in which the Lisbon Treaty was a project of primary importance for the European Union. The Treaty ended up being a big step towards the formulation of common European policies and deeper integration. What should be the European priorities now and what do you see as the greatest challenges for the future of Europe?
Janez Janša: Ten years ago Europe was different, it was larger, with brighter colors describing its future. Just look at the agenda of the Council of the European Union from ten years ago, and then in 2009, 2010, 2011, and you will see these developments. When we signed the Lisbon Treaty, we were [talking] about a EU [which was] strong enough to influence globalization, to introduce our values, to cooperate on an equal level with other world powers, to bring more growth and jobs to its citizens. The prospective was very bright.
The narrative has totally changed. We are not moving slowly in the same direction, we are now trying not to move back totally. We are not totally successful in these efforts. It’s ridiculous to talk about a EU at one or two speeds. What we really need is to stabilize [our] speed. Someone who is saying that the biggest problems and the main crisis for the EU is that the member states are not willing to transfer their sovereign power to European institutions is destroying the European Union. This is not the direction that we need to take now.
Now we have to stabilize the situation, we have to invest all kinds of efforts for the Lisbon treaty to function, not talk about new treaties or new structures. Europeans are tired of ideas that are totally out of the reality. If you look at the polls, when Europeans are asked what’s their main concern now, security is the main topic far above all other issues.
Vocal Europe: Your party, the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) is a member of the European People’s Party. During Helsinki Congress, just last month, you have stated that the EPP is the only party strong enough to lead the defense of the basic foundations of European civilization. With a view to the 2019 European Elections, how would you define the goals of the EPP?
Janez Janša: EPP is the family I know. I know the strengths, the weaknesses and the differences. I have been following the political situation in Europe for a long time, and to be able to understand the main challenges and to give the proper answers you have to know what the EU is. If you think that it is just the common market, building roads and tackling the monetary union, you are too short-sighted to be able to tackle the issues in this period. The Roman Empire did not collapse because they did not know how to build good roads or aqueducts, they were the best at it. It was a problem of civilization, values, challenges coming from inside and outside. They collapsed because they were not able to manage them.
I think that the EPP is the political force where this awareness of what the European Union really is present. Not in everybody, but the important decision-makers are aware that in the EU we are different, but despite those differences we can be united, because Europe is not only a term of trade and geography, but also civilization. On this basis we have to look for the solution to the very big challenges which we are facing in the Union.
The European parties will be judged not only for what they did, but on the basis of the solutions provided for these obvious challenges. Ordinary European citizens are aware of them, sometimes in a stronger and purer [way] than what you would hear if you were to listen to the debates in the European Parliament.
Vocal Europe: Let me conclude by asking your take on a current affair. The British Parliament just postponed the vote on the draft withdrawal agreement. Many British MP’s have said that the draft agreement is not acceptable. This comes just after The European Court of Justice ruled that the UK can cancel Brexit without the permission of the other 27 EU members. What is your take on this result? Do you think that Britain will remain in the EU or leave? What do you think will happen next?
Janez Janša: If we are trying to be very farsighted, I think it’s obvious that the UK will survive also without the European Union. A hundred years from now there will still be a United Kingdom, but I cannot say with the same conviction that a hundred years from now there will still be a European Union. It is facing bigger challenges. Now it’s time to stabilize the rest of the European Union and to make sure that the developments will be good.
The optimistic prediction is that, after Brexit, Europe will prosper and the United Kingdom will somehow manage the situation. New cooperation will arise, and maybe in 10-15 years we will start to talk about how the United Kingdom can join the European Union again.