Munich and Ljubljana are just 400 kilometres apart by road – less than Munich and Berlin. Many of the German holidaymakers who travel to the Adriatic Coast stop off in the Slovenian capital with its picturesque baroque centre.
Slovenia has now been a member of the European Union for almost 20 years. The small country on the southern fringes of the Alps, which today has a population of 2.1 million, has become a close partner for Germany. Slovenia also has a significant presence on the world stage. It will begin a two-year membership of the UN Security Council in January.
Foreign Minister Baerbock is travelling to the country on 4 December at the invitation of her Slovene counterpart Tanja Fajon.
Slovenia and Germany enjoy close bilateral relations in a spirit of mutual trust. When Slovenia was hit by disastrous flooding in August, Germany was the first country to arrive on the scene, supporting rescue workers with Bundeswehr transport helicopters and two temporary bridges from the Federal Agency for Technical Relief. Foreign Minister Baerbock will visit a logistics centre just outside Ljubljana where rescue equipment, high-powered pumps and protective equipment from the EU emergency reserve rescEU are stored.
Germany and Slovenia are working to strengthen the European Union and gradually enlarge it – so that it can continue to guarantee security and stability as it does today. The two Foreign Ministers will join students at a panel discussion on the EU’s enlargement and reform process, where they will speak about the EU prospects of the Western Balkans and about ways for us in the EU to remain agile and fit for the future in our decision-making. Prior to her departure on 4 December 2023, Foreign Minister Baerbock said:
In a world of overlapping crises and conflicts in Europe’s immediate neighbourhood, we need a European Union that acts swiftly and decisively and serves as an anchor of security for all of us in Europe, tomorrow and the day after, too. Germany and Slovenia are united in the aim of strengthening our shared Europe, making it fit for the future and welcoming the countries of the Western Balkans into our midst. For us, a strong European Union is, just like NATO, an irreplaceable life assurance policy in uncertain times.
All of the countries of the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – have the prospect of joining the European Union. And it is clear that a larger EU is both a necessity and an opportunity. A necessity because the EU cannot and will not allow new troublespots to emerge in its neighbourhood. And an opportunity because a larger EU requires reforms. Foreign Minister Baerbock commented as follows:
The countries of the Western Balkans completely and absolutely belong in our European Union. Those are not just empty words. It is very much in our own security interest – in Ljubljana, in Berlin and in all of Europe. To make it a reality, the necessary reforms must be completed in the countries that want to become part of the European family. At the same time, the EU must keep its word and take the next steps in the enlargement process, once the conditions are met.
During her visit to Ljubljana, Foreign Minister Baerbock will also be received by Prime Minister Robert Golob.