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Slovenia welcomes security provided by EU membership

Published 29 Mar 2020
Bethany Latham

International institutions such as the European Union provide a valuable sense of security for small nations, says Ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia to Australia, H.E Jurij Rifelj, whose country’s population stands at just over 2 million.
AIIA Queensland had the pleasure of hosting Mr Rifelj, pictured, on March 10th, in the lead up to the nation’s second EU presidency. Slovenia will hold the office from July to December 2021, working closely with the other members for this rotation: Germany and Portugal. Mr Rifelj gave his audience an insight into what we can expect from his country’s presidency. He began by providing a brief history of Slovenia, and its relationship with the EU.
In 1991, Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia, a move which he says was inspired by the EU, and the idea of a free democratic Europe. According to Mr Rifelj, Slovenia was drawn to the image of a new Europe, where the big powers of history were no longer making all the decisions. He says that for a small nation like Slovenia, being a part of international institutions provides a much needed sense of security. As such, Slovenia joined the EU in 2004, and participated in its first presidential trio in 2008.
Now, looking to the future, the second Slovenian EU presidency will focus on four key points; sustainable development, rule of law, security, and the Western Balkans. The first three of which will also be focal points in the presidencies of Germany and Portugal, while the Western Balkans, Mr Rifelj admits, is a slightly more selfish interest of Slovenia. He is optimistic about the full integration of the Western Balkan states into the EU, starting with Albania and North Macedonia, who have both been granted candidate status, but have not yet completed their accession negotiations.
Mr Rifelj also spoke about Slovenia’s relationship with Australia, highlighting our shared values as the backbone of our partnership, and acknowledging that Australia was one of the first to recognise Slovenia as a sovereign state, back in 1992. He also made note that although Australians of Slovenian heritage make up only a small percentage of our overall population, it is a sizable number compared to the population of Slovenia itself, and that the proud community of Slovene-Australians is a powerful link which bonds our countries.