Ljubljana - Slovenia is reflecting on its foreign (and European) policy

#CriticalThinking

Picture of Sabina Lange
Sabina Lange

Lecturer at EIPA, and a Senior Fellow of Maastricht University

Slovenia’s foreign minister Karl Erjavec announced in mid-2013 that his ministry is drafting a new foreign policy strategy. Its forerunner dates back to 1999 and its top objectives were EU and NATO membership, both of which came in 2004. Since then, no new over-arching strategy has been adopted, resulting in a decade of ad hoc policymaking. An attempt to build on the country’s EU presidency in 2008 ran out of steam because of the economic and financial crises, and the not-unrelated political turmoil that led to early elections in 2011 and then to the vote of non-confidence only 12 months after the government took office.

So re-thinking Slovenia’s foreign policy will be timely. The ministry’s first draft underlined the importance of economic diplomacy and of strengthening bi-lateral ties. It focused on strategic partnerships with emerging markets around the world. Promoting the Slovenian economy will be one of the priorities of the new strategy, and runs through areas like sustainable agricultural policy and development co-operation. The outline incorporates complex global problems and goes beyond classical foreign policy by introducing energy security among the priorities, but falls short of building on the previous objectives of working better with multi-lateral organisations like the United Nations and the European Union itself.

On Slovenia’s dealings with the EU, the draft concerns itself with little more than the public diplomacy activities needed to ensure broad support for the Union’s institutional developments. These should guarantee Slovenia’s sovereignty and its economic recovery, together with the promotion of Slovenian nationals seeking jobs in the EU institutions and agencies. A debate in the Slovenian parliament’s foreign policy committee last July failed to question this rather narrow definition of the Union’s importance. The committee concentrated on economic diplomacy and the strengthening of bi-lateral ties, and regional options like Visegrad 4 and the Adriatic and Ionian Initiatives. Slovenia’s president, Borut Pahor, has himself concentrated on the same two axes of economic diplomacy and strengthening bi-lateral ties.

None of this is surprising given the economic hardships that still grip Slovenia, but this narrow focus on economic diplomacy and Slovenia’s immediate neighbourhood could have a negative long-term impact on the country’s image, exacerbating the difficulties of attracting foreign direct investment. Slovenia’s negative net international investment position was criticised by the European Commission in its 2013 alert mechanism. It also affects Slovenia’s capacity to take part in coalitions of the like-minded or to contribute to initiatives of the sort that have scored high on its own foreign policy agenda. Last year, Slovenia was notably absent from joint non-papers on future relations between the EU’s national foreign ministries and the European External Action Service.

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