.
Skip to content.
Skip to content.
Meetings Calendar 2006
January
.
February
.
March
.
April
.
May
.
June
.
March
  Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su  
 
.
.
1
.
2
.
3
.
4
.
5
.
 
  6
.
7
.
8
.
9
.
10
.
11
.
12
.
 
  13
.
14
.
15
.
16
.
17
.
18
.
19
.
 
  20
.
21
.
22
.
23
.
24
.
25
.
26
.
 
  27
.
28
.
29
.
30
.
31
.
.
.
 
 
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
 
 
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
 
Service
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Speeches, Interviews

18.04.2006

European Conference on Subsidiariy, Keynote Speech by Dimitrij Rupel


A Region with a view

 

Dimitrij Rupel
Foreign Minister of Slovenia

 

Governor, colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Slovenia will assume the presidency of the EU at the beginning of 2008, after the distinguished presidencies of Austria, Finland (2006), Germany and Portugal (2007). These presidencies, including the French one - that will come immediately after Slovenia - are, and will be confronted with some challenging and vital European issues. We shall deal with environmental, energy and security problems, with multi-cultural coexistence and communication; but also with the future growth of the EU, effectiveness and democratization of its institutions. Subsidiarity will certainly figure as one of the items on our agenda.

The debate about subsidiarity is a debate about appropriate authorities and competences. Among the keywords of our debate - extracted and paraphrased from The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe - I have found: "balance", "division of tasks" and "better achievement". So, this should be a modern debate, and I thank our Austrian friends for embarking on it. It is a privilege - and it is also refreshing - to be able to participate in this introductory debate on the future of Europe. Let me - to explain my enthusiasm - invite you for a moment back to the beginning of this future.

The debate that we participate in, and the message that I have prepared for my own statement, are rather practical. This was not always the case in European debates. As we all know very well, the European Union is a fantastic experiment inspired not by historical entitlements or military conquests by some avant-garde European (or foreign) nation, but a fundamentally practical organization governed by law and supported by common values.

In Article 9 explaining the fundamental principles of the Union competences (Title III of Part I of the Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe) I read:

Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence the Union shall act only if and insofar as the objectives of the intended action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.

So far, the EU has been a formidable instrument of reconciliation. It still serves this purpose. First, it reconciled nations that had fought wars against each other. Next, the EU brought together nations from Western, Central and Eastern, old and new Europe. The EU has moved the Eastern border of the West further to the East. Internally, the situation is still quite complicated, especially after the membership has grown to 25.

Certain operations can be run more effectively by central institutions. The EU would be more successful on the global stage, if it spoke with one voice. Everybody is aware that e.g. ecological, academic, scientific and most serious security problems are best handled on a supranational level. Many cultural and linguistic issues are probably best treated on the national level, while some social and economic problems are adequately resolved on individual or local level.

We should divide our subsidiarity debate into two parts: the "big" subsidiarity debate and the "small" subsidiarity debate. The big debate is about unity and diversity, about the intergovernmental and the supranational. For the "newcomers" who have joined the EU in 2004, but also for the original member-states, these are certainly fascinating topics ideal for passionate debates on national identities, inferiorities and superiorities, on the glorious past, on old and new Europeans, on historical and cultural nations, on "more equal" members etc.

But, as we have been so dramatically reminded by the decreasing number of radical alternatives to economic growth and prosperity; by globalization and terrorism; by the referenda in France and in the Netherlands; European nations should better cooperate as closely as possible, and our Governments should pay as much attention as possible to the preoccupations of the ordinary citizens and taxpayers. This actually means that we are looking for balance, division of tasks and for better achievement. At this point, another debate - on "small subsidiarity" - might become necessary.

The "small subsidiarity" debate concerns cooperation between European regions. "Horizontal" combination and integration of parts of national territories could grow into inter-regional structures that may even exceed the size of national structures. New forms of European cooperation and association - such as the Euro-regions - might offer practical ways of solving problems.

Let me, briefly, discuss the best level and scale of cooperation, and multicultural understanding in a typical European neighborhood, containing Latin, Germanic and Slavic populations. I am referring to the project of a Euro-region, the idea of regional integration of neighboring Austrian, Croatian, Italian, Slovenian and, maybe also, Hungarian communities.

These communities (people/s) have lived together, known and helped each other in distant history, and worked together in recent times, but they have suffered from hostilities in two world wars and especially during the Cold War. Even today, in some places along the old Iron Curtain border that used to divide East and West, linguistic and other minority protection standards are ignored. Paying little attention to historic changes and to the enlargement of the EU in 2004, local nationalist politicians still prosper by spreading hostility and ethnic tension. Closer/enhanced and EU sponsored  cooperation between the neighboring regions that were once divided by wars and ideologies could relax residual ethnic tensions, create new employment opportunities, integrate industrial and transportation potential… New development would build on traditional common economic and cultural patterns. No European regional integration would, of course, be possible as long as local leaders deny cultural and linguistic rights to minorities.

The Alps-Adriatic Euro-region could serve as an economic and political encouragement to a population of 10 million people of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Istra, Kärnten, Primorsko-Goranska (županija), Slovenija and Veneto. The region that would embrace the Adriatic and Alpine, i.e. Central-European regions, could serve as a practical instrument to clarify past misunderstandings, and to establish new ties.

For several decades, when it was still a federal unit of Yugoslavia, Slovenia maintained rather lively, one might even say, blooming cross-border cooperation with regions of all four neighboring countries. This cooperation proved to be highly positive and mutually beneficial, and it represents a solid ground on which Slovenia and the neighboring cross-border areas can promote the organization of a Euro-region.

The primary goal of the proposal is to find a comprehensive solution that would intensify cooperation in the already inter-connected and defined area. Considering the natural beauty of the Northern Adriatic and Southern Alpine countryside this is an attractive proposal. A Euro-region with a view!

The capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, has already played an important role as a coordinator of several inter-regional transportation, cultural, political and economic projects. Moreover, Ljubljana lies at the cross-section of European Corridors V and X. And most importantly, Ljubljana is the only state capital within the proposed Euro-region, and has therefore direct access to the EU institutions and the rest of the international community. This is important for more effective representation of the Euro-region interests. 

The Euro-region requires from its members to coordinate their actions, but also stimulates releasing of all potentials, creative energy and ideas. It thus creates development synergy of entrepreneurship and financing (regional and European) which together enhance overall prosperity.

Such progress would of course not affect the polycentric character of the region. Economic and other differences between individual areas within the region would gradually decrease thanks to a harmonized regional development and with the help of adequate resources from the EU structural and cohesion funds. The region would consequently become more interesting also as a potential seat of European institutions or other organizations.

Date: 18.04.2006