Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will visit Ljubljana on Tuesday for talks with Prime Minister Janez Janša that will be dominated by topical EU issues and bilateral cooperation as the countries deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and illegal migration.
During his first bilateral meeting abroad since late February, Kurz will reportedly seek to coordinate with Janša ahead of the EU summit on 24 and 25 September. The pair are also expected to discuss Slovenia’s presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of next year.
As STA reported, Kurz has recently called on the European Commission to present concrete measures in the fight against illegal migration. Talking with German and Swiss media, he said he would Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to offer “a proposal based on our concept of flexible solidarity”.
“There’s is no more open-door policy,” the chancellor told German and Swiss media in an interview, expressing his belief that countries could not be forced into taking refugees or migrants and the EU should not be let extorted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Two recurring issues in the bilateral relationship are also expected to be broached as Kurz meets Janša: passport checks on the shared border that Austria reinstated at the height of the 2015 migration crisis, and the position of the Slovenian ethnic minority in Austria and the German-speaking community in Slovenia.
The border checks have become topical again during the pandemic as both countries introduced health checks on the border to contain the spread of the new virus before lifting them in early June. Both countries have seen a new increase in coronavirus cases recently.
Minority-wise, Slovenia has been trying to obtain comprehensive protection for the community in Carinthia as guaranteed by the Austrian State Treaty. Some in Slovenia argue the country should notify its succession to Yugoslavia as one of the signatories to the 1955 treaty, something that Austria is not keen on. Even without formal notification, Slovenia considers itself a successor to the treaty.
Meanwhile, Vienna has been seeking for Slovenia to recognise the German-speaking community living in the south of the country as a minority on a par with the Italian and Hungarian communities living along the respective borders. In July, all five deputy factions in the Austrian parliament voted for Slovenia to grant the Gottschee Germans minority status in its constitution.
The Italian and Hungarian minorities each have a seat granted for their MP in the Slovenian National Assembly, something that is not granted to the Slovenian minority in Austria. However, ethnic Slovenian Olga Voglauer was elected to the lower chamber of the Austrian parliament on the Green Party’s ticket in last year’s election.
Janša and Kurz are also likely to talk about the upcoming centenary of the Carinthia plebiscite that drew the modern-day border between the two countries, while leaving a portion of the Slovenian people on the Austrian side of the border. The jubilee ceremony planned in Klagenfurt on 10 October is to be attended by the two countries’ presidents Borut Pahor and Alexander Van der Bellen.
Relations between Austria and Slovenia are deemed to be excellent, with the countries maintaining regular and diversified dialogue at political and working levels. Austria ranks as Slovenia’s third trading partner and biggest investor. Last year, Slovenia’s goods exports amounted to EUR 2.3 billion and imports to EUR 3.4 billion./ibna