Slovene Prime Minister visits US

Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa and US President George W. Bush, photo: CTK

Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa was in the United States last week, meeting President George W. Bush and senior US officials. Mr Jansa also met with representatives of the Slovene community during his five-day trip. This report on the visit from Radio Slovenia International's Ksenija Samardzija Matul:

There was high praise for Slovenia's active international role. It is obvious that Slovenia's current government wants to strengthen US-Slovenian friendship and that Prime Minister Jansa and US President Bush share more common views than was the case with the former Slovenian government. I talked to Andrej Brstovsek journalist from the daily Dnevnik shortly before he returned to Slovenia about relations between the Bush administration and the Slovenian government:

"Obviously the Bush administration is very friendly towards our government I think for two reasons: one is that the government decided to support the American mission in Iraq and also in Afghanistan and other parts in the world and the second reason is that Slovenia is going to have quite a role in international politics in the near future, because it will be presiding the European Union in the first half of 2008 and it will also preside the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the presidency will begin in September of this year. Slovenia has also the knowledge about what is going on in south-eastern Europe, which is not quite a stable region yet and of course there are some issues about energy which popped up recently and they were also discussed in this meeting but there were not really critical issues pointed out."

Although Jansa described bilateral relations in general as very good, he said there was room for improvement in economic ties. For this reason Jansa visited the US Chamber of Commerce and talks focused on ways to strengthen US-Slovenian economic cooperation. The Slovenian officials used this opportunity to outline the opportunities that US companies have for investing in Slovenia. Political matters and regional developments topped the agenda of talks Jansa held with congressmen and Vice President Cheney. Jansa's talks with the officials also examined global hotspots and Slovenia's contributions to NATO-led peacekeeping missions.

Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa and US President George W. Bush,  photo: CTK
However, Jansa's visit in the States started with a visit in Cleveland and Pennsylvania where he met members of the Slovenian community living there. The Cleveland Ohio region is home to an estimated 80,000 Slovenian-Americans, making this the largest Slovene community outside Slovenia. Jansa was warmly welcomed as most of Slovenian-Americans are conservative and oppose Slovenia's communist past. Jansa thanked all American Slovenians for their support in Slovenian efforts for independence in the early 1990s. Although not all Slovenian politicians were warmly welcomed in Cleveland it has become quite a tradition for them to go there as Andrej Brstovsek explains:

"His official visit to the United States began on Saturday when he visited several Slovenian organisations, organisations of American Slovenians. I think it is quite a tradition for political leaders of Slovenia to go to Cleveland when they are visiting the United States. After all it is the biggest community of American Slovenians in the US. Also this was kind of symbolic it has been 15 years of Slovenian independence and American Slovenians have quite openly been pride of their role during the independence days and during the war in Slovenia."

However, the press at home took a more critical look at Jansa's first official visit to the United States. The daily Dnevnik stated 'since friendship often equals interests in politics, it remains to be seen what besides a warm reception Slovenia will get from this.'