Slovenia's new Centre for European Perspective
Slovenia has been one of the most successful new member states of the EU. Of the ten which joined in 2004 it will be the first to join the common currency, the Euro, and its per capita GDP already matches some of the old member states. And this week it launched a new institute aimed at taking Slovenia's European integration a step further. The centre for European Perspective was officially opened at Jable castle near Ljubljana.
During the inauguration of the new centre, Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa and Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel agreed that one of Slovenia's priorities during its EU presidency at the beginning of 2008 will be to support countries from south eastern Europe and this is also one of the main tasks of the Centre for European Perspectives. Speaking at the opening of the centre, Jansa said that the centre will provide aid to the South Eastern European countries to successfully face the challenges of the EU integration process.
"The ambitious title 'Centre for European Perspective' conveys a clear message that this is an institution intending to deal with issues that are vital for the future development of the most successful integration in European history. At the centre we wish to assemble the knowledge to our disposal as a new member state of the European Union and make it available to others. Our goal is the transfer of knowledge, experience and practical advice between member states and countries with a European perspective."
The Centre for European Perspectives is an independent and non-profit institution financed by the government and according to Prime Minister Jansa it has the following advantage:
"The centre could indicate the need of new forms of assistance, which are not yet provided. Its non-governmental nature allows the centre greater flexibility in its search for innovative solutions in the international community."
The funds for this year have already been earmarked, including the co-funding of projects worth over EUR 600,000. The centre will provide assistance for governments, private institutions and NGOs in partner countries through training seminars and conferences. It will also promote activities that are directed at improving dialogue between nations, cultures and religions.
Slovenia's Foreign Minister Rupel also stressed in his opening speech that one of the centre's task will be to support inter-cultural dialogue but according to Rupel another role will be:
"I suggest that our job, as political leaders and practitioners, but also as the role of our new Centre for European Perspective, is to find the right balance between European integration, European enlargement and Europe for all."
Foreign Minister Rupel added that the EU must continue on its path of enlargement that started decades ago and that exclusion is not an option. He also criticized the bureaucracy of the European project:
"In general, I tend to think that the European project needs to be less bureaucratic and less focused on the elites. Rather, we need projects and programmes which can benefit the average crowd. This group mostly associates Europe with social hardship, unemployment and unreasonable visa policy. In their minds, it is thanks to Europe that they are living in poverty. I see centres such as this one as key in overcoming this divide and misunderstanding by developing grass -root projects which can have a direct impact for the everyday citizens."
The opening was also attended by the Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina Mladen Ivanic, Foreign Minister of Montenegro Miodrag Vlahovic, former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and other high-ranking officials from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Turkey.