MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. We’re about to start with the press conference of Prime Minister Janez Jansa and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, but before we start, let me just say that it is our great pleasure, Mr. Secretary, to welcome you for the first visit since 1997. This visit truly marks our friendship and strong alliance.
I would also like to introduce Morgan Ortagus, who will co-chair this press conference with me. She is the spokesperson of the State Department.
The press conference will be translated from Slovenian into English only, and we will have first two statements, one from the prime minister and the second one from the Secretary. Then we will have two questions each, one from the Slovenian press pool and another one from the U.S. press pool.
Mr. Prime Minister, please.
PRIME MINISTER JANSA: (Via Translation) Thirty-two years ago, Slovenia was still part of the totalitarian Yugoslavia. The villa that we use today to host this high-level visit was used by the Slovenian communist elite, while some of us were held in the communist regime prisons.
At the time, hundreds of thousands of our compatriots were displaced around Western Europe, North and South America and Australia.
Today, Slovenia is an independent democratic republic, which is the result of our fight for freedom, the rule of law, human rights and democracy.
But this fight could not have been successful without the victory of the free Western world headed by the United States over the Soviet regime. For almost 50 years, the regime imported its totalitarianism and divided Europe by an iron curtain, thereby causing death and misery to hundreds of millions of people.
Slovenians are therefore grateful to the United States for defending and saving the old continent twice in the previous century. First, from the danger of atrocities of Nazism, Fascism and, later, the tyranny of Communism. Fascism, Nazism, and Communism caused great harm to the Slovenian nation and we are still healing the wounds that they left behind. A memorial plaque on the fence of the American Embassy in Ljubljana is a telling testimony to the fact. We are also grateful to the United States for offering shelter to hundreds of thousands of our countrymen when they sought safety and freedom for themselves and their children in the free world in the past century.
Today, Slovenia is a member of the EU and NATO. We endeavor to be a credible partner within the Alliance and, at the same time, to make our voice heard. Therefore, we are particularly pleased to host today in Slovenia the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, his wife Susan and his colleagues. We believe that his work and efforts and the endeavors made by him and the Unites States President support the values of freedom, the rule of law, human rights, human dignity and fundamental freedoms, and are a continuation of the policy that enabled the fall of the Berlin Wall, the iron curtain and a renewed free cooperation and integration of the European nations.
At the time when the attention of both countries and also the rest of the world is still focused on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, we talked about the experiences of Slovenia and the Unites States in the fight against the new coronavirus. I expressed my solidarity with the Unites States in dealing with the pandemic and its consequences, which I reiterate once again. Apart from everything else, the coronavirus pandemic has made it clear again that the challenges of modern times are actually no lesser that those from decades ago, the only difference being that Slovenia is part of the Alliance that is searching for solutions to these challenges and is able to find them.
The current situation in the world calls for an even closer partnership between Europe and the Unites States, and for an enhanced role of the transatlantic community as the global leader. In this regard, I presented priority areas of Slovenia’s EU Council Presidency that will take place next year. One of our priorities is also to develop capacities for dealing with crisis situations, such as the pandemic or cyberattacks. Slovenia will always promote further close cooperation of the EU with the United States, in particular during our Presidency of the EU.
Special attention was devoted to the North Atlantic Alliance. Both countries see it as the most solid base for Euro-American relations. We agreed that it is further important to share the burdens between the allies. As you know, in recent months, Slovenia has taken some steps on the basis of which it will do everything that all the governments have promised to do since 2014 in terms of fulfilling our obligations. We also assessed the existing bilateral defense and military cooperation established already in 1994, when I myself, as the then Minister of Defense, signed an agreement on cooperation between the two armies, and Slovenia is interested in enhancing this cooperation.
Slovenia appreciates the proactive American approach to energy security in Central Europe, which is also demonstrated by a strong support to initiatives such as the Three Seas Initiative and the Partnership for Transatlantic Energy Cooperation. Slovenia will continue to enhance its role in both initiatives.
During the talks, an assessment of economic cooperation between the two countries was made. The United States is Slovenia’s third investment partner. We agreed that there are numerous opportunities to further strengthen trade and investments. Slovenia has many distinguished companies in the field of information technology that can also participate in the further development of the technologies related to the content of today’s declaration. We recognize most of these new opportunities here.
The two countries decided to deepen cooperation in the field of cybersecurity in order to be able to take advantage of all these potentials. This intention can be proved by the Joint Declaration of Slovenia and the United States on 5G Safety signed today. Through increased cooperation, we will strengthen national security, increase prosperity, and maintain the openness of our societies.
The exchange of views on international topics confirmed that Slovenia and the United States share many similar or the same views on a number of issues, including the situation in the Western Balkans which will also be one of the priorities of Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. We also discussed the relations with China and Russia. In the relations with these two countries, we must seek and take into account the strategic interest of our civilization which is based on values of security, freedom, the rule of law and democracy. These principles should be the basis for coordination and search for common positions between the EU and the United States in relation to the Russian Federation and China.
If we believed during the Cold War that the greatest danger was the nuclear conflict and the destruction of a major part of the planet, today there exists an even more complex threat of hybrid attack or the combined use of cyber and biological weapons, electromagnetic pulse attacks, and the use of conventional warfare.
In contrast to the general awareness of danger during the Cold War, today people’s awareness of this danger in the West is significantly lower or very low, despite the painful experience with the latest pandemic. And this low awareness has only disproportionally increased the threat.
We therefore see the United States as the only force of the Western civilization capable of confronting this complex threat, both in terms of deterrent and actual defense capability. Slovenia is also willing to contribute its efforts in order to be successful here. I would particularly like to thank Mr. Pompeo for all the investments and efforts made by the United States in this area, because these efforts also ensure our security.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for today’s visit and for the good substantive talks. These talks confirmed that there are many common opportunities and goals ahead of us as well as many common challenges which we will face.
The strong Slovenian-American friendship, partnership and alliance will enable us to be successful. I would also like to thank Mrs. Ambassador Lynda Blanchard for the extremely good cooperation in preparing this important visit. God bless the centuries-old friendship between the Slovenian and the American nations.
MODERATOR: (In Slovenian.) Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Prime Minister Jansa, okay, you win. This is beautiful. (Laughter.) I want to thank Foreign Minister Logar, President Pahor, and the other Slovenian leaders for making this trip possible and so graciously hosting me at this beautiful place. I appreciate all the work that everyone put into making this happen. I know during this time of the coronavirus it’s especially difficult, and I know you did a lot of work, and I thank you for it. It is an important gathering.
Of course, when I told President Trump I was headed here, he was happy. When I told Mrs. Trump, she was even happier. She was very excited. She knows of your gorgeous country. It’s, of course, where she is from, it’s where she was born and raised, and she said to send her best, and I will speak to her about this great visit when I get back to Washington as well.
We had a excellent set of productive conversations today, discussions on a wide range of topics. The prime minister spoke about them. But they each reflect our growing friendship and the strategic partnership between our two countries.
It’s important now more than ever, perhaps. The contrast between free and unfree societies has never been clearer, and free nations must work together to confront authoritarian threats. Slovenia has remarkably supported EU sanctions against Russia because it is concerned about its malign activity against Ukraine, but of course we face a number of other threats as well.
Chief among those threats is the Chinese Communist Party and its drive to control people and information and our economies. As you just saw, I was pleased to sign a joint declaration with the foreign minister that excludes untrusted vendors from 5G networks. This will benefit the people of this country and all of us who share information across complex network systems.
More and more here in Europe and in nations around the world, leaders are taking sovereign decisions to protect the privacy and individual liberties of their citizens. Whether it’s in Belarus or Lebanon or Hong Kong, people just want to live in freedom. I know, too, that Slovenia prides itself on being a science and technology leader, and becoming a 5G clean country, as you’re doing today, solidifies that position. The tide is turning against the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to restrict freedom for all of us.
We also had extensive conversations about stronger trade and investment ties, the opportunities to invest so that each of our economies can bounce back from where they are today more strongly, more quickly, after this horrible pandemic that was birthed in Wuhan, China.
We also appreciate Slovenia’s strong support for the Three Seas Initiative and for hosting a successful summit just last year. I announced back in February of this year that the United States would commit up to $1 billion for sustainable and transparent digital, energy, and infrastructure projects connected to the Three Seas Initiative. We’re pleased, too, to help fund that important partnership. We understand Slovenia is in the process of making its decision. We urge a quick commitment.
In that same vein, I want to applaud Slovenia for setting up an investment screening mechanism to protect its people, and promoting the Blue Dot Network, which sets very high standards to make sure that infrastructure investment makes sense and protects the people of your country.
One more note on economic ties: We spoke about the enormous potential of next-generation nuclear technology to deliver clean, reliable, diversified energy that will help ensure political independence and economic prosperity for Slovenia and the entire region, and I’m looking forward to a productive discussion here just in a few minutes with Slovenian energy executives to get the view from the C-suite leaders of those companies.
Lastly, I want to thank Slovenia for its remarkable leadership here in Europe. You made the exemplary decision to increase defense spending by nearly a billion dollars a year. That’s a testament to your country’s growing commitment to NATO and our collective efforts. And you’ve long been a positive force for promoting Balkan countries’ integration with Western institutions. That matters a lot to the United States and we’re deeply appreciative of that. I know that Slovenia will continue to reflect democratic values as you assume the EU presidency next year, and we’re very much looking forward to working with you in that new and important role for your country.
Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Secretary Pompeo. We are now beginning with the questions, and one question from the Slovenian press pool, Mr. Edvard Zitnik from national TV, please. You have the floor.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, why was it necessary to sign the 5G document today with Slovenia? What was so specific and not with some other members of the EU?
My second question, if I may: You already mentioned you are meeting Slovenian business community today. Could you give us some specifics about your ambitions in that area? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you for the questions. Look, as for the 5G document, it’s important in its own right. That is it is absolutely critical that every nation makes a good, sovereign decision for itself about how private information of its citizens is going to be handled. And what we want to make sure is all of us, America too, that we’re getting it right, that the people who put the infrastructure in place, the countries from which those systems emanate don’t have ready, easy, automatic mandatory access for their national security system. I’ll just be very blunt. That’s an absolute imperative.
It’s an imperative, then, larger for Europe and the United States to work together, because we have information that goes back and forth. We have American citizens that travel across networks that run all throughout Europe, and so it was very important that we get this right. And Slovenia has been a great partner. They’re sophisticated; their technology is very capable; their leadership understands the networked nature of this information. And so it was a great partner to sign this document with, and there was no time like today to do it. I’m very thrilled that we were able to get it completed in time for my visit.
Tell me your second question again.
QUESTION: Business community.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so more. (Laughter.)
There’s lots of places. Nations that have the rule of law and property – private property and contract rights and judicial redress, all the things that we all take for granted sometimes, are the kinds of nations that American businesses want to invest in. And I know the same thing’s true for Slovenian companies who want to grow their platform in the United States so they can have access to 300 million Americans as well.
Today we’re going to have a focus on energy issues as well. We believe it is incredibly important for American national security that Europe have a diversified energy base, that it has multiple sources, that it doesn’t have to depend for Russia on all of its energy. We don’t think that’s wise for any country. We think it puts Americans at risk too. And so I want to talk about how we can work together to reduce that national security risk while providing safe and affordable and clean energy for the people of Slovenia as well. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Morgan, it’s your turn.
MS ORTAGUS: Sure. Will Mauldin, Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. For Mr. Prime Minister, I wanted to ask you – you talked about democracy and freedom at the beginning – if you had any advice for the Secretary of State about the recent – how to deal with the recent elections in Belarus and the protests going on there. Or if you wanted to give advice to President Lukashenko, what would it be?
And then I wanted to ask, for Mr. Secretary of State —
SECRETARY POMPEO: I can’t wait to hear that. It’s going to be great. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, they’re headed for the EU presidency. So for Mr. Secretary of State, you’ve mentioned cooperation in trade a lot this trip and commercial ties as a way of strengthening ties with the U.S. almost as an alternative to Russia or China. I wonder if you have any new cooperation to announce in those areas in the Czech Republic or Slovenia or have heard of any others since the trip started. And also if that kind of cooperation makes sense in this region, does it make sense in Asia as well? The Taiwanese president has offered to start trade talks with the U.S. and I think that’s just an offer that’s hanging out there that we haven’t heard a public response to. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Go ahead. Thank you. Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER JANSA: Well, I’m afraid there are other people in Slovenia which Mr. Lukashenko would listen to their advices more than to my advices. But I think that only peaceful solution for the current crisis in Belarus is to repeat the elections under the strong presence of the international observation missions. I think that if President Lukashenko agrees on that, this could solve the whole situation there. So I think that – and Slovenia is already making some initiatives to create a pressure for this to happen. We hope that European Union will act with – it seems so that we are acting with a unanimous voice and we see the same approach from the United States. And I think this is the part of – half of the solution.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Just to follow up on that, I’m confident the EU and the United States both share the same concerns about what has taken place and what is taking place in Belarus, and I’m very hopeful that we can collectively work in a way that gets a better outcome for the people in Belarus.
As for the commercial transactions, they happen every day without us getting in the middle of it. Our mission set is to get out of the way, to reduce trade friction, to reduce trade barriers, to come to a set of common understandings, standards, and the like so that free nations, likeminded nations, can trade at a higher level.
I know it’s always cool to show up with a big commercial announcement, some big project. We hope we can do those things too, but in the end, what we spend a lot of time talking about is how can we set up a rules-based system where likeminded nations, whether that’s the Australians, the Indians, the Japanese and the South Koreans – you referred to Taiwan and Asia – and European countries, South American countries that share our views of property rights and the rule of law as well, and certainly between the United States and Slovenia. We hope that we can set up the right frameworks, this – that right rules system so that you can trade easily between the two countries, that you can invest easily, one country amongst the other, where we can have exchanges among our academic institutions as well, places with real technological capability. I’m very confident that the set of conversations we had today will increase that activity between our two countries and between the United States more broadly and Europe as well.
QUESTION: And what about with Taiwan, that kind of a framework?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re trying to figure out precisely how to proceed with that. I don’t have an answer for you today that I’m prepared to provide, but I was following closely Secretary Azar’s travel there, where we had a good conversation about how we can reduce the risk not only that is ongoing from this pandemic, but reduce the risk from the potential next one as well.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. With this, we conclude the press conference. Thank you for your attention and participation, and I wish you a nice afternoon. Enjoy Bled. The sky is with us. Thank you.