The Declaration on Foreign Policy is not just any foreign affairs statement; it is a statement of the highest democratic legitimacy. It is also not emerging at just any old time; it is emerging at a time when Slovenia is facing increasing foreign dependency. The declaration therefore offers an opportunity to set sail in the right direction.
1. Firstly, if you walk looking backwards, you won’t get far
The first paragraph of the preamble of the declaration pompously states that the declaration has been drafted “in the context of the 25th anniversary of independence and democracy, the 10th anniversary of membership of the EU and NATO, the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, as well as in the context of changes which have emerged in the international community since the last Declaration on Foreign Policy of the Republic of Slovenia from 1999.”
The prelude takes us on a journey from Southeast Europe to the West, spanning over a 100 years of European integration and disintegration. At the end, we learn that, “among other things”, the declaration is based on the changes in the international community that have come about since the last Declaration, Changes, among other things? Western Europe as a concept from the 1990s no longer exists: today, Europe is a system of provinces with an inner and outer periphery. And most importantly, the Europe of today is located on a significantly modified world map. This can be illustrated with a simple exercise used by international relations lecturers abroad: take a map of the world and turn it upside down, so that Australia is at the top. Europe suddenly becomes a province of the Asian countries, Africa and the Arab world are hanging above it, and the thing that stands out the most is the mass of water, in which float patches of land. Yes, the planet is made of water, which our hyperactivity is causing to evaporate.
2. Secondly, don’t worry about the map; the anchor is stuck in the Bay of Piran anyway
Once we have been informed about where we are coming from, the preamble tells us who we are and what we want. It becomes so politically correct that it almost borders on cynicism: sustainable development takes priority over economic welfare, since showing support for saving the dolphins is indeed very important; but at the same time, economic welfare comes before human rights, because we need to cooperate with China; human rights come before the market system, otherwise, because of the transatlantic trade agreement, we will have to eat genetically modified corn and turn into zombies; and national culture comes before all the aforementioned goals because our existence is proven by the fact that we are reading about ourselves.
The real cynicism surfaces in the next paragraph, which reads as follows: “regarding the fact that the great majority of the citizens of the Republic of Slovenia voted for membership of the European Union, which forms main political and value framework for the provision of welfare and human rights in Slovenia, and for membership in NATO, which provides the basic framework of national security”. In short, we the politicians and the bureaucrats can make promises, but you the citizens have expressed that you want to join the EU and NATO.
While it is easy for the reader to overlook these assumptions and issues, it is impossible to miss the following gap. It seems as if while aiming to achieve “territorial integrity” and “citizen security” a double space sneaked into the text, and not only in the literal sense. There it sits, as if the writer wanted to add something (or needed to delete something because it made him feel uneasy), something more fatal than all the aforementioned contradictions. What that is comes to light in the first part of the body of the text, headed “Values, principles and the geopolitical situation”, which by its nature represents the conceptual component of the text. It reads: “The foreign policy of the Republic of Slovenia is based on the values of Slovene statehood … The Republic of Slovenia is a Central European country, located between Western and South-East Europe. Slovenia is also … a maritime country.” In short, our essence lies in being trapped between the West and… dare we say it?… the Balkans. Our maritime aspect, our path towards a better world is under question. And because we are interested in wider horizons, we are sending our warship away to defend our borders in the centre of geopolitics – our local bay.
3. Third, no one is left behind
The second part of the content is dedicated to goals, priorities and areas of operations. It comprises an enviable list of 20 approximate goals and more than a hundred focus areas, from “the contextualisation of Slovenia in the heart of the European Union” and “shaping the union according to people’s needs” to “an increased presence in Sub-Saharan Africa” and “sharing the transition experience”. The goals are plentiful and captivating – once we have moved on to the next one, we have already forgotten what the previous one was. In short, you start to feel like a student reading a menu in a posh restaurant.
The key question is, of course, who is going to finance all this or maybe how are we going to achieve it. Part three, referring to the “implementation of the Declaration”, talks about, among other things, “the search for wide political and social consensus concerning the basic foreign policy orientation, key decisions, important international candidatures (i.e. the case of the Slovene European Commissioner), and a unified approach towards the national interest in the appearances of political office holders or important foreign policy figures abroad and in the media (i.e. the case of privatisation) … assuring appropriate budgetary funds… a modern, efficient, professional and knowledgeable diplomatic corps (i.e. the Reberc case)”.
In short, we are aware of the problems and we are working on them. The details, as stated in the Declaration, will be included in the “Strategy”. While we are waiting for all the conditions to be met, let me tell you an anecdote I heard from an older colleague. It goes something like this: an academic asks a high official at the Foreign Ministry why he gave his subordinate a task he finds badly thought through, let’s say, the effort to become a non-permanent member of the Security Council. And the bureaucrat replies: “For practice.”
Author: Marko Lovec. Researcher at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Assistant Professor at the Chair of International Foreign Relations. His research field is political economy.
P.S. If you want to participate in the debate about the Declaration on Foreign Policy, you can send your opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Title photograph: Mladika, the seat of Slovenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo via Facebook.
Translated by: Taja Gorjan.