Yesterday afternoon, Slovenia’s ambassador to the United States, Roman Kirn, held a small talk in the Intercultural Center. He spoke of the challenges currently facing the European Union, as its member states struggle both to recover from the devastating financial crisis and to create policies which will prevent such disasters in the future.
Kirn has had a distinguished career in both his government in Slovenia and as a diplomat abroad. He saw Slovenia through its transition from a member of the former Yugoslavia to its independence, and now to its membership in the EU. He is also the ambassador to Mexico.
Kirn began by describing Slovenia’s current status in relation to its prior history.
“Slovenia is a very young state, only twenty one years old. As a nation, however, Slovenia has existed for many hundreds of years, first under the rule of the Hapsburgs, and then as a member of the newly-formed Yugoslavian state,” he said.
Because of Slovenia’s long history of being a small part of a much larger organization of nations, it is well-equipped to fit in well with the European Union, Kirn explained. Due to the unfavorable experiences Slovenia had as a member of the Hapsburg holdings, historically, and as a member of the former Yugoslavia, in more modern times, it is surprising to see Slovenia embrace the EU, another multinational political organization.
Calling the EU “the best thing ever to happen to Europe,” Kirn credited Slovenia’s acceptance of the EU to its incredible “diversity management,” that is, its ability to respect the democratic sovereignty and cultural identify of its member states.
“The EU safeguards the best traditions of democracy, complete with a respect for human rights and the implementation of a rule of law. This is a community within which any country can develop its home state. At the same time, from the eyes of a very small state, the European Union preserves each state’s cultural identity,” he said.
His appreciation for the EU’s achievements withstanding, Kirn soon explained the greatest weakness of the European Union: a lack of financial integration. Highlighting the two major processes of the EU, integration and enlargement, Kirn suggested the end of enlargement as a major goal for now. The EU should turn virtually its full attention to addressing the issue of integration, he stated.
“Economic realities are faster than political realities. Simply, the global, financial crisis was so overwhelming that the political framework could not keep up to stop it. On the political level, we have to be faster. In practical terms, this means our monetary union must be significantly improved.”
Kirn suggested the formation of a new, unified banking system to replace the slow monetary union which the EU currently has. In addition, other reforms on the political level would have to take place to ensure that new financial policies can be implemented with the speed necessary to match the markets.
Unfortunately, Kirn recognizes, such a plan “would require states to give up much of their fiscal sovereignty.” Nevertheless, Kirn remained adamant that this course of action would be the best way to minimize the damage future market drops could cause. Slovenia, he says, stands fully behind the move to a more integrated European Union, with far less focus on the expansion of new members.
As ambassador to America, Kirn hopes he can help in the EU’s efforts to sway American support in favor of a more integrated financial system in the Eurozone.
Photo from Flickr under Creative Commons of the Ambassador with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon