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: (In Slovenian.)
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.