Relations between Egypt and Slovenia have been on a steady path in the last year. On 5 December, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi received his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor. The visit was considered the first of the Slovenian president to Egypt.
The Egypt-Slovenia Business Forum was held on 6 December, where three Egyptian companies signed cooperation agreements with their Slovenian counterparts in the sectors of energy, cables, and pharmaceuticals.
But Egypt and Slovenia also share a deeper cultural connection. On 11 December, the St. Peter and St. Paul Church was attacked. The church’s designer, Anton Laščak, was of Slovenian origin.
Daily News Egypt met with Slovenian ambassador to Egypt, Tanja Miškova, to understand the outcome of the bilateral meetings both countries held last December.
Before Egypt, you accompanied the Slovenian president to Jordan. Why did the president choose to combine Egypt and Jordan in one visit?
Pahor chose to visit Egypt and Jordan for one specific reason—both countries represent the pillars of stability in the region.
Pahor wanted to engage in a dialogue with the leaders of both countries, to hear their views on the situation in the region. He wanted to discover what we—the countries that believe in a peaceful solution for political conflicts—can do.
Of course, strengthening bilateral relations with both countries was the crucial component in both cases, especially with Egypt.
What are the outcomes of the visit which you would like to highlight?
The president was accompanied in both countries by the minister of infrastructure
Peter Gašperšič, and deputy ministers from the economy and foreign affairs ministries. We also invited a business delegation and organised business conferences. This was meant to strengthen the bilateral track.
In Jordan, issues related to regional affairs and threats of terrorism were discussed more emphatically than others. They came to the conclusion that these were complex issues that cannot be resolved by one or two countries. It has to be a coalition of the willing—there has to be the political will to find a political and peaceful solution, because there is no military solution to any conflict. In the end, people need to sit down and talk.
In Egypt, most of the discussions between both presidents were behind closed doors. Pahor and Al-Sisi sat for a really long time, almost two hours. Both presidents held in-depth discussions. Pahor concentrated on increasing bilateral cooperation, especially in regards to economic relations.
So this is why the deputy minister of economy came with the president?
Economy is the area of cooperation we would like to promote most, especially since Egypt needs foreign investments and needs to strengthen its exports.
We are trying to diversify economic cooperation with Egypt, as Egypt for us is a very important partner—not only because it represents a huge market, but it is a base from which to penetrate other markets in the region. We are interested in penetrating the Sub-Saharan Africa market in particular, where we have no presence, no embassies, and no economic representation. We absolutely have no presence in Sub-Saharan Africa, while Egypt has very good relations with this region.
During Pahor’s visit, what kind of cultural activities took place?
The president went on a visit to the Pyramids, which was very important for him, as he was here twice before—once as a prime minister and the other as a parliamentarian. During his previous two visits, he did not manage to see the Pyramids. He was really happy to do that this time.
On the other side, the embassy organised two cultural events, pointing out the cultural connection between both countries, and highlighting the 25th anniversary of our independence.
Anton Laščak, a Slovenian, came to Egypt and became a very popular architect. He designed very famous buildings here, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs near Tahrir Square and Banque Misr. He also built the St. Peter and St. Paul Church, commonly known as El-Botroseya, which was recently attacked.
The first event included a photographic exhibition about Laščak, in the Hanager Arts Center. The photographs were taken by Slovenian photographer Matjaz Kacicnik, who has been living here for ten years researching and documenting Laščak’s heritage.
The main focus of the exhibition was Kacicnik’s photographs. The texts that accompanied the photos were prepared by a group of Slovenian art-history students from the University of Ljubljana.
The second event was an opera concert by Slovenian mezzo-soprano Manca Izmajlova and her husband, Benjamin Izmajlov, who was conducting the Cairo Symphony Orchestra.
Can you tell us more about the visit of the Slovenian students to Egypt?
The students made contact with the Faculty of Architecture at Cairo University. They were here a week before the exhibition, where they attended lectures at the university.
So the Slovenian students met with the Egyptian students and continued their research together about Laščak. The visit also gave the Slovenian students the opportunity to visit buildings designed by Laščak, including El-Botroseya.
More than once you mentioned that El-Botroseya’s designer, Laščak, was of Slovenian origin. In this regard, how was the news of the church attack received in Slovenia?
Attacking a place of worship, whether it is a mosque or a church, is received with condemnation. It is difficult to comprehend how anyone could stand among women and children in a place of worship, and commit such a shameful attack.
In addition to it being a tragic incident, once we realised the church’s architect was Slovenian, we became even more emotional about the attack.
Bear in mind that this also happened shortly after the Slovenian visit to Egypt, and shortly after the Slovenian students visited the church. The attack happened the week after Pahor had left Egypt.