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17th Oct 2021

Slovenia to push for Western Balkans enlargement

  • 'We are convinced that the people living in the Western Balkan deserve a European future,' said Slovenian prime minister Janez Jansa, whose country currently holds the EU presidency (Photo: European Union, 2020)

Slovenia will give special attention to the discussion on Western Balkan integration into the EU during the six months that it will hold the presidency of the EU Council, its prime minister Janez Janša said on Friday (2 July).

Ljubljana will host an EU summit on 6 October with representatives of the six Balkan countries that hope to join the bloc - with discussions focusing on strengthening police cooperation, digital resilience, as well as the recovery of the region and its green transition.

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During Slovenia's first EU Council presidency in 2008, it was assumed that it would be possible for some countries to join the EU over the next decade, Janša said, adding that "looking back, we only got Croatia and we lost the UK, so we are at point zero".

"We are convinced that the people living in the Western Balkan deserve a European future," the prime minister added, arguing that the integration of these countries in the EU is not only about the enlargement of the internal free market but also about geopolitics.

"Where the European Union did not spread its influence of freedom and democracy, others were spreading their influence," he said.

Similarly, Slovenian foreign affairs minister Anže Logar warned that China and Russia were already "leaving their mark" in the countries of the Western Balkans.

The Slovenian EU Presidency also wants to involve the citizens of these six countries in the discussion of the future of Europe as much as possible, especially in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Logar also wants these countries to be added to the scope of the roaming regulation, which ended roaming charges when travelling intra-EU borders in 2017, to ensure they can feel a "tangible benefit" of joining the EU.

Last November, Bulgaria vetoed accession talks with North Macedonia over disputes about Macedonian language origin and history.

But now Slovenia aims to be a broker in the negotiations.

"It is key to find a solution [and] answers to the questions raised by Bulgaria," said Logar.

"Should there be a standstill…this is a problem that will need to be resolved by all member states," he added, pointing out that moving forward is "fundamental for the credibility of the EU".

Opinion

Cleaning up both the EU and Western Balkans

There has been little substantial analysis, since the Macron veto, of why so much money and effort in the Balkans has failed to result in the political and economic transformation needed to prepare candidates for full membership.

Opinion

Can Greece work with Biden to solve the West Balkans impasse?

Greece has always been Europe's outlier. It faces an implacably hostile neighbour in Turkey under its assertive authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Until Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, Greece had no European Union member state as a neighbour.

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