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President Pahor participates in a roundtable discussion on the future of Europe and the Western Balkans at the invitation of the European Policy Centre

Brussels, 3. 6. 2021 | press release

President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor, at the invitation of the European Policy Centre, participated as a guest in a roundtable discussion on the future of Europe and the Western Balkans. The discussion extended well beyond the planned time and was the first in-person event held by this Brussels think tank in over a year.

The discussion was organised by the European Policy Centre and attended by the following invited representatives of various institutes in Brussels: Carl Dolan (Open Society European Policy Institute), Anthony Zacharzewski (Democratic Society), Corinna Stratulat (GMF), Camino Mortera-Martinez (Centre for European Reform), Isabelle Ioannides and André de Munter (European Parliamentary Research Service – EPRS), and Shada Islam (New Horizons Project).

President Pahor first thanked the European Policy Centre and Associate Director Georg Riekeles for the invitation as well as for organising the discussion. In reply to a question posed by Mr Riekeles, who moderated the discussion, President Pahor assessed that it is good that Slovenia is a conglomerate of several different identities, i.e. Central European, Mediterranean, and Balkan identities, as well as its European identity. He noted his long-held pro-European position and said that Slovenia had integrated faith in the European idea into its establishment and remains an active advocate thereof today, as it aims to carry out another successful presidency of the Council of the EU with full responsibility. He expressed his wish that Slovenia would be able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the presidency of the Council of the EU to strengthen the EU and Slovenia's role therein.

The discussion participants also touched upon the issue of common European values and President Pahor stressed that today the European Union consists of countries with different identities and different cultural experiences, but that this must not be an excuse for different interpretations of its fundamental values.

Regarding the recent letter Let’s talk about Europe, issued on the initiative of President Pahor and President Mattarella and signed by 21 presidents of EU Member States on the occasion of Europe Day and the beginning of the Conference on the Future of Europe, President Pahor said: "With this letter, we invited European citizens to participate in shaping our common future and reminded them why the EU is so valuable. This is a project of peace and reconciliation." He also stressed that an important aim of the Conference is to think about Europe in a visionary manner and that this aim will be achieved when we learn how to have "European dreams".

During the discussion on the Conference on the Future of Europe, President Pahor said that he hopes that by the end of the Slovenian Presidency, the Conference will reach some actual conclusions.

The Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU will, of course, focus mainly on recovery and resilience following the COVID-19 epidemic, which will also be one of the key topics of the Slovenian Presidency. President Pahor believes that this can also be an opportunity to direct the recovery towards sustainable and green development.

A great part of the discussion was focused on the Western Balkans. Participants supported the inclusion of the Western Balkans in the Conference on the Future of Europe and assessed that otherwise this would send an extremely poor message to the European public and the citizens of Western Balkan countries.

President Pahor described his impressions of the last meeting of the leaders within the Brdo–Brijuni Process and its conclusions formulated in the Brdo Declaration. He reiterated that the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkan countries is a geopolitical issue and that the region needs to be treated as a whole. He added that he firmly believed that, taking into account all the circumstances, it would be best for the European Union to decide to include – and reasonably soon – all Western Balkan countries in the EU and to adapt its enlargement strategy accordingly. With regard to his expectations concerning the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, President Pahor expressed his wish that a breakthrough would be made regarding the start of negotiations between the EU and Albania and North Macedonia.

President Pahor assessed that it would be good to organise a similar discussion in Slovenia and invited the representatives of the participating Brussels think tanks to hold an open discussion in Slovenia sometime by the end of the year.

President Pahor participates in a roundtable discussion on the future of Europe and the Western Balkans at the invitation of the European Policy Centre
Photo: Thierry Monasse/STA