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President Pahor’s speech at the 30th Annual Session of Crans Montana Forum

Ženeva, 28. 6. 2019 | press release, speech

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, is attending the the 30th Annual Session of Crans Montana Forum, where he was honoured with the Prix de la Fondation award
for efforts for peace, freedom and democracy.

Below is the speech by the President of the Republic of Slovenia at the Crans Montana Forum. The spoken word applies.

"I am deeply honoured,

and I would like to thank you for this recognition. I understand it as additional motivation for my efforts to peacefully resolve all disputes and ensure lasting peace, particularly in the Western Balkans.

On this occasion, I would like to speak about the situation in the Western Balkans and its European future.

The existing international legal and political architecture, which enabled relative peace and security in this region following the conclusion of the Dayton Agreement, is experiencing serious difficulties. Here and there, we however witness encouraging signs. But it is becoming more and more clear that the current model of resolving open bilateral issues between countries and the reforms within individual countries is outdated. The model as such no longer ensures further strategic progress of the countries and the entire region.

This is also being recognised by political heads of state in the region. At the recent meeting of the heads of state of the Brdo–Brijuni Process in Tirana at the beginning of May, we wrote in the final declaration that the question of the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans was a geopolitical issue.

This position adopted with consensus must be understood from several points of view.

Firstly, we realised that a possible setback in the enlargement of the European Union and an increase in security risks could enhance the possibility of the Western Balkans becoming again the field for direct facing off of global superpowers, which would be very bad for the security and welfare of the people of the Western Balkans.

Secondly, we established on the basis of experience that separate negotiations of the European Commission with individual state governments in the region do not bring about the desired results. Certain important headways can be seen, but they do not give rise to particular enthusiasm. These negotiations must continue; however, they seem insufficient.

Thirdly – although this was not written down specifically – we began to ascertain in our discussions that the European Union must focus and consider the region more as an entity when conducting bilateral negotiations with the countries in the region.

And tonight, I emphasise this in particular.

We all know that the enlargement of the European Union following the formation of a new Commission will not be its priority in the next five years. I nevertheless express hope that the enlargement to the Western Balkans will be one of its planned activities.

It would be a welcome change if the European Commission began a new chapter in the enlargement to the Western Balkans by discussing it as a whole in a political sense and not strictly in procedural terms.

I immediately and fully acknowledge reservations that I speak about and propose a package discussion of the Western Balkans. By doing so, I would underestimate various stages of reform processes in individual countries and subject them to their successes in other countries.

I admit this is partly true. But the weakness of this approach is also its great strength and opportunity.

If the countries of the Western Balkans finally realise that they mutually depend on each other when joining the European Union, the process of settling bilateral issues, which in the current concept of the enlargement were impossible to resolve, will be triggered eventually.

It is true that the questions of national reforms relating to the establishment of the rule of law, fight against corruption, observance of human rights are first and foremost internal political issues of each individual country in the Western Balkans.

But it is also true that certain fundamental questions, such as the determination of borders and mutual diplomatic recognition, are also multilateral questions. If this was observed more in the EU Western Balkans Enlargement Strategy in the political sense, I am certain that more visible progress could be made in the next five or ten years.
I also advocate that a special status be granted to the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans in the entire context of the European Union’s enlargement. Let us look at the map of Europe. The Member States of the European Union are surrounding the Western Balkan countries. Only Switzerland refusing to become an EU Member State is the grey spot on this map. This fact alone implies that the integration of all Western Balkan countries into the European Union is a natural, logical, political and even a geopolitical decision.

In my opinion, this is much easier since the absorption capacity of the EU is absolutely capable of embracing this. If compared with the EU enlargement to Ukraine or Turkey, this is a small and acceptable undertaking.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is utterly clear to me that the EU is reserved towards the current enlargement. Many Member States show no enthusiasm regarding the new enlargement and some even display open reservations.

Tonight and otherwise, I highlight that the issue of the enlargement to the Western Balkans is a special problem which is actually an opportunity. It is an opportunity for a win-win situation beneficial for the European Union and the Western Balkan countries.

Some of their problems would naturally be transposed, but these are actually resolvable only under the condition of the membership of these countries in the European Union.

If the Commissioner for Enlargement of the new European Commission has a joint file for the Western Balkans, I would consider this a very encouraging sign.

I admit that some open issues remain regarding such strategy, but I believe that suitable answers can be found in a dialogue with governments of the Western Balkan countries in a relatively short time.

The current strategy is certainly not good and we need alternatives. If we fail to find them, we will witness great setbacks when integrating the Western Balkans in the European Union, which could have serious consequences for peace and security in the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Western Balkans is a great development opportunity. First for the nations and people living there and also for the stability and welfare of the European Union. Although the enlargement of the European Union is of the utmost importance for their future, these nations and countries must carry out the majority of demanding tasks on their own. One of these, which they evade and is the most difficult of all, is the reconciliation process.

I am well aware of the complexity of this process. But it is invaluable. In the long term, it is actually the central pillar of their security, understanding and cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank you again for the recognition received. A lot of work lies ahead with regard to the establishment of the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes, particularly in the Western Balkans, and the provision of lasting peace, security and welfare in the united Europe.

In this sense, I will regard your recognition as great encouragement."

President Pahor’s speech at the 30th Annual Session of Crans Montana Forum
Photo: Uprs