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Slovenian President holds press conference on need to accelerate EU enlargement to the Western Balkans

Ljubljana, 16. 4. 2021 | press release, speech

At today’s press conference, President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor spoke about the need to accelerate the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans. He also answered questions from journalists on this issue.

Slovenian President holds press conference on need to accelerate EU enlargement to the Western Balkans
Photo: Bor Slana/STA

The text of the President’s opening address is as follows:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome you at this press conference on the need to accelerate the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.

Thank you for attending.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Wherever and whenever I have the opportunity to explain my position on the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans, I stress the following:

1. I firmly support the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkan countries.

2. The enlargement of the European Union to the countries of the Western Balkans is a geopolitical question of the first order.

3. I advocate the position that, taking into account all the circumstances, it would be best if the European Union decides to – and reasonably soon – include in the EU all Western Balkan countries and to adapt its enlargement strategy accordingly. I regularly call on the leaders of the Western Balkan countries to speed up the adoption of reforms and the implementation of measures to this end.

4. The enlargement of the EU to the countries of the Western Balkans is also increasingly becoming a matter of time. The slow pace of the enlargement is weakening the trust in the European future in these countries, resulting in the rise of nationalisms and the increasingly engaged influence of third countries.

5. A faster EU enlargement to the Western Balkans would also reduce the importance of naive and dangerous ideas of border changes, which in my opinion cannot happen in a peaceful way due to the complexity of the situation, which is why I reject all those ideas of changing the borders.

6. A faster process of inclusion of all Western Balkan countries in the EU would significantly strengthen the principle of territorial integrity of the countries, the efforts to resolve their bilateral issues, and also the stability and security of the region and Europe as a whole.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been devoting a great deal of attention to the maintenance of the territorial integrity of Western Balkan countries, the resolution of their bilateral issues, reconciliation within and among the countries, the strengthening of peace and stability, and in particular the Euro-Atlantic future for this part of Europe for more than 10 years.
That is why I proposed the Brdo–Brijuni Process initiative 11 years ago, which I have been co-leading throughout this time. The Brdo–Brijuni Process is the most important regional political initiative bringing together the leaders of these countries. This initiative also gave rise to the Berlin Process.

In preparation for this year’s Brdo–Brijuni conference, I recently visited Sarajevo, where I met with all three members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am a friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its territorial integrity and its Euro-Atlantic future. I am one of the few country leaders to so clearly stress the importance of reconciliation for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This effort alone, which was most prominent in my speech on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, clearly shows my strong commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have visited Bosnia and Herzegovina seven times as President of the Republic of Slovenia.

I was not informed of any so-called non-paper, neither during my visit nor before or after. I strongly reject the idea of a final disintegration of Yugoslavia and changes in the existing borders, because I do not believe that this can be done in a peaceful way.

I have publicly talked about this particular issue several times, most recently in my address to the Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia and the Diplomatic Corps in Skopje on 25 September last year:

"In this regard, I would like to underline my assessment, which, if it proves correct, is important: if there is no enlargement of the European Union or the enlargement is significantly delayed, this region will eventually start to believe that the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia is not yet complete and that ethnic borders should be established instead of the existing ones. Historical experience shows that there is very little possibility of such a process unfolding peacefully and without conflict and that could also undermine safety and stability in the wider area of South-East Europe. That is why, as I have said several times, the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans is an important political issue that demands an even more prudent strategy from the European Union."