Bled Strategic Forum: Pahor & Barnier on the EU, Balkans & Brexit

By , 10 Sep 2018, 16:41 PM Politics
Pahor and Barnier in Bled Pahor and Barnier in Bled From President Pahor's Twitter account

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The forum kicks off with some big names. 

Pahor - EU at a standstill

STA, 10 September - President Borut Pahor aired the view that Brexit demonstrated that the EU was at a standstill, as he offered his views on the state of the bloc in his address to the Bled Strategic Forum on Monday.

"This standstill doesn't mean that time is standing still and that the EU is in some kind of frozen state. On the contrary. We see increasing return to national policies," Pahor said in his opening address to the Leaders' Panel.

The standstill also does not mean that everyone is waiting idle. "It's obvious that those who are not in favour of the future strengthening of the EU are moving on. And those of us who are in favour of such strengthening are standing still."

He warned that the standstill in institutional, political, economic and other forms of integration was making nationalist politics stronger.

"It seems that, at the moment, those of us who believe in a strong EU do not have a clear vision. However, its alternative appears to be clearer - restoring the power of the member states."

If those who believe in how important the EU is for peace, security and the well-being of Europeans fail to offer some sort of vision within a reasonable time, the European idea may fall in decline over the next five or ten years, Pahor warned.

The current standstill experienced by the EU will turn into a crisis if nationalist politics begins to prevail. "For now, this is not yet the case. However, it's becoming stronger than ever. It's undergoing a surge.

"Pro-European politics, fearing for its position, is adjusting to it. It's not providing an alternative. In my opinion, this can no longer continue. Some sort of political risk must be taken. We must expose ourselves," Pahor said.

Pahor also linked the issue to the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans, saying that Slovenia was interested in seeing these efforts succeed. "A weak EU will not be enlarged to the Western Balkans," he said.

He again criticised the European Commission for failing to take a firm stand on the observance of European and international law with regard to the border between Slovenia and Croatia.

"Why would the Balkan countries try to reach an agreement if, in the Commission's opinion, such agreements do not need to be observed," the president wondered.

Barnier confident Brexit deal 6-8 weeks away

STA, 10 September 2018 - Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, told the Bled Strategic Forum on Monday that agreement on the first stage of the UK's exit from the EU was achievable within 6-8 weeks.

"Realistically, we are able to reach an agreement on the first stage of these negotiations in 6-8 weeks," he said.

He said roughly 80% of the draft agreement currently under negotiation was already finalised, which meant the conclusion is near.

According to Barnier, the UK set 29 March 2019 as the date of its exit, which meant a deal had to be reached before November anyway if it is to be ratified by the British and European parliaments.

Asked which remaining issues were toughest, Barnier listed agriculture, governance of the Brexit treaty, and Northern Ireland.

Barnier also said he had "great respect" for UK Prime Minister Theresa May and said her Brexit plan, referred to as the Chequers Plan, was a good basis for talks.

"I think that Chequers is useful, because it clary defines what are the issues for the UK," he said.

But he was also quick to point out he did not want to comment on or get involved with the UK's internal affairs.

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