Bilateral Relations & Schengen Expansion Discussed in Dutch FM Visit

By , 10 Oct 2019, 09:55 AM Politics
Stef Blok and Miro Cerar Stef Blok and Miro Cerar Twitter

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STA, 9 October 2019 - Bilateral ties and Schengen zone expansion topped the agenda as Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok met his Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar in Ljubljana on Wednesday. The pair shared a view that bilateral relations were excellent and urged respect for international law and dedication to multilateralism.

Cerar thanked Blok for the support from the Netherlands and the other Benelux countries in 2017 when Slovenia took the position that the arbitration decision on the course of its border with Croatia must be respected and implemented.

The Slovenian foreign minister added that "with the Netherlands, as with all Benelux countries, we share related, democratic values, efforts for multilateralism and above all efforts for the rule of law".

Cerar and Blok also pointed to the need to respect international law. "This is what, alongside good economic relations, connects us very strongly and enables good relations also in other fields", according to Cerar.

Blok said he admired Slovenia for its focus on the respect of the rule of law, as well as on environmental and other topics the Netherlands found important.

What is common to both countries is the effort for a stronger influence of the EU at home and in the world, he said, also emphasising the importance of a strong internal market as a key for sustainable growth and development.

As regards the Schengen zone expansion, with Croatia being tipped as the next country to enter, the ministers stressed that new members needed to meet all conditions.

Cerar reiterated Slovenia's position that the country supported Croatia's entry in principle if all conditions were met: border security, illegal migration prevention, technical conditions and respect for the rule of law.

Asked whether Croatia met these conditions, he only said that "we're still waiting for a report" from the European Commission, and that it was a question for the Interior Ministry.

Blok said the Netherlands wanted to be fair in deciding on any expansion of the Schengen zone and wanted to assess whether the border control procedures were adequate. It will be very strict in this assessment, he added.

The Netherlands will treat every application, including from Croatia, consistently and fairly, and it will not be a political judgement, but a judgement on whether the country is ready to protect the external border, he said.

Cerar and Blok also confirmed that Slovenia and the Netherlands had very good economic relations, with the latter being one of Slovenia's key trade partners, with trade exceeding EUR 1.6 billion annually.

The country is the sixth largest investor in Slovenia and Cerar also pointed to Slovenia's wish to get connected in many fields, adding that development in the fields of artificial intelligence and energy would be supported.

Cerar also told Blok that integration of the Western Balkans in the EU was one of Slovenia's foreign policy goals and one of the priorities for the country's EU presidency in the second half of 2021.

Slovenia advocates for EU accession talks to start with North Macedonia and Albania, Cerar said, adding that the Western Balkan countries should be assisted in gradually entering the EU by implementing reforms and meeting all criteria.

As for other EU presidency priorities, he said Slovenia would advocate common European values, in particular sustainable development, and green and circular economy, where the Netherlands is a "champion".

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