STA, 23 November 2019 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor attended in Novi Sad on Saturday a youth forum of the Western Balkans with his Serbian and North Macedonian counterparts, Aleksandar Vučić and Stevo Pendarovski. He expressed support in his address to enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans and the initiative for the so-called "mini Schengen" zone.
Addressing young leaders from the Western Balkans, Pahor said he was a friend of the region, a "big advocate of a strong and integrated EU, its enlargement, first and foremost to the Western Balkan countries."
He told them that they had the right for "such relationships between people and nations in the region to continue to ensure peace and security. You are the most important factor of the future of this region," Pahor was quoted by his office.
The Slovenian president endorsed the efforts to create the so-called "mini Schengen" zone in the region as an idea based on cooperation and mutual trust. He believes that it may succeed only if trust and respect between the countries in the region is strengthened.
It was on the initiative of Serbia's Vučić that Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania signed an agreement to establish a joint market with free flow of goods, services, capital and people.
"The so-called mini Schengen is something fresh, it inspires hope that the time of the entry in the European community, despite the enlargement slowing down, will not be missed in these countries," Pahor said.
He sees the initiative as precious, as it puts an emphasis on cooperation and strengthens trust, which he believes countries in the region need to implement reforms faster and resolve open bilateral issues more successfully.
Pahor stressed that the initiative was not an alternative to joining the EU, but that it should be understood as complementary to the European vision of the region.
"Values which are also the values of the EU need to be developed in the region: reconciliation, coexistence, cooperation and respecting differences between us and emphasising what is common to us."
Pahor also took advantage of the visit to Novi Sad to hold bilateral meetings with Pendarovski and Vučić.
The office of the North Macedonian president said that Pahor and Pendarovski had agreed that bilateral relations, which were based on friendship and understanding, were excellent.
They talked about how to further improve cooperation, the North Macedonian press agency Mia reported, adding that Pendarovski had thanked Slovenia for its open support for North Macedonia on its way to the EU and NATO, and that there was no alternative to the EU membership.
The three-day event, which will conclude on Saturday, is being attended by more than 200 young people from the region, who are discussing topical issues and challenges as part of panels with presidents, prime ministers and mayors.
According to the Serbian press agency Tanjug, the mayors' panel was attended by Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković and Novi Sad Mayor Miloš Vučević, who announced that the Serbian city would officially endorse Ljubljana's bid for the European Capital of Culture title.