Ljubljana related

28 Sep 2021, 10:14 AM

STA, 27 September 2021 - Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič hosted a meeting of parliamentary speakers from the Western Balkans on Monday, saying that the EU must give the region a clear signal on when it could expect EU accession. The speakers of the Serbian and Montenegrin parliaments also called for more clarity regarding the EU enlargement.

Speaking to the press after the high-level meeting in Brdo pri Kranju, Zorčič said that the aim was to keep the process of the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans on the table and to facilitate it.

He noted that the "process has not only been stalled, but it has even turned into the wrong direction".

According to Zorčič, the parliaments of certain Western Balkan countries do not see the EU and getting closer to the bloc as their future, and some countries have given up on waiting for signals to come from the EU.

On the other hand, they continue making the necessary reforms and thus it is of "utmost importance that the EU gives the countries a clear signal on when they can accept the accession," he added.

Zorčič feels that the signals coming from the EU do not encourage trust in the enlargement process in the countries in the regions.

"It is important that Slovenia, as an EU member state that has historical connections with the Western Balkan countries and knows about this region, maintains the debate and even upgrades it in this direction," he added.

President of the National Assembly of Serbia Ivica Dačić agreed, saying that the EU needed to say when it would accept the Western Balkan countries, noting that the region deserved an honest attitude.

President of the Parliament of Montenegro Aleksa Bečić noted that there was no alternative to the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, and he demanded an answer from the EU as to whether this process is still alive.

The EU could show this in the case of Montenegro, he said, adding that the EU membership of the country would serve as a motivating factor for other countries in the region.

The meeting was also attended by the parliamentary speakers from Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia and the vice-president of the Albanian Parliament. The speakers of the Parliament of Kosovo has excused himself, Zorčič said.

The speakers adopted a joint statement with which they will acquaint the speakers of parliaments of the EU member states as they meet next year for a conference in Slovenia, Zorčič said.

The participants were addressed beforehand by President Borut Pahor, Foreign Minister Anže Logar and Foreign Policy Committee chair Monika Gregorčič.

Pahor said that Slovenia had always been an advocate of the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, and called for multilateral cooperation between the countries in the region to be strengthened, the president's office said.

In the afternoon, the meeting will continue with a talk with young people from Slovenia and the Western Balkans as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The EU enlargement to the Western Balkans is one of the priorities of the Slovenian presidency of the EU Council, as part of which an EU-Western Balkans summit will be hosted next week.

Pahor expressed the hope that the summit would bring en encouragement for the enlargement process, while noting the mutual responsibility of both parties.

"The EU must keep the enlargement to the Western Balkans as a priority, and the Western Balkan countries must implement the necessary reforms in order to develop," the president was quoted by his office.

Logar expressed the expectation that Western Balkan countries will continue with reforms and said the EU could not be a successful global player without successfully integrating the Western Balkans and a stabilisation of its eastern and southern neighbourhood, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The meeting ended with a joint declaration which underlines the need to once again put the enlargement process high on the EU agenda and states that the EU must remain the first choice of strategic partner by the Western Balkans.

The speakers also called for greater solidarity in addressing common challenges and for an improvement of the situation of youths in the region.

12 Jun 2021, 07:23 AM

STA, 11 June 2021 - Former Slovenian President Milan Kučan believes the government declassifying a 2011 document on possible further paths in the process of constitutional reform of Bosnia-Herzegovina, compiled by him, is a move to divert attention from the allegations that PM Janez Janša was spreading a non-paper on re-drawing of borders in the Western Balkans.

Janša Denies Promoting Break-Up of Bosnia Along Ethnic Lines as Islamist Group Protests in Sarajevo

"I understand the government's decision to remove the confidentiality label from the document as diverting attention from the reproaches to the prime minister about disseminating a non-paper on the changing of borders in South-east Europe," Kučan told the STA on Friday.

This comes after the government said on Thursday it had declassified a document dated 26 January 2011 on "possible further paths for a successful process of the constitutional reform of Bosnia-Herzegovina".

In the announcement, the Government Communication Office (UKOM) noted that the document had been created based on a decision of the government that had been in office at the time.

It was the government of Borut Pahor (2008-2011) that appointed Slovenia's first President Milan Kučan as its special rapporteur on Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2010.

According to Kučan, the document has already been published in a book by historian Božo Repe, and "is no secret".

The document published on the government website today is indeed identical to the document published in the book mentioned by Kučan. And it is not the document that the news portal Necenzurirano released in April claiming that this was the non-paper attributed to Slovenia.

It is, however, not yet clear whether this is the document the government refers to as the STA is still waiting for government approval to access the document.

The government said yesterday that, "considering that the content of the document has for the most part been publicly known for several weeks, the conditions required for this document to retain the classified status no longer exist."

This is probably a reference to the content of the document possibly being similar to that of the alleged non-paper on border changes in the Western Balkans.

Kučan told the STA that he had prepared the report for the Borut Pahor government at the time as the prime minister was to speak about Bosnia-Herzegovina at a session of the European Council.

"In it I speak mostly about the EU needing to show more interest in Bosnia-Herzegovina which is, as I wrote, a non-functioning state, to bring it back on its feet so that it is capable of negotiating conditions for the EU accession," he added.

Kučan stressed that his report could by no means be compared with the controversial non-paper that allegedly speaks about new borders in the Western Balkans. It has been informally labelled as Slovenian as certain media reported that Janša had helped disseminate it, which the prime minister denies.

"There is not a single word in my document about changing borders," the former president said, adding that the government's move was about diverting attention from the non-paper, the discussion about which could not be concluded in such a way.

"I said about the non-paper in an interview with a Bosnian TV station ... that the prime minister of my country denies this and if he says so, then we probably should believe this," Kučan added.

Pahor, who currently serves his second term as the president of the republic, also took issue with the government declassifying the document, saying that it should have stayed confidential.

"This report is not intended for public, but for political decision-makers and I think that it should have remained such," he told the press as he visited the Muslim Cultural Centre in Ljubljana today.

The president noted that it was a document with a title, date and signatory, and that he had asked Kučan to compile it as it had been expected from Slovenia in a debate on Bosnia to have "special knowledge given its experience about the topic."

28 Apr 2021, 12:36 PM

STA, 27 April 2021 - Foreign Minister Anže Logar said the "phantom non-paper" on Western Balkans that some media attributed to Slovenia does not exist and discussion on that damaged Slovenia as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina, at a debate by the foreign policy and EU affairs committees late on Monday.

The minister reiterated that Slovenia's strategy to Western Balkans had not changed. On the contrary, Slovenia has invested additional efforts since the preparation of an EU-Western Balkans was a major priority for Slovenia's upcoming EU presidency.

"Nobody, and I mean nobody, expects that opposition politicians will denigrate the country in Slovenia just so that they will somehow harm the country this way. This simply does not exist in a developed democratic mentality."

The statement came at a joint session requested by the opposition in the aftermath of media reports that Prime Minister Janez Janša had circulated a non-paper that spoke about the redrawing of borders along ethnic lines in the Balkans.

The MPs wanted Janša, who has dismissed the notion that he had anything to do with the published non-paper, to appear live, but he did not attend, quoting other obligations.

President Borut Pahor's foreign policy advisor Smiljana Knez told MPs the president had dedicated a lot of attention to the region for years and was an advocate of he preservation of territorial integrity of countries in the region and the resolution of disputes between them in a neighbourly spirit.

She said Pahor had been warning regional leaders and EU institutions that EU enlargement may not be just a technical process, it should be framed geopolitically.

Knez reiterated Pahor's statement that the president had not been informed of any non-paper concerning Western Balkans that had been the subject of media reports.

Jerneje Jug Jerše, the head of the European Commission's Liaison Office in Slovenia, said the European Commission did not have knowledge about informl documents concerning Western Balkans.

EU officials in general have denied having knowledge of such a non-paper, most recently the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who said yesterday he had not received such a document but had heard about it, adding that this was "a non-issue".

The same message was delivered by Janez Stušek, the director of the Slovenian intelligence agency SOVA, who said the agency did not have information about the existence of an alleged non-paper that is being linked to the Slovenian government.

The agency started checking certain activities concerning this document after it was published in the media, in particular the potential consequences thereof for bilateral relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina and the upcoming EU presidency.

According to Stušek, the agency did not have information indicating that the publication of the document posed a threat to Slovenia's national security, but it assessed that if the alleged non-paper continues to be linked to Slovenia, this could jeopardise its security, economic and political interests in the region.

The story broke non 12 April when a Bosnian portal, politički.ba, published a piece alleging that a non-paper attributed to Slovenia exists.

A Slovenian portal, necenzurirano.si, on 15 April published a document that speaks about redrawing borders. It said its authorship could not be verified.

Logar said that the author of the original article had sold weapons and had been involved in a Bosnian scandal involving medical ventilators.

The Government Communications Office last week issued a denial concerning Slovenian authorship of the alleged non-paper that was circulated to media in the region.

19 Apr 2021, 12:14 PM
Updated 18:20

STA, 19 April 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has condemned extremism after members of a radical Islamist group in Bosnia and Herzegovina protested in front of the Slovenian embassy in Sarajevo Sunday over an alleged non-paper linked to Slovenia that speaks about the breakup of Bosnia along ethnic lines.

"Slovenian and other extremists who sow chaos are only causing damage," he said on Twitter after noting that Slovenia had stopped dealing with the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, when it became independent.

"We wish peace, progress and EU perspective to the remaining countries left on its territory," he said Sunday evening in response to news of the protests.

Media reports suggest a few dozen members of the movement Religion, Nation, Country (Vera, narod, država), formed by a radical cleric, gathered in front of the Slovenian embassy in Sarajevo chanting "Bosnia".

The rally came in the aftermath of multiple media reports implying that Slovenia had circulated a non-paper in the EU on the redrawing of borders in the former Yugoslavia.

In talks with a member of the Bosnian presidency on Friday, Janša said there was no non-paper containing border changes or efforts to undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina's territorial integrity that could be linked with the Slovenian government.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama confirmed the existence of a non-paper in a TV appearance on Saturday. While he did not say this non-paper was authored by Slovenia, he said he had discussed it with Janša a while ago.

"I have seen the document and discussed it ... with the Slovenian prime minister," he said, adding that he would not comment further on that.

Responding to Rama's statement, Janša tweeted that "we have not discussed any maps of a divided Bosnia, neither with the Albanian PM nor with anyone else."

"The last time I had in front of me a map of a divided BiH was during a visit to the Pentagon in 1993, when we were looking for solutions to stop the armed conflict."

Foreign Minister Anže Logar also commented on Rama's statement as he spoke to the press after today's online meeting of EU foreign ministers, advising journalists to carefully read it once again; he said Rama's words were better subtitled or translated on commercial broadcaster POP TV than on public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.

What Rama said is just that he had discussed the issue of the Western Balkans with Janša, which is logical, said Logar, adding that reviving a debate on the alleged non-paper benefited neither Bosnia-Herzegovina nor Slovenia. The debate is in fact "very harmful to Slovenia".

"In this respect everyone should see for themselves what is more in their interest - to engage in political propaganda or make the best they can for Slovenia to do its EU presidency well and achieve progress in the Western Balkans field."

He believes those engaging in "spreading non-truths and half-truths" should ask themselves what consequences that could have. He pointed to the Sarajevo protest, which brought together extremists, while groups demanding a boycott of Slovenian goods are emerging online.

The minister said that both Prime Minister Janša and President Borut Pahor had denied the existence of any such document, so he had nothing to add to that.

He however avoided answering directly the question about Slovenia's stances on changing the borders in the Western Balkans when asked whether Slovenia agreed with the solutions in the alleged non-paper.

He said Slovenia's stance is very clear - it wants to do all in its power to achieve progress towards the EU as fast as possible under the condition that Western Balkan countries met membership criteria. As part of its EU presidency, Slovenia also wants to highlight the strategic importance the region's integration in the EU has.

As for the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue, Logar said the five EU members which had not yet recognised Kosovo said clearly that a solution which both sides would agree with would mean the reason for non-recognition had been eliminated. Logar said he did not wish to speculate any further, leaving diplomacy to do its job.

He said any statement would be premature and could harm the dialogue between the two entities, but hailed the fact that both Kosovo and Serbia had strong governments, while adding that no progress could be made without the US and EU's consent.

More stories on Slovenia and the Western Balkans

17 Apr 2021, 15:13 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 16 April 2021. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Creation of instability in Balkans trap for EU

STA, 16 April 2021 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its editorial on Friday that the Balkan border redrawing idea is a trap for the EU set by a coalition of countries trying to gain more power. The weekly hopes that this time, Brussels and EU member states will respond correctly, unlike in the past when they continued to give in to the likes of Hungarian PM Orban.

"Even though it seems that the non-paper about Slovenia's view of the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina still has not been found... everything is clear. Foreign Minister Anže Logar admitted an alliance had emerged between Zagreb, Belgrade and Ljubljana," writes Mladina's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž.

Leaders of the three countries are clearly talking about the future of Bosnia, but without representatives of the country itself, the weekly says, illustrating Croatia's and Serbia's interests in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"But the bigger picture is more important." Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece, all Orthodox countries, have also joined the initiative. "And above all Hungary. So what is Ljubljana doing in this company?"

There is a clear plan behind all of this: a way to set up an illiberal European alliance. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the circle he built around himself are laying a trap for the EU by creating the threat of instability in the Balkans.

Mladina speculates under the headline Trap that Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely behind this. "This is an alliance of interests, not of political love." But the interests are not geo-strategic, Putin wants power to put pressure on and destabilise Europe, just like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been doing, using Syria.

However, the EU has not yet come to realise truly how dangerous a politician Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša is. Nobody is truly worried about Slovenia's upcoming EU presidency, they still believe that he can be reckoned with, that he can be controlled. "How willingly do European politicians repeat this mistake!"

But Janša is no longer a lone rider from a small country, he is a part of a bigger game now. Owing to his political debt toward Orban, he will likely be the one through whom the game will be played out in the coming months, a game that can end poorly for the EU.

In the past, the EU has bought peace from such problems and politicians with money, only allowing them to grow stronger. Now, they are using Bosnia-Herzegovina to lay a trap for the EU, not to destroy it but to benefit from it - to get money and have peace while they undermine democracy in their countries. Bosnia is only a victim in this game.

The weekly hopes that this creation of instability in the Balkans will be a wake-up call for Europe.

"They should think back to what Erdogan did to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when she visited last week. He did it because he could. Next time such a demonstration of power can happen to her in Europe," the paper says in reference to a situation when von der Leyen was left without a chair in a meeting.

Reporter: DeSUS Has Nothing to Offer Rebel MPs

STA, 12 April - The right-wing magazine Reporter reflects on the latest row between the leadership of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and its rebel MPs, finding the party has nothing left to offer to the MPs.

Under the headline Fight, the weekly says Franc Jurša, the head of the DeSUS deputy faction, is right in a way when he says he does not deserve to be spanked with a stick after interim party leader Brigita Čokl raised her voice against misbehaving MPs.

"His and the conduct of other DeSUS MPs [...] is not mischievous. The mature men know well what they are doing and are not ignoring the party or making it problems out of mischief [...].

"The party has got nothing left to offer to the trio who are determined to survive the remaining year and a few months in parliament and then leave active politics. Voting along the opposition's lines could lead to a snap election, something DeSUS MPs are not ready for as they are not planning to retire before 2022."

The paper goes on to say that the ruling coalition too is trying to discipline DeSUS MPs, noting that Jurša has been accused of 'betraying' the coalition in its attempt to replace Igor Zorčič with Jožef Horvat as the National Assembly speaker, allegedly because Jurša and Horvat dislike each other.

"Consequently there appeared a bizarre allegation that Igor Zorčič would come to put DeSUS in order and take over the party. Why would a politician who quit one dying party, defect to another is not clear to anyone, not least to Zorčič."

The paper does not know how seriously Jurša took the story about Zorčič's arrival, but does know that Jožef Horvat did take the rumour of the dislike between him and Jurša seriously enough to tell several media last week that him and Jurša are not at odds. "And I also get along well with Hungarian MP Ferenc Horvath, Horvat underscored although he was not even asked about that."

All our posts in this series are here

16 Apr 2021, 16:43 PM

STA, 16 April 2021 - President Borut Pahor rejected "naive and dangerous" ideas of redrawing borders in the Western Balkans as he addressed reporters on Friday in response to a non-paper floating the idea, arguing the EU's accelerated enlargement to the region would best to silence such ideas.

Pahor said that "wherever and whenever" he got the opportunity he expressed his resolute support for the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans, arguing it would be best if the EU decided "to include, in a sensibly short time, all Western Balkan countries in the EU and adapt its enlargement strategy accordingly".

While saying that he was regularly calling on leaders in the region to sped up the reform process, Pahor said the slow pace of the enlargement process "is cooling trust" in the European prospects in these countries, which boosted nationalisms and an "increasingly engaged influence" by third countries.

"The EU's faster expansion to the Western Balkans would reduce the significance of naive and dangerous ideas of a redrawing of borders, which due to the complicated situation I believe cannot happen in a peaceful way, which is why I reject all such ideas on changes to borders," Pahor said.

He added that "a faster process of including all Western Balkan countries in the EU would importantly enhance the principle of territorial integrity of the countries, resolution of their bilateral issues and vitally enhance the stability and security of the region and Europe as a whole".

Pahor called the press conference after a Bosnian portal reported that Prime Minister Janez Janša had handed an unofficial document to European Council President Charles Michel in February or March proposing the "finalisation of the breakup of Yugoslavia" as a topic of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU.

The Bosnian media also reported that Željko Komšić, the Croatian member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, had confirmed Pahor had said during his visit to the country in March that voices in Europe were getting louder about the need to finalise the breakup of Yugoslavia, and that he asked whether people in the country were capable of going their own separate ways peacefully.

Asked about the non-paper today, Pahor said he had not been acquainted with the alleged non-paper either before his visit to the country or later, nor had he discussed it with Janša, so his talks in Bosnia-Herzegovina could not be understood as probing the sentiment about the ideas therein.

Explaining on his opposition to the idea of finalising the break-up of Yugoslavia, which he said had appeared before, Pahor said it was naive to expect a redrawing of borders would end peacefully even though it would start that way.

He said he had already expressed his concern about such ideas in September last year in his address to the North Macedonian Parliament, so his words could not be linked to the alleged non-paper that came half a year later.

Pahor would not provide a concrete answer when asked who was spreading ideas on changes to the borders, but he hinted that that kind of ideas had started to gain traction after first such ideas had been discussed by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

Pahor may have been initially inclined in favour of considering ideas of peaceful change to borders in the Western Balkans but later gave them up, also after talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "Such a process, even if begun in good faith, will not end peacefully. There're too many heaped up issues."

Pahor offered the Brdo-Brijuni process, which he initiated, as a show of his own and Slovenia's commitment to the region.

He said his visit to Sarajevo in early March, his seventh as president to the country, was aimed at expressing Slovenia's support for the country's progress on the path to the EU, emphasizing his commitment to the country and its territorial integrity.

He said the visit was also aimed to highlight the significance of reconciliation, something that he said was obviously still too early for.

The non-paper, which among other things proposes for most of the Serb entity of Bosnia-Herzegivina to be annexed by Serbia, the majority-Croatian cantons to Croatia, and for Kosovo to merge with Albania, was released by the Slovenian portal Necenzurirano on Thursday.

It is not clear who authored it, but the portal said its information indicated parts had been written in Budapest.

Janša denied handing the alleged non-paper to Michel, saying he last met him last year. Pahor said today it would be useful if Janša addressed the public on the issue as well.

The opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) today demanded an emergency session of the parliamentary intelligence oversight commission over the potential impact of the non-paper on the security situation with the party's Rudi Medved saying Janša had never denied his involvement in the non-paper's emergence.

Earlier this week, the opposition Social Democrats (SD) have demanded for the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee to quiz Janša and Pahor about the alleged non-paper.

As officials across Europe are expressing their support for keeping borders in the region intact, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) Party urged Slovenian coalition parties and in particular the Modern Centre Party (SMC) as ALDE member to distance themselves "from these divisive plans".

"@ALDEParty is shocked by the irresponsible suggestions to redraw map of the W Balkans [...] @JJansaSDS must stop his divisive policies," tweeted ALDE leader Hans van Baalen.

Janša reacted with a tweet saying: "We are all shocked that @ALDEParty and @hansvanbaalen are spreading this #fakenews story, created in Slovenia by his Slovenian friends for internal political fights". He added a hashtag #embarrassing".

15 Apr 2021, 12:20 PM

STA, 15 April 2021 - The Slovenian online portal Necenzurirano has published a non-paper [ed. a discussion paper which is not to form part of formal business] proposing changes to borders in the Western Balkans that has been raising controversy in recent days. Its authorship remains unclear, however, information available to the portal suggests a part of the document has been written in Budapest.

Speculation about the non-paper was prompted earlier this week as the Bosnian portal politicki.ba alleged that Slovenian Prime Minister Janša Janez had handed an unofficial document to European Council President Charles Michel in February or March proposing "finalisation of the breakup of Yugoslavia" as a topic of the Slovenian presidency.

Janša responded by saying the last time he met Michel was in 2020 and that it would be thus difficult for him to hand anything to him. He added that Slovenia was "seriously looking for solutions for the region's development and the EU prospects of the Western Balkan countries".


The Foreign Ministry said the only non-paper on the Western Balkans Slovenia had signed on to was the one drawn up by Croatia late last year to call for Bosnia-Herzegovina to become an EU accession candidate as soon as it meets the criteria.

Repeating that at Wednesday's session of the Foreign Policy Committee, Foreign Minister Anže Logar also assured MPs there had been no change to Slovenia's strategy on the Western Balkans.

The European Commission has said it is not aware of the alleged non-paper and its position on the borders in the region is very clear that there is nothing to be changed.

The non-paper entitled Western Balkans - a Way Forward was released today by the portal Necenzurirano, which says Michel's office received the writing in February past official diplomatic post.

Since the non-paper has no heading or signature it is not clear who has written it, but sources have assured the portal it has not emerged at the Slovenian Foreign Ministry.

"Some information indicates that part of the content has been written in Budapest. Nevertheless, it is referred to in Brussels diplomatic circles as a 'Slovenian' non-paper as allegedly the Janša office has been involved in its mailing to various addresses," writes the portal.

The non-paper says the main issue in the region is the "unresolved issues of Serbs, Albanians and Croatians" in the wake of Yugoslavia's breakup.

"Based on the existing methods and rhythm of problem solving, it is difficult to imagine the European perspective of Serbia and Kosovo, and membership for Bosnia and Herzegovina is fully excluded," reads the non-paper.

It says Turkey has taken advantage of the situation to enhance its influence in Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia, and that except for Turkey and few local politicians who personally benefit from the chaotic situation no one is happy with the situation in the country.

As a solution the non-paper proposes a unification of Kosovo and Albania, while the Serbian part of Kosovo be granted a special status modelled on South Tyrol.

The non-paper also proposes joining most of Republika Srpska with Serbia, which would make Serbia willing to agree to Kosovo's joining Albania.

The "Croatian national issue" would be resolved by "joining the predominately Croatian cantons of Bosnia and Herzegovina with Croatia or by granting a special status to the Croatian part of Bosnia and Herzegovina", again applying the model of South Tyrol.

"Bosniaks will thus gain an independently functioning state and assume full responsibility for it," reads the non-paper, proposing for people to decide in a referendum between joining the EU or a non-EU future (Turkey).

02 Jun 2020, 09:03 AM

STA, 1 June 2020 - Slovenia is assuming on 1 June the one-year chairmanship of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative and of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR). The main focus of the country's chairmanship of both platforms will be green cooperation, the Western Balkans, and EU enlargement.

Foreign Minister Anže Logar presented the priorities during last week's videoconference with the foreign ministers from all participating countries.

He said Slovenia would strive for the "recovery from Covid-19 to be a green recovery".

He finds it key that the participating EU member states insist on their commitment that joint macro-regional priorities of strategic importance for the Adriatic and Ionian region are considered when funds from the new EU financial perspective are allocated.

He also announced Slovenia would make an effort for the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, entailing its meeting the EU's decarbonisation targets, to be implemented.

A special focus will be given to continuing the EU enlargement process, so Logar said he was happy Albania and North Macedonia were starting their EU accession talks.

Logar believes that Slovenia's chairmanship of the two initiatives is an introduction to its presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2021.

This is Slovenia's third stint at the helm of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative, coming after 2003-2004 and 2012-2013, and the first EUSAIR chairmanship.

The Initiative brings together nine countries, apart from Slovenia also Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

It was formed in May 2000 in Italy's Ancona, with Slovenia one of its six co-founding members.

Slovenia takes part is another two of the EU's four strategic macro-regions designed to promote cooperation between the EU and the regions, namely in the initiatives for the Alpine and Danube regions.

EUSAIR meanwhile brings together Slovenia, Italy, Croatia and Greece as EU members, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania as EU candidates or aspiring countries. Its four pillars are blue growth, environment, tourism, and transport and energy.

24 Nov 2019, 11:42 AM

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.

04 Sep 2019, 10:29 AM

STA, 3 September 2019 - The traditional high-profile panel on the Western Balkans at the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) on Tuesday heard the participants note that it was high time for the countries of the region to join the EU as they were making serious progress, and that the EU should not forget about the region while dealing with internal issues.

The debate initially revolved around the appointment of Matthew Palmer of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs of the US Department of State as a special envoy to the Western Balkans.

Palmer told the panel that what the US had done was "demonstrate responsiveness to the demands by partners and allies who have told us that we are not sufficiently engaged with the Western Balkans".

According to him, the US supports the goals of helping North Macedonia and Albania open EU membership negotiations, facilitate dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, and supporting deep reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina for the benefit of all its people.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić first half-jokingly said he "expected nothing" from Palmer, but then added that the appointment was a sign that the US wanted to have a clearer presence in the region.

"It is certain that he will have a lot of work and his term should last until the relationship between Belgrade and Prishtina gets resolved," Dačić said, adding that Serbia would try to be efficient and constructive in the talks with Kosovo.

According to him, Serbia supports visa liberalisation for Kosovo and opening of EU accession negotiations for North Macedonia and Albania. He admitted that the leaders in the region should express more solidarity among each other.

This was a good point of reference for Kosovo Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli, who admitted that the responsibility was on the shoulders of the region and that constructive relations with the neighbours should be established.

But he also lamented the fact that Kosovo "remains the only place deprived of the opportunity for its people to travel into the Schengen area without time-consuming, expensive and degrading procedures".

Pacolli also stressed the importance of peace, saying that "Serbia and Kosovo need peace immediately", while adding that "we need someone who knows to talk a little bit loud to us" in reference to Palmer.

From the perspective of a country that has made the biggest progress, Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srđan Darmanović said that "we are clearly frontrunners in the process" but that the region would be a "success story only when all of us get in there".

He hopes that North Macedonia and Albania are given a chance in October and the EU accession talks start as they have worked hard towards this goal. "We also expect from the EU to know what to do in the Western Balkans."

According to Darmanović, it is high time for this as the negotiations had stalled. "We can understand there are some serious issues in the EU, including Brexit and the rise of populist parties", but the EU should not forget about the Western Balkans.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov expressed the frustration for his country "losing almost a generation" while being frozen in the status of a candidate country, while making a huge progress and recently making a name deal with Greece.

"We have reached a compromise, something very European, and something that is very rare in the region," he said, adding that it was thus high time to start the accession talks instead of discussing historical disputes as the young people were leaving the country.

"If Europe fails us this year, then I'm afraid there is no European perspective any more," Dimitrov added, arguing that the message from the people would be that "we should not bother resolving difficult issues".

Speaking on behalf of Albania as a former minister and MP, Majlinda Bregu of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) said in reference to the Western Balkans' progress in EU accession that "I feel that we are mired in gloom every time we try to take a step forward".

She believes that the "EU will not be enlarged with the Western Balkans, but be completed with the Western Balkans", and that "nobody has the luxury to lose time any more", as people are leaving the region.

The point that the region was approaching a critical moment was also stressed by Foreign Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina Igor Crnadak, who said that the EU needed to "understand that this process needs to be completed; it is so natural, so normal".

"It's high time that we understand that we are at a some kind of a turning point," he said, while expressing the frustration that his country had not been able to form a government ten months after the election.

But Crnadak nevertheless noted that there was one positive thing, with the European idea being very much alive among the people, who believe that the rule of law as well as security would be enhanced with the country's EU accession.

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