Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar said in an interview with EURACTIV that the EU needs to change from a wait-and-see attitude “as soon as possible” to a resolution strategy for expansion and the problems of the Western Balkans. He will soon serve as the President of the European Council.
“In recent years, the EU’s strategy for the Western Balkans has been a wait-and-see attitude. Given the impasse in reforms, the EU is not very active in the region,” Loga said, acknowledging that in the past decade, expansion “has been out of the EU’s agenda. “.
“We know what happened is that a third party entered the area and some people started to implement their strategic interests. This shows the vulnerability of the region to the EU, which is strategically dangerous,” Loga said.
His remarks can be seen as an indirect reference to the vaccine and mask diplomacy of China and Russia at the peak of the pandemic, which has raised questions about Europe’s intentions in the region.
“If we [the EU] Don’t fill the vacuum in the Western Balkans, our neighbors, others will. […] In this sense, it is in our best strategic interest to act as soon as possible and integrate these countries into the EU,” he added.
“What we want to change is from the EU’s problem-oriented strategy to a problem-solving strategy,” Logar said, explaining that this would involve thinking about how to encourage and force the government to accelerate reforms.
He emphasized that the expansion process “must be feasible, and these countries should be convinced that if they achieve certain goals, the next step is to expand”, adding that this will specifically refer to the candidate countries Albania and North Macedonia.
In 2019, after France and the Netherlands vetoed the start of membership negotiations due to lack of reform progress in improving democracy and combating corruption, the two countries’ hopes of joining the alliance were frustrated.
Due to disputes over common history, national identity and language, Skopje’s accession negotiations were blocked by EU member Bulgaria in 2020.
Bulgaria’s decision was supported by all political parties in the country, and the current caretaker government has not changed this position so far. The new parliament after early elections in July may change the stakes.
In May of this year, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi proposed to decouple the two and only move on with Albania, but Logar stated that Slovenia “resolutely opposes decoupling”.
“Both countries meet the standards set by the EU to them, and since the EU is based on the rule of law and takes the same measures for everyone, both countries should enter the next stage.”
“We still hope that an agreement can be reached within this week during the Portuguese presidency,” Logar added. Portugal’s six-month term will end on June 30.
Slovenia will organize an informal Western Balkan summit with EU and regional leaders in October.
“We also hope to incorporate the voices of our fellow Western Balkan countries into the debate on the future of Europe,” Logar said.
Earlier this year, a Series of unofficial diplomatic notes The border changes in the Balkans shocked the region and raised concerns about the re-emergence of ethnic tensions in the southeastern corner of Europe.
When asked about the so-called non-documents, Logar reiterated Slovenia’s firm support for the territorial integrity of the Western Balkans, which he said he had discussed with the Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a recent meeting.
Logar said that the Bosnia and Herzegovina case will be the most challenging issue in the region, and he will place “great hope” on the work of the new EU High Representative Christian Schmidt, who recently succeeded Valentin Inz. Section holds this position.
Logar explained that before dealing with Bosnia, “we should resolve some other regional issues to prove that we can achieve results”.
“If we start from North Macedonia and Albania, if the Belgrade-Pristina process makes progress, this will definitely send a very positive message to the region, so we may eventually approach Bosnia more effectively,” he added. . .
When asked about his views on the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo, Logar said that “it’s hard to say where the road of negotiations will go”, but the nomination of EU Special Representative Miroslav Rajčak shows that the EU has not committed this matter. Set aside. .
Last week, EU Chief Diplomat Joseph Borrell (Joseph Borrell) announced a 14-page proposal on a new strategy for EU-Russian relations, detailing how to “counter, restrict and engage” with Moscow. Diplomats said it might be difficult to reach an agreement on a joint position among the 27 EU nations, which will soon emerge.
When asked how he viewed the development of EU-Russia relations during his country’s presidency, Logar admitted that “relationships are indeed not very good”.
He said: “The EU should speak with a single voice. Before taking the next step, we should have a thorough discussion on our position.”
“During my visit to Moscow, I expressed my expectations, especially the fourth and fifth principles-cooperation in areas of mutual interest such as climate change and civil relations-should be used on a large scale,” he added Say.
When asked if he is satisfied with the EU’s current sanctions policy, Logar said that he “cannot be satisfied with the results”, which is why EU leaders should revisit and discuss this matter more closely.
He said: “If you ask me whether our weight is higher or lower than our weight, the answer is that our common intention-Mr. Borrell, our leaders and ministers-is that our goal is to exceed our weight. Our weight, but we still have to get there,” he said. .
Regarding China, Logar said that the pandemic “has shown and proved that we have become too dependent on Beijing.”
He added: “There is an imbalance between EU member states in terms of foreign trade with China, and there are different views on the importance of relations, and the EU should be treated equally.”