Cerar finds EU enlargement increasingly likely


Speaking at an event on the Western Balkans organised by the Institute for Strategic Studies, Cerar said the region should be given the prospect of an EU future.

"I'm increasingly optimistic about enlargement, even if we had some bitter moments last year," he said in Ljubljana on Tuesday.

Given that most of EU members are in favour of enlargement, he hopes a solution will be found in the first half of the year for North Macedonia and Albania.

He warned against repeating last year's mistake of not opening the EU doors to the two candidates. "The EU did not keep its promise, we disappointed people in these countries."

Despite the complexity of the enlargement process, Cerar cannot imagine part of the EU family to remain outside the EU in the long term.

In the opposite case, the countries in the region could be lost to the benefit of Russia, Turkey and China, which are already spreading their influence in the region.

Cerar reiterated Slovenia would continue to support enlargement. "We have to use the opportunity in 2021 when we chair the EU."

He admitted it was hard to predict what the situation would be in a year and a half, but Slovenia will do all in its power to encourage both sides to pursue enlargement.

Before attending the event, Cerar had an informal meeting with former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.

The pair discussed the formation of the new Austrian government, the situation in the region, and Slovenia-Austria cooperation in the Year of Dialogue.

The situation in the Middle East in the wake of the US killing of Iranian Qasem Soleimani in Iraq was also discussed.

Kneissl also took part in the event on the Western Balkans, stressing the EU should become a geopolitical power.

She believes it will be clear whether it becomes one at Friday's extraordinary session of EU foreign ministers.