EU answer to W Balkan issues, Pahor tells Munich conference

Munich – President Borut Pahor took part in a panel debate on the Western Balkans at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, arguing the EU enlargement process should be stepped up and offering the EU as the answer to all the issues troubling the region.

According to a press release from his office, Pahor warned against underestimating the situation in the region, as he said there were certain worrying processes which should be noticed soon enough and addressed.

He identified three major problem issues at the moment; the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the stalled Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue and Bulgaria’s blocking North Macedonia’s EU accession talks.

Pahor supported Open Balkan, an initiative launched by Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia in a bid to replicate the Schengen zone’s free flow of people, capital and goods, but said it was not nor should it be an alternative to the EU.

He believes other countries in the region could join the initiative, which he sees as a way for further cooperation in the region.

The debate also featured Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turković, Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman, Miroslav Lajčak, the EU special representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, and Christian Schmidt, the high representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In Munich today, Pahor also met Amy Klobuchar, the US senator of Slovenian descent. They agreed Klobuchar will be the keynote speaker at Slovenian-American Friendship Day this year as the countries mark 30 years of diplomatic ties.

Foreign Minister Anže Logar also took part in the debate on the future of relations between the EU and the Western Balkans. He said the strategic importance of the relationship for the bloc and countries in the region should not be neglected.

The key is to resolve issues stemming from the past that hamper more effective and ambitious cooperation in the future, including the EU enlargement process, said Logar as reported by the Foreign Ministry.

Debates at the Munich Security Conference were shaped mainly by the tense security situation in and around Ukraine. The most senior officials of countries and international organisations were united in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and in condemning Russia’s actions that threaten Ukraine’s, Europe’s and international security, noted the ministry.

Logar also joined in a debate on challenges to democracy and human rights in the digital age, emphasizing that digital society too should be democratic and safe and based on the rule of law and human rights.

He called for responsibility in the rapid development of artificial intelligence, which should be human-centred and focused on human rights both with regard to the right to privacy and data protection, as well as hate speech, disinformation and cybercrime.

Logar held a series of meetings in Munich, including with his counterparts from Iceland, Mongolia, Jordan and Somalia, according to posts on the Foreign Ministry’s Twitter profile.

Ahead of his visit to India he discussed concrete bilateral projects with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and the security situation surrounding Ukraine topped his talks with Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani where Logar reiterated Slovenia’s full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Munich Security Conference was also attended by Defence Minister Matej Tonin, who discussed ways to boost bilateral defence and military cooperation with German officials on the sidelines of the event.

In talks with his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht on the sidelines of the NATO ministerial in Brussels they noted good cooperation between the two armed forces, in particular in international missions.

In Munich he talked with Siemtje Möller, the parliamentary state secretary in the German Defence Ministry, about the potential to upgrade cooperation, the Defence Ministry said.