Ljubljana – President Borut Pahor received on Tuesday his Latvian counterpart Egils Levits, who is in Slovenia for a two-day official visit. The pair highlighted the similarity of their views, excellent bilateral relations, and the importance of Europe. They called for EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and the strengthening of the EU.
Pahor noted that he shared very similar views on most issues with Levits. “One of those is the importance of Europe for both countries and the 27 as a whole,” he said, adding they both also wanted the bloc to be more effective.
We agree that “in the current geopolitical situation, Europe must become our global actor, this is inevitable if we are to safeguard our interests,” said Levits, highlighting that the EU should be more “more visible and stronger” both in the world and in its neighbourhood.
The pair’s meeting focused on the Western Balkans, the Eastern Partnership and the EU’s relations with Russia.
They both believe that the situation in the Western Balkans calls for accelerating EU enlargement to the region. “That would not only be good for the development of these countries but also, at this moment, for security and stability itself,” said Pahor, who thinks enlargement should be seen as a peace project.
Levits said they also agreed that the situation in the region was worrying and that “there was a real need for the EU taking action”, highlighting the importance of the Western Balkans getting a clear “membership perspective”.
The presidents stressed the role of the upcoming EU-Western Balkans summit, which will be hosted by the Slovenian EU presidency next week.
Pahor said he “risked making a bold assessment” in describing the situation as a stalemate in the enlargement process. On the part of Western Balkans countries, this undermines confidence in the process, weakens the political will for reform and leads to the rise of nationalisms and a dangerous return to the past, he said.
Europe is obliged to take notice of this situation and the only way to respond to this is to accelerate enlargement efforts, according to Pahor. Moreover, the process should be more political and less about red tape with the region regarded as a whole, he added.
It might therefore be a good idea to invite all the countries of the region to join the bloc at the same time, and perhaps even to take the risk of setting a target date for accession, as this would give “more credibility to the commitment”, the Slovenian president said.
His Latvian counterpart thanked Slovenia for its cooperation in NATO mission Enhanced Forward Presence, which takes place in Latvia. He considers Slovenia’s cooperation “a very important contribution to security of our region and NATO as a whole”.
Levits also thanked the EU and Slovenia for their contribution and full support in protecting and strengthening Latvia’s border with Belarus.
He believes the bilateral relationship between Slovenia and Latvia is “truly excellent, one of the best”. Pahor added there were many things that united the two countries, but what was of paramount importance for both of them was efforts to ensure peace and security.