Pahor endorses Ukraine and W Balkans’ EU future at SEECP forum

Thessaloniki – President Borut Pahor stressed that “we must not leave Ukraine in the lurch” and urged EU enlargement to the Western Balkans as he addressed the annual summit of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Thessaloniki on Friday. He attended the summit upon the invitation of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Pahor said that the war in Ukraine and the situation in the Western Balkans were two reasons for which this year’s SEECP meeting was more important than last year’s.

“I think we all want the war to end as soon as possible and for the conflicts to be resolved peacefully. But I think it’s important to be reminded that this must be done in such a way that Ukraine is not left in the lurch.” He also said that “a great moral burden” was hanging over Russia as a result of the invasion.

Pahor repeated his idea to give Bosnia-Herzegovina the EU candidate status as soon as possible and only then expect the country to carry out certain reforms.

He believes this would take Bosnia-Herzegovina, the only Western Balkan country without this status, “out of the vicious circle”. It would change the dynamics in the country and give people new hope for a European future.

Pahor floated this idea a few weeks ago as he attended the Sarajevo Business Forum, and discussed it today with Šefik Džaferović, the chairman of the collective Bosnian presidency. He will also discuss it with European Council President Charles Michel next week at a forum in North Macedonia.

He believes that one should take advantage of the European Council’s summit at the end of June to “accelerate the process of obtaining status for Ukraine, and bring the Western Balkans into this context”.

Pahor also talked about the importance of NATO’s possible further enlargement to the Western Balkans, stressing this applies only to countries that wish to join NATO.

On the sidelines of the summit, Pahor met Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis, discussing Ukraine, the Western Balkans and EU enlargement, and global security situation.

The pair condemned the Russian aggression against Ukraine, as they also discussed the EU’s response to Russia’s aggression and the consequences the EU sanctions.

Pahor and Mitsotakis also agreed that the security situation in the Western Balkans could deteriorate quickly. Both believe the EU could be more active in the region.

Pahor also met Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, who will visit Slovenia early next month. The pair mostly discussed the situation in the Western Balkans.

Osmani outlined some of the reforms Kosovo has implemented, presented Kosovo’s candidacy for Council of Europe membership, and asked for support as her country bids for membership of NATO’s Partnership for Peace.

Pahor is also expected to meet Moldova President Maia Sandu and Montenegro President Milo Đukanović.