Pahor rejects “naive and dangerous” ideas of redrawing W Balkan borders

Ljubljana – President Borut Pahor rejected “naive and dangerous” ideas of redrawing borders in the Western Balkans as he addressed reporters on Friday in response to a non-paper floating the idea, arguing the EU’s accelerated enlargement to the region would best to silence such ideas.

Pahor said that “wherever and whenever” he got the opportunity he expressed his resolute support for the EU’s enlargement to the Western Balkans, arguing it would be best if the EU decided “to include, in a sensibly short time, all Western Balkan countries in the EU and adapt its enlargement strategy accordingly”.

While saying that he was regularly calling on leaders in the region to sped up the reform process, Pahor said the slow pace of the enlargement process “is cooling trust” in the European prospects in these countries, which boosted nationalisms and an “increasingly engaged influence” by third countries.

“The EU’s faster expansion to the Western Balkans would reduce the significance of naive and dangerous ideas of a redrawing of borders, which due to the complicated situation I believe cannot happen in a peaceful way, which is why I reject all such ideas on changes to borders,” Pahor said.

He added that “a faster process of including all Western Balkan countries in the EU would importantly enhance the principle of territorial integrity of the countries, resolution of their bilateral issues and vitally enhance the stability and security of the region and Europe as a whole”.

Pahor called the press conference after a Bosnian portal reported that Prime Minister Janša Janez had handed an unofficial document to European Council President Charles Michel in February or March proposing the “finalisation of the breakup of Yugoslavia” as a topic of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU.

The Bosnian media also reported that Željko Komšić, the Croatian member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, had confirmed Pahor had said during his visit to the country in March that voices in Europe were getting louder about the need to finalise the breakup of Yugoslavia, and that he asked whether people in the country were capable of going their own separate ways peacefully.

Asked about the non-paper today, Pahor said he had not been acquainted with the alleged non-paper either before his visit to the country or later, nor had he discussed it with Janša, so his talks in Bosnia-Herzegovina could not be understood as probing the sentiment about the ideas therein.

Explaining on his opposition to the idea of finalising the break-up of Yugoslavia, which he said had appeared before, Pahor said it was naive to expect a redrawing of borders would end peacefully even though it would start that way.

He said he had already expressed his concern about such ideas in September last year in his address to the North Macedonian Parliament, so his words could not be linked to the alleged non-paper that came half a year later.

Pahor would not provide a concrete answer when asked who was spreading ideas on changes to the borders, but he hinted that that kind of ideas had started to gain traction after first such ideas had been discussed by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

Pahor may have been initially inclined in favour of considering ideas of peaceful change to borders in the Western Balkans but later gave them up, also after talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “Such a process, even if begun in good faith, will not end peacefully. There’re too many heaped up issues.”

Pahor offered the Brdo-Brijuni process, which he initiated, as a show of his own and Slovenia’s commitment to the region.

He said his visit to Sarajevo in early March, his seventh as president to the country, was aimed at expressing Slovenia’s support for the country’s progress on the path to the EU, emphasizing his commitment to the country and its territorial integrity.

He said the visit was also aimed to highlight the significance of reconciliation, something that he said was obviously still too early for.

The non-paper, which among other things proposes for most of the Serb entity of Bosnia-Herzegivina to be annexed by Serbia, the majority-Croatian cantons to Croatia, and for Kosovo to merge with Albania, was released by the Slovenian portal Necenzurirano on Thursday.

It is not clear who authored it, but the portal said its information indicated parts had been written in Budapest.

Janša denied handing the alleged non-paper to Michel, saying he last met him last year. Pahor said today it would be useful if Janša addressed the public on the issue as well.

The opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) today demanded an emergency session of the parliamentary intelligence oversight commission over the potential impact of the non-paper on the security situation with the party’s Rudi Medved saying Janša had never denied his involvement in the non-paper’s emergence.

Earlier this week, the opposition Social Democrats (SD) have demanded for the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee to quiz Janša and Pahor about the alleged non-paper.

As officials across Europe are expressing their support for keeping borders in the region intact, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) Party urged Slovenian coalition parties and in particular the Modern Centre Party (SMC) as ALDE member to distance themselves “from these divisive plans”.

“@ALDEParty is shocked by the irresponsible suggestions to redraw map of the W Balkans […] @JJansaSDS must stop his divisive policies,” tweeted ALDE leader Hans van Baalen.

SMC leader Zdravko Počivalšek twitted: “We would have never got such a stupid idea. This is our region, our friends. We still remember the bloodshed.” He also wondered why ALDE took part in “these dangerous fabrications”.

Janša reacted with a tweet saying: “We are all shocked that @ALDEParty and @hansvanbaalen are spreading this #fakenews story, created in Slovenia by his Slovenian friends for internal political fights”. He added a hashtag #embarrassing”.