Summit of Brdo-Brijuni Process to discuss EU enlargement

Brdo pri Kranju – President Borut Pahor will host a summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process in Brdo pri Kranju on Monday featuring his counterparts from Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia and the presiding trio of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The meeting, marking the 10th anniversary of the initiative, is to reaffirm committent to EU enlargement.

The leaders are expected to adopt a joint declaration sending a strong message about the importance of the enlargement process that must be faster and not focus only on individual countries but the entire Western Balkan region.

Ahead of the summit, Pahor held separate meetings with the presidents of all countries included in the initiative. Last September he met North Macedonia’s Stevo Pendarovski, and in March he held talks with the presiding trio of Bosnia-Herzegovina Milorad Dodik, Šefik Džaferović and Željko Komšić.

Last week, he visited Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović in Podgorica, and Albania’s Ilir Meta in Tirana.

On Thursday, he met his Kosovo counterpart Vjosa Osmani and he is scheduled to meet Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić in Belgrade today. On the eve of the summit, Pahor will meet Croatian President and co-host of the summit Zoran Milanović in Bled.

According to Pahor, the Brdo-Brijuni Process is the most important political initiative in the Western Balkan area, which led to the Berlin Process. The president thus wanted to be well prepared for the Monday meeting, also as Slovenia is taking over the presidency to the EU Council soon.

“I assess that there has been a certain standstill in the commitment to enlarge the European Union, both on the side of the EU and on the side of the Western Balkan countries.

“My task is to find fresh ideas together with the Brdo-Brijuni initiative leaders on how to find a new strategy together for a faster EU enlargement to all Western Balkan countries, so that these countries should not think about more dangerous alternatives instead of having faith that EU membership will come soon,” Pahor said in Podgorica.

He expressed hope that the summit in Slovenia will result in a broader support for the implementation of strategy, stability, reconciliation and European prospects. “This is the only thing that can ensure peace, security and well-being in this part of Europe.”

“With EU membership borders between countries become less important and there’s no need to change them. We know from historical experience that borders are never changed without victims,” the Slovenian president said in Tirana.

He is confident that the Brdo-Brijuni leaders are capable of applying their own experience and consensus to find a new impetuous and a rethink in the EU enlargement process. “This is not only of geopolitical significance but of irreplaceable importance for peace, stability and security of the region and the entire Europe.”

The Brdo-Brijuni summit had originally been planned for last year, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the initiative, but had been postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been invited to attend as a special guest based on an expression of interest, will not be able to come because he is hosting a major international meeting in France these days, but will join one of the future meetings, Pahor’s office has said.

The Brdo-Brijuni is a joint Slovenian-Croatian initiative, formed by Pahor in 2010 when he still served as prime minister in a bid to boost trust between countries in the region and help them join the EU.

Since 2013, the process summits have been held in other participating countries each year, joined by special guests, including French President Francois Hollande in 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2014 and Joe Biden as the then US vice president in 2015.

Pahor’s office said the latest summit would be an opportunity to “affirm and enhance commitment to continue the European Union enlargement process”, and would allow the leaders to “exchange views on other topical issues in an informal atmosphere”.

Leaders of all participating countries, including the presiding trio of Bosnia-Herzegovina, have confirmed attendance.

In mid-April, news broke out about a non-paper on redrawing the borders in the Western Balkans, which raised a lot of dust in the region and other European countries.

Media reported that the document had been allegedly forwarded to European Council President Charles Michel by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša.

The document, published by web portal Necenzurirano, among other things proposes for most of the Serb entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina to be annexed by Serbia, the majority-Croatian cantons to Croatia, and for Kosovo to merge with Albania. It also proposes merging Kosovo and Albania.

Pahor said he had not been acquainted with the non-paper before his visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina in March or at any later stage. He said the publishing of the document had put Slovenia at risk of losing its credibility of an honest friend of all nations and Western Balkan countries.