Brussels/Brest – Defence Minister Matej Tonin attended an informal meeting of EU defence ministers in France’s Brest on Thursday, warning that while focussing on Ukraine and Mali, the EU must not forget the Western Balkans, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina, because Russia had certain interests in the region, which could deteriorate the situation there.
“I tried to warn my colleagues that we should not forget about Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Tonin said after the meeting in a video recording distributed by the Defence Ministry.
The ministers focussed on Russia’s aggressive activities in the East and in north Africa, seeking ways to jointly do more to prevent a conflict in Ukraine, said Tonin.
Slovenia agrees with its partners that Russia’s actions are inappropriate and rather dangerous, posing a threat to peace and security, and that the EU could only stand up to this if united, which Tonin said it was.
The ministers also discussed Russia’s role in Mali, where it is pushing for its interests and prevents democratic processes through its Wagner Group mercenaries.
Tonin said threats to peace and security around the globe, including in north Africa or the Middle East, had a direct impact on Slovenia in the form of illegal migration, so he finds it important for Slovenian soldiers to take part in missions in these areas.
Slovenian soldiers will continue doing so, which is why it is important the Slovenia Armed Forces are well equipped and modernised, he said, adding the country was also intensifying its presence in the East, in Latvia.
The EU’s defence and foreign ministers are discussing at informal meetings in Brest on Thursday and Friday the EU’s strategic sovereignty, while the US and Russia are discussing Europe’s future security arrangement and the solution to the Ukrainian crisis without the EU.
A week of diplomacy to address the Ukraine crisis started in Geneva on Monday with the US-Russia talks, Brussels hosted a meeting of NATO members and Russia on Wednesday, and talks are under way in Vienna today as part of the OSCE.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell rejected today the criticism that Europe was not at the negotiating table, explaining it was in close contact with the US and had assurances that no decision would be taken without a close cooperation with Europe.