Prime Minister Marjan Šarec made a case for the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans ahead of a two-day European Council meeting on Thursday and Friday. In a letter to the Council president and EU heads of states and government, he said the enlargement should have no alternative.
“There is no other process of such transformative and stabilising power. The region’s geostrategic location in Europe, on the North-South and East-West axes, is critically important and represents an immense potential in terms of human, economic and cultural capital”, the PM says in the letter. According to Šarec, yet another postponement of the decision on the start of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania should not be an option.
Slovenia proposes “two individual decisions based on merit”. Šarec believes that the recommendations of the European Commission, the reform process and the enormous political will, courage and political capital invested in addressing outstanding bilateral issues must be taken into account. He stresses that the Prespa Agreement between North Macedonia and Greece as well as the Friendship Treaty between North Macedonia and Bulgaria should “become the norm” and “provide guidance on how to deal with remaining outstanding issues”. He also warns of the possible consequences of a non-decision. “A stable region is not to be taken for granted,” he says, mentioning “long-lasting spillover effect” of this week’s decisions and their “immensely important message for the people, especially youth”.
Noting that concerns of some members states must also be taken into account, the PM proposes that they be addressed internally, so that this does not slow down the enlargement process and obstruct the progress that these countries deserve.”Let us not undermine the region’s trust in the European perspective and let us not forget the importance of sustaining its political and security stability.” “Granting the start of the negotiations will only mark the beginning of the process not the end of the journey,” Šarec notes.
Slovenia is among some fifteen EU member countries that are advocating for the start of EU accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. The heads of four EU institutions recently also called for this move in a joint letter. In July, a decision was postponed because of reservations voiced by Germany, France and the Netherlands. According to unofficial information, France is now also strongly against. The Netherlands is now only against the start of accession talks with Albania because it deems its battle against corruption insufficient, while it supports talks with North Macedonia. Several scenarios are being mentioned ahead of the upcoming summit, one of them being the start of talks but with additional conditions for the two countries. Another postponement of the decision is also possible. Macedonia has been waiting to start the talks since 2005, when it got the status of a candidate country, while Albania became a candidate in 2014.