Europe in the background
After being reelected on a 53% share of the vote, President Borut Pahor spent the day meeting with the heads of the EU institutions, his first foreign visit of his second mandate. After meeting President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President Pahor then met President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.
In a joint press conference, Juncker mentioned that he likes the President as “he is amongst those who have a very pro-European stance” and that it was evident in his campaign. Pahor himself mentioned that “Slovenia is a highly pro-European country, a country that would like to see a renaissance of the European Union”.
Featuring high on the agenda was the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia. Last year, a tribunal ruled on the disputed parts of the border, but Croatia has so far refused to implement that ruling. Croatia withdrew from the arbitration in 2015 after it was revealed that a Slovenian official was in contact with the Slovenian tribunal member.
President Juncker mentioned that the border issue was “not only a bilateral problem, this is a problem which impacts the whole of the European Union.” He said the Commission would be willing to mediate between Slovenia and Croatia if they agree to it. President Pahor meanwhile stated that he believed that Croatia was breaching the terms of its accession treaty to the EU, which commits Croatia to respect the results of the arbitration. He said he expects Croatia to fulfill its obligations.
What it means for the Balkans
Pahor and Juncker both mentioned how the peaceful resolution of the issue would help the Western Balkans accession process. President Pahor especially mentioned that resolving the issue would motivate them, leading the countries to be more peaceful and more stable. Juncker however reiterated that there would be no new member states until at least the end of his mandate in November 2019.
In a follow-up question, President Juncker also mentioned that in relation to the accession of the Western Balkan countries he would “never accept that border issues should be settled in the future” and that “those issues should be settled before joining”.
A Balkan federate
At his inaugural address last month, Pahor mentioned that development of the EU was in the national interest and Slovenia wants to develop it as an ‘active member’. President Pahor is one of the only elected European officials to hold a stance in favour of federalising the EU.