Presidents of Croatia, Austria and Slovenia, Zoran Milanovic, Alexander Van der Bellen and Borut Pahor respectively, held the eighth annual trilateral meeting at Slovenia’s Kostanjevica na Krki on Thursday, focusing on the Conference on the Future of Europe, recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the European perspective of the Western Balkans, primarily the Bulgarian blockade to Macedonia.
Pahor expressed hope that a compromise could be reached by October, when Slovenia, which currently holds the EU Presidency, is set to host the summit of leaders from the EU and Western Balkans, thus opening the door for the start of Macedonia’s Union accession negotiations.
“We all understand the complexity of this process. Special emphasis has been put on the compromise that would be acceptable for both North Macedonia and Bulgaria. If we manage to do this, which will not be easy, then we can say that we have done a lot for the EU enlargement with the Western Balkans, because trust in EU’s credibility would be restored, since the Union had promised North Macedonia it would get the green light for the negotiations if it met all requirements related to the Greek blockade,” said Pahor.
Milanovic said Macedonia should not be given impossible conditions that “go into the nation’s intimate space.”
“I was clear a couple of months ago on the Western Balkans, including North Macedonia and Albania. Meanwhile, some things have changed. Bulgaria held elections and I hope this will make the situation a bit easier, so that the young, new and slightly economically weaker candidate North Macedonia will not be given impossible conditions, ones that go into the nation’s intimate space,” noted Milanovic.
Pahor said that the EU enlargement with the Western Balkans is a very important geopolitical issue, otherwise “some other players will enter that area in Southeast Europe”.
Van der Bellen reaffirmed this by saying “this is one of the priorities, primarily because of historic, economic and family relations”, highlighting the issue’s importance for Austria.