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Minister Fajon: Enlargement to the Western Balkans is a question of now or never

At the invitation of Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, Minister Tanja Fajon attended the Europa-Forum Wachau, a platform for discussion on European integration, with this year's edition focusing on the Western Balkans. The event also included a meeting of the Friends of the Western Balkans group.

"The Friends of the Western Balkans group, which has been in existence for a year, is a good example of the need to treat enlargement as a geostrategic imperative that needs political support. It is a question of now or never. Over the past two years, Slovenia, together with the countries of the Friends of the Western Balkans, has been strongly committed to accelerating the European path of the Western Balkan countries, and the results are visible. I recalled the Bled Pledge and the clear targets for 2030. It is important that the positive trend and progress continue and that we do everything, both in the Union and in the Western Balkans, to ensure that enlargement takes place as soon as possible. One of the initiatives is the Slovenian-German proposal on the use of qualified majority voting on enlargement issues. The fact is that the Western Balkans are at the heart of Europe and this must also become a political reality. The alternative – if we do not act decisively and quickly enough – is the increased influence of other countries that are already pushing their interests in the region," Ms Fajon said on the sidelines of the meeting. In the debate, she referred to the composition of the new European Commission and expressed hope that it would continue to put enlargement at the top of the EU agenda.

"It is also important to build people's confidence in enlargement, both in the Western Balkans and in the EU, and to further expand our group of friends. I also welcome High Representative Borrell's initiative to invite ministers from the Western Balkans to the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday. This should become a regular practice as we face many common challenges in a complex world," added Ms Fajon.

The meeting was attended by the Foreign Ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovakia, as well as the Secretary General of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a representative of the European Commission.

One of the outcomes of the meeting was the Gottweig Appeal, a document in support of the forthcoming enlargement of the Union to the Western Balkans.