Lajcak: European Project Won’t Be Complete without Western Balkans

Slovak Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajcak (stock photo by TASR)

Bratislava, September 4 (TASR) – Enlargement of the EU is a strategic investment in its security and prosperity, and the European project won’t be complete without the Western Balkans, said Slovak Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajcak in Bratislava on Sunday.

Speaking at the Interparliamentary Conference on Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), Lajcak praised the considerable progress that has been achieved in the Western Balkans thanks to the EU’s help, both in terms of transition and regional cooperation.

“Despite many improvements, the situation in the Western Balkans still can’t be seen as completely peaceful and stable. Therefore, the EU has to remain actively engaged in the region,” said Lajcak, noting that this is one of the reasons why Slovakia included enlargement policy among the priorities of its Presidency of the EU Council.

The chief of Slovak diplomacy pointed out that enlargement policy is a two-way process. “On one hand, we insist on the principles of conditionality and own merits, which means that the countries undergoing the accession process proceed according to how they comply with the conditions – with an emphasis on quality rather than speed. On the other hand, the EU has to fulfil its commitments, and so if candidate and aspiring countries meet their tasks well, we have to move them closer to the EU,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lajcak hosted an informal meeting of 28 EU foreign ministers (Gymnich) on Friday (September 2) and Saturday (September 3). On Saturday, representatives of EU candidate countries (Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) as well as of the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) joined the meeting at Bratislava Castle.

The Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry’s press department told TASR that Lajcak on this occasion held individual private talks with his counterparts from Macedonia (Nikola Poposki), Georgia (Mikheil Janelidze), Moldova (Andrei Galbur) and Ukraine (Pavlo Klimkin). The talks mainly focused on bilateral cooperation between the countries and the progress made in terms of accession processes.

In addition, Lajcak held talks with British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson in order to assess the progress made in preparations for launching negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU as well as negotiations on setting up new relations between Brussels and London.

The Slovak chief of diplomacy stressed that Slovakia supports maintaining the best possible relations after the UK’s departure from the Union.