The Bled Strategic Forum, two-day event titled 'New Reality', which gathers leaders of the Western Balkan region and representatives of the EU and international organizations, has commenced on Monday. The event focuses on the EU challenges, the Western Balkan region, security issues, and related topics.
Hosts of the forum, Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar, emphasized that Europe is facing numerous global challenges it needs to respond to. According to them, it is very important for the EU to be as integrated as possible, and to be a champion in the rule of law in order to be capable of dealing with challenges. Pahor called for unity within the EU.
The keynote speaker, Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Karl Erjavec, said that the goal of the Bled Strategic Forum is to provide answers and respond to challenges of new reality, in which people are faced with terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn delivered a letter to ministers of foreign affairs of Southeast Europe, in which they stated that the EU countries are not closing the door of Brussels for new members. They also noted that the EU countries want to see a strong and stable Western Balkans and are willing to financially assist it, while they expect the countries in the region not to block each other on their way towards the EU.
“My personal goal is to see tangible progress of all six partners in the Balkans on their path towards the EU. I want this process to become irreversible by the time I reach the end of my term in the office of the High Representative. It is important that there is a hunger for the future in the Balkans, as well as the wish to overcome challenges. They can count on us”, Mogherini said in her speech during the forum.
Ahead of his trip to Bled, BiH Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Crnadak told N1 that he will hold a number of bilateral meetings and attend a ministerial panel, along with Ministers from the region. Asked to comment on the fact that many high-ranking officials assessed BiH as a terrorist threat, he said: “We should take a single stance not allowing it to be declared a terrorist shelter, but also not allowing ourselves to relax, thinking that there are no terrorism threats here”.
Crnadak also noted that bilateral relations, as well as foreign policy and strategic goals of BiH, will be in the focus during the Forum. “Continuation of European path and reforms, as well as security situation, will come first”, he added.
High Representative Valentin Inzko is also attending the forum, where he met Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. According to him, atmosphere in the region has improved and he expects the situation will get even better after the visit of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to Sarajevo. Inzko expressed his content with the fact that he had a chance to meet Serbian Prime Minister Brnabic in Bled. He also said that the main topics discussed on the first day of the Bled Strategic Forum were the Berlin Process, cooperation in the Balkans and the trend of changing the Balkan paradigm where one can talk about a new young leadership. “Changing the paradigm means that the story about problems should be put aside, while the story about new chances, cooperation and future needs to dominate”, Inzko stated.
Brnabic addressed leaders at the Bled Strategic Forum on Monday and stated that the membership in the EU is the strategic goal of Serbia. “This is the place where we want to be and there is no room for impression that the official Belgrade hesitated with regard to this matter”, Brnabic added. Speaking about the influence of Russia, she reiterated that Serbia wants to be in the EU and she also noted that Serbia has traditional, religious and economic relations with Russia. “Some mentioned military cooperation with Russia, but when one takes a look at figures then it is obvious that Serbia has the most intensive cooperation and highest number of exercises with USA, then with NATO in scope of the Partnership for Peace and only then with Russia. However, the perception is quite different”, she concluded.
The second day of the Forum is supposed to focus on situation in the Western Balkan region, including BiH.