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Slovenia’s Janša describes plans to Balkanize the EU

Published: (Updated: ) in European News by .

Ahead of Council presidency, Slovenian prime minister says EU membership for Western Balkans could solve many problems.

Prepare for the Balkanization of the EU — literally.

In a preview of the priorities of Slovenia’s upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU, Prime Minister Janez Janša on Wednesday advocated for a return to the aggressive enlargement of the European Union that ushered his own country into the club in 2004, with a focus on admitting all countries of the Western Balkans.

“As regards the enlargement of the EU, this is a strategic answer to a lot of current challenges,” Janša said at a news conference with European Parliament President David Sassoli after a meeting between Slovenian national ministers and Parliament’s Conference of Presidents to preview Slovenia’s Council presidency, which begins on July 1.

He suggested that absorbing all of the Western Balkans into the EU could help solve numerous problems, including with migration and with malign interference by unnamed geopolitical rivals, presumably Russia, Turkey and China.

“Becoming part of the EU was an answer for us and is still an answer for other neighboring countries,” Janša said. “Obviously we can’t do this from one day to the next, we’re not going to be able to do it without the consensus of everyone.”

Janša noted that reaching such unanimity among EU heads of state and government would be difficult to achieve.

He also said that he supported entry into the Schengen visa-free travel zone for Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, saying these countries had “been waiting to be part of this group for a long time and we really don’t understand why it’s been impossible up to now.”

Several EU powers, notably France, have sought to slow the membership proceedings for candidate countries in recent years, in part out of concern that the EU, which now has 27 members, has become increasingly difficult to manage, especially when unanimity is required for policy decisions.

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In March 2020, after years of disagreements, the EU gave a green light for Albania and North Macedonia to begin the accession process. But in November, Bulgaria blocked the next formal step. Serbia and Montenegro have already begun the process, but overall existing EU countries have shown general ambivalence about increasing their ranks.

Some EU officials and diplomats are bracing for a potentially difficult six months given Janša’s reputation as a right-wing populist with a penchant for unorthodox and unpredictable messaging, which earned him the social media nickname “Marshall Tweeto.”

During the news conference, Janša declined to answer questions about some controversial statements he had made in support of former U.S. President Donald Trump and alleged fraud in the U.S. presidential election.

Closer to home, Janša said Slovenia would push for the creation of a European Institute on Constitutional Law, apparently endorsing an idea previously pushed by Hungary and Poland, to create a body that would adjudicate disputes between Brussels and national capitals over rule-of-law issues.

Warsaw and Budapest have each faced EU disciplinary proceedings for alleged violations of fundamental principles of rule of law or democracy.

 “The rule of law is not a rule of arbitrary policy, nor is it a matter of selective justice and different criteria; instead, it presupposes equal rules for all and equal treatment of all EU member states under the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty,” Janša said.

He said that the EU should not turn for expertise to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, but rather should create its own body. “We need our own similar institution and one of our proposals is aimed at that,” he said.

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The Slovenian EU presidency is also proposing an “annual dialogue” in the Council of the EU on rule of law, including general debate and discussion of issues in specific member countries.

But overall, he continued to stress membership for the Balkans nations as a policy priority.

“If you ask me, how can we solve the problem that also concerns our borders, I would answer it’s by having a European perspective,” he said. “If we allow certain countries to become members of the EU altogether, once they gain the EU perspective and become members, these problems will disappear.”

Janša brushed aside a question about a recent controversy over a white panther as a symbol of the Slovenian presidency, conceding that he had written a book titled “The White Panther” but that the animal had been used as a national symbol during Slovenia’s first presidency, without causing any stir.

“I would have rather have listened to essential questions around the presidency priorities,” he said. “But yes I wrote a fiction book, a novel, with the white panther as part of the title, that’s quite true and as regards the ornamental pin as a Slovenian presidency gadget, it is a pin that is identical to one that we used in the past Slovenian presidency.”

“Every country in choosing the symbols of its presidency usually looks to its national history,” he said. “We used the same symbol in 2008. No one was talking about it then, and suddenly it attracts a lot of attention which is a bit surprising. It’s not that important.”

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/janez-jansa-slovenia-eu-council-presidency-balkans/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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