The Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janansa, promised today that he would push forward the efforts to accelerate the integration process for the Western Balkan countries in the European Union (EU).
On July 1st, Slovenia took over the six-month EU presidency. Since 2019, the integration process has stalled, as some French-led member states blocked the start of membership negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.
Finally, Bulgaria has become the main obstacle to any progress, as it has refused to give the green light to North Macedonia to start negotiations due to some identity and history disputes. Brussels is concerned about growing Russian and Chinese influence in countries it once promised to have a clear path to European integration.
Jansha is planning to host a summit in October between the leaders of the 27 EU member states and the Western Balkan countries in a bid to strengthen relations. "If we are not able to achieve this, if we do not take a step forward in the Western Balkans, then these actions will be taken by someone else, by someone who has different interests and values," Jansha told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Jansha's statement, saying the October summit would "send an important message that these countries are essential strategic partners". Russia and China have stepped up their efforts to influence Balkan countries during the pandemic by sending millions of coronavirus vaccines to the region, AFP reports.