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Prime Minister Janez Janša declares: The EU offered Serbia a helping hand some time ago; now the ball is in Serbia's court

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia and current President of the European Council, Mr Janez Janša, today attended – at the invitation of the Austrian Federal Chancellor, Mr Alfred Gusenbauer – the 11th European Forum held in Lech, an Austrian ski resort. Talks at the Forum focused mainly on energy and climate issues and the future of the Western Balkans.

The Forum participants agreed that the Western Balkan countries must have a future in Europe. The Slovenian Prime Minister said that, this time, the European Union had responded to the situation in the Western Balkans in a timely and appropriate way, in contrast to its response in the 1990s. In PM Janša’s view, the prospect of a future in Europe is a strong incentive for the countries of this region, bringing with it real potential for further development and prosperity. The European Union must therefore remain firmly committed to resolving the situation in the Western Balkans. A final settlement to the situation has to be found, after which attention can be devoted to the European Union’s other neighbours. The Slovenian Prime Minister added that the European Union was being confronted with a very difficult situation in the Western Balkans, but one that was nevertheless gradually calming down. He also said he hoped that the region would be much more stable in a few months’ time, allowing the countries to redirect their efforts to their respective paths towards European accession.

As one of the positive events going a little way towards offsetting the negative news from the Western Balkans in recent days, the Prime Minister highlighted the visit by undergraduates from Belgrade University to the Slovenian Embassy in Belgrade after the embassy had been heavily damaged by protesters on 17 February. The undergraduates had brought a new window, along with a message that the European Union was their future. “No one has closed the door on Serbia, but a future in Europe is something to which both parties must agree – the admitting party as well as the acceding party. The ball is now in Serbia's court,” said the Prime Minister. The European Union offered Serbia a helping hand some time ago, and has stuck to its position ever since, despite some discouraging signals from Serbia recently. The Prime Minister considered that the recent presidential elections in Serbia had shown that the majority of the Serbian nation holds pro-European views, which is an encouragement to the European Union in its further action.

“The European Union’s standpoint on Kosovo was coordinated at the European Council meeting in March 2007 and at the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting in February 2008, and that is what will dictate the course we will pursue. As many as twelve EU Member States have recognised Kosovo so far, and there is no going back. We have challenges before us to which we are responding with a view to ensuring long-term stability in the region,” said the current President of the European Council, Mr Janez Janša.

Two other important issues discussed at today’s talks in Lech were action on climate change and a common European energy policy. Participants said they hoped to see the energy and climate package presented by the European Commission in January adopted, with only minimal amendments, before the 15th Conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso believes that agreement on a common energy market will already be reached during the Slovenian EU Council Presidency, and agreement on the energy and climate package reached during the French Presidency, which follows next. He described it as an issue affecting not only the environment but also security of energy supply and the future competitiveness of the European economy, in which the European Union must play a leading role.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša explained that, especially during preparations for the European Council meeting to be held on 13 and 14 March 2008, informal meetings – like that in Lech – are very welcome in helping to highlight important challenges in connection with energy issues which will save a lot of time and work later, during the actual summit meeting.

In addition to the Slovenian Prime Minister and current President of the European Council, Mr Janez Janša, and the hosts – the Austrian Federal Chancellor, Mr Alfred Gusenbauer, and Austrian Foreign Minister, Mrs Ursula Plassnik, the Lech Forum is being attended by the European Commission President, Mr José Manuel Barroso, the European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, Mrs Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and the President of the European Parliament, Mr Hans-Gert Pöttering.


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Date: 04.03.2008