President Pahor supports the idea of a "mini-Schengen" as it emphasises cooperation and strengthens trust between countries in the region
Novi Sad, 23. 11. 2019 | press release
The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, together with the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, and the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, attended talks with young leaders from the Western Balkan region in Novi Sad. President Pahor participated in the central part of the 4th Regional Youth Leadership Forum and discussed the topic of "Speaking Youth to Power: Introducing Millennials to Policy Dialogue" with young people.
"I am here today as a friend of the Western Balkan region. I am a great advocate of a strong and integrated EU, its enlargement, first and foremost, to the Western Balkan countries," said President Pahor in his opening address, going on to address young leaders: "Young people have the right to such relationships between people and nations in the region that ensure, above all, peace and security. You are the most important factor for the future of the region."
He endorsed the efforts to create a "mini-Schengen" as an idea based on cooperation and mutual trust. This idea can only be successful if mutual trust and respect among the countries in the region are strengthened, he said, adding: "Mini-Schengen is a fresh idea, something that gives hope that, despite the enlargement slowing down, these countries will not miss their chance of joining the European integration." President Pahor assessed the initiative as valuable as it strengthens cooperation and trust, which he believes is what the countries in the region need to speed up reforms and successfully resolve outstanding bilateral issues.
President Pahor stressed that a "mini-Schengen" was not an alternative to joining the European Union, but rather the opposite. It should be understood as highly complementary to the region's European vision: "Values that are also the values of the EU should be developed in the region: reconciliation, coexistence, cooperation, respect for the differences between us, and emphasising what we have in common."
"The more the countries in the region cooperate, the more they are economically developed and democratic, the more interesting they will be for the European Union," said President Pahor at the close of the opening address.
During the discussion, young people clearly expressed their commitment to a future in Europe and their wish for stability and respect for differences in the Western Balkan region. "Cooperation in the region should be based on consideration and respect for differences between us, but we must also focus on what we have in common," said Andjela Mičunović, a youth representative from Montenegro.
The meeting of young leaders from the Wester Balkan region represents an intersection of the values and ideas of a generation that is not burdened with memories of the recent past. Every year the meeting is attended by young people who believe that a common future is possible and that it should be based on reconciliation, integration, respect and trust between people and nations. The discussion, in which more than 200 young people participated, was devoted to reflection on a common future in the region and Europe.
As part of his visit to Novi Sad, President Pahor also had bilateral meetings with President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and President of the Republic of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski.