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It is for me a pleasure to be back here in Dubrovnik, in particular it is an honour to be the first High Representative to come to this very important South-East European Summit - this shows the relevance that the European institutions and all the Member States attach to the stability and the economic cooperation in the region.
This is also the way that can accompany in the best possible manner the integration of the Western Balkans 6 in the European Union. It is a process that is extremely important for us. We have common challenges, we have also common opportunities, we have in this region in general a young population who is demanding opportunities and chances in open societies and democratic fields, and so, this process can accompany very well the process of enlargement that we are pursuing as the European Union together with our partners.
And as I often said, the future of the European Union will not be at 27 after the United Kingdom will leave us. We will for sure have new Member States. From the European Union's perspective, it is not a matter of "if" this will happen but "when" this will happen and we see committed partners in this region - in the Western Balkans in particular - on the path of reforms. So, for me, this is going to be also an excellent opportunity to have bilateral meetings with the leaders of the region. Again, we meet very often, just a few weeks ago I hosted a meeting with all of them in Brussels and we are going to meet again in Trieste in July.
So, I am grateful to Croatia, the President [of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović], the Prime Minister [of Croatia, Andrej Plenković], to the government for this opportunity we have and for the leadership in this chairmanship as they pass it over. I am really particularly glad to be here.
I am just coming from Tallinn where we were with all the Commission and the new Presidency [of the Council of the European Union, Estonia] that is starting tomorrow. We re-confirmed the fact that enlargement is going to be one of the key issues with which we will deal also in the coming months.
What is the Commission's stance on the arbitration decision between two Member countries?
I do not comment on that.
Will you discuss it in the College on Tuesday?
As the President [of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker] said, yes.
On the EU defence plans: Do you think they should be open to the EU candidate countries? Serbian President Vučić said he is interested in knowing more about these plans.
We include the candidate countries in the discussions we have on security in the European Union. We do it regularly with foreign ministers of the Western Balkans and for sure this will be one of the issues we discuss with them, because we share the same territory - I often say it is not about bringing the Western Balkans into Europe, they are Europe already as we see from here very clearly. And so it is not only in the interest of the Western Balkans' countries, but also of the European Union's Member States and the European Union's institutions to have a strong security cooperation with all of the region. I think also the format of the meeting today shows that we are linked, not only when it comes to security, but also when it comes to economic investments, when it comes to development of infrastructure and obviously our way of tackling issues and even tensions which is through dialogue and mutual understanding.
What role do you expect from Slovenia and Croatia, in light of the overall geopolitical situation, concerning security challenges? What role do you expect from Croatia and Slovenia, as EU Members, towards the rest of the region?
Obviously it is not only Croatia and Slovenia, it is also other EU Member States that are part of the region and are part of this format. They are the first, and I would say, more convinced Member States on the need to accompany the entire region into the European Union. I think their experience can be shared - every single country is different from the other, especially in this region, but lessons learnt can be shared, experience can be shared and especially the political will inside the European Union can be strengthened. I was particularly pleased to see that all the Heads of State or Government at the European Council in March reaffirmed in an unequivocal manner their determination and commitment to enlargement, and to have this process going on. I see this as somehow a political victory for this region, for the Member States of this region, and also for me personally - as I come from just across the Adriatic, it is also natural for me to feel a little bit part of this region.
How do you see the security challenges in this region, radicalisation and everything threatening Europe from the outside?
I think this region has an enormous potential in terms of prevention of radicalisation. It is the region of Europe that knows which are the patterns of radicalisation and also which can be the measures to prevent these patterns. And it is a region, as a said several times, that has leaders that are committed to working together, overcoming difficulties from the past, and offering opportunities to the young people. I think in this region, more than maybe anywhere else, the link between offering economic development, economic growth, jobs to young people and prevention of radicalisation is stronger and I think that we need it as European Union, also in terms of understanding some of the dynamics. And then we obviously need the security cooperation as we are doing it, in terms of exchanging information, border controls. As we saw very clearly last year, there is already a strong, solid coordination and cooperation that benefits both the countries in the region that are not EU Member States and those that are Member States that are not in the region, because we are facing exactly the same challenges.
When do you expect the next High-Level round of Belgrade Pristina dialogue?
We will discuss this. I am going to have right now bilateral meetings with President [of Serbia, Aleksandar] Vučić and President [of Kosovo, Hashim] Thaçi. We will discuss this. We discussed the ongoing dialogue, the implementation of agreements, the future of the dialogues constantly over these months. Obviously electoral moments had to be respected, but I expect developments very soon.
Do you think Serbia and Kosovo will recognise each other, and is there a future for them doing that in the EU?
The normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo is the purpose of the dialogue we facilitate, so that is the aim. And I have seen in these two years and a half I worked very closely with the leaders of the two sides a strong commitment, a strong determination, important steps forward. And they know all very well that the future of their European integration path is linked to progress - not only in the dialogue, but also in the implementation of the agreements and the dialogue. So I think there is definitely a bright future for the dialogue and for the results.