Slovenia's experience as part of the former Yugoslavia and its status as a member of the European Union will help Balkan countries.
By Miki Trajkovski and Klaudija Lutovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 15/08/13
Slovenia President Borut Pahor (right) during his visit to Skopje on July 16th. [AFP]
Slovenia's experience with European Union integration provides an example to other Balkan countries, and officials have signalled the country wants to be more active in assisting EU member candidates.
President Borut Pahor confirmed during his visit to Skopje last month that Slovenia is interested in seeing the region advance on the EU path.
"My desire is to understand the situation in which not only Macedonia but also the neighbouring states find themselves, because the status quo, I believe, means going backward," Pahor said.
Slovenia became an EU member in 2004 after a six-year membership negotiation process. It joined the Eurozone in 2007.
Slovenia has a significant role to play in the Western Balkans because it was part of Yugoslavia and knows full well the problems the countries face, according to Zoran Dragisic, professor at the Security Faculty in Belgrade.
"The country can provide significant technical assistance in the EU negotiation process," Dragisic told SETimes.
Dragsic said regional countries will miss an opportunity if they do not take into account Slovenia's experiences organising membership negotiations with Brussels. "[Importantly,] how many people will participate in the negotiations, for in Croatia alone more than 10,000 people were involved," Dragisic said.
Slovenia's voice is respected in Brussels and beyond, and can assist the EU-member aspirants by sharing its experiences, said Dimitar Mircev, former Macedonian ambassador to Slovenia.
"Slovenia can also assist by taking a stand in Brussels, at the European Council summits, in the committees where it has its own commissioners as well as through its representatives in the European Parliament," Mircev told SETimes.
Slovenia should be the facilitator of the EU-integration processes for the former Yugoslav countries because it is respected in the EU, said Behlul Beqaj of the Political Science Faculty in Pristina.
"The regional countries should particularly follow Slovenia's example regarding public administration reforms and an independent judiciary," Beqaj told SETimes. Slovenia has been Macedonia's strategic partner since 2004 when the two countries signed an agreement on development co-operation, and Slovenia provided 1.5 million euros in bi-lateral aid for projects assisting the Macedonian government and public sector.
"The implementation of the projects contributes significantly to improving living conditions, local economies, and support for NGOs with Slovenian NGOs," Bujar Osmani, spokesperson for the ruling Democratic Union of Integration party in Macedonia, told SETimes.
Osmani said the benefits of technical assistance are not limited solely to the agreements countries can reach, but member candidates can utilise all that is needed to advance reforms as well as their EU negotiating position.