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Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic

10/01/2021 | Press release | Archived content

Martin Klus: “The Slavkov format remains the most credible supporter of the Western Balkans, and sees persistent threats in migration as well as regional opportunities.”

"The Slavkov format (S3) clearly demonstrates its practical value and continues to facilitate mutual understanding on important European issues. In this context, we consider it to be a step in the right direction contributing even more to the gradual approach of Western Balkan countries toward the European Union (EU). We have agreed that in terms of continuity and consistency on this issue, the S3 countries are among the most plausible ones, which increases the credibility of this regional platform."

This was stated by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Martin Klus, on Thursday, September 30, 2021, at the Štiřín Castle near Prague, in the Czech Republic, during a meeting of national coordinators of cooperation within the Slavkov format.

Together with the Secretary General of the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal and the State Secretary for European Affairs, Aleš Chmelař, they discussed the planned activities of the S3 format, chaired by the Czech Republic since 1 July 2021.

Current issues of common interest, including EU migration and asylum policy, the situation in Afghanistan, the European integration of the Western Balkans, as well as the preparations for the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2022, were also discussed. The partners had already agreed, at the beginning of the meeting, that the COVID-19 pandemic gave the Slavkov format a strong impetus and increased its dynamics and visibility, which should be taken advantage of.

"We are not against seeking new forms of cooperation between Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria, if they have the potential to result in concrete results. For example, adding the issue of health care to our traditional areas of cooperation in the context of the fight against the corona virus would certainly be beneficial for the citizens of our countries," said the State Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Slovak Republic, Martin Klus.

There has also been agreement among the representatives of these three Central European states on the issue of migration. In addition to the need for effective protection of external borders and managing the movement of illegal migrants they also drew attention to another dimension of migration.

"The Slavkov format, especially during this pandemic period, is very well aware of the significance of coordination in the area of legal migration, which has long been a part of our cooperation. This can be seen by the thousands of citizens coming to work, study or live in one of the S3 countries," said Martin Klus.

During future meetings of the Slavkov format, representatives of Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria also wish to maintain the dynamics they have developed so far in the area of supporting the European integration of the Western Balkans.

"We consider the planned EU-Western Balkans summit, which should take place in October, to be a significant event. Especially when it comes to conveying key messages to the citizens of a region in our neighborhood that has such strategic importance for us. We must not waste this opportunity, as it would further weaken the EU's credibility in the countries of the Western Balkans. We are all the more sorry that the pre-drafted summit conclusions lack a clear reference to EU enlargement," said State Secretary Klus.

He also added that only a clear vision and concrete plans from Brussels can serve as a strong motivating factor for domestic reforms, as well as for ethnic and religious reconciliation in the Western Balkans.

It is also a way of effectively dealing with the influence of external actors in the region, which are not always in line with the EU's interests based on the rule of law and the values of liberal democracy.