Tanner: Don’t lose focus on the Western Balkans

Austria, which holds the presidency of the Central European Defense Cooperation (CEDC) this year, was faced with particular challenges as a result of the Russian attack, said Tanner. Nobody expected “such a change in the security and defense landscape on European soil”.

Czech Deputy Defense Minister Daniel Blazkovec said at a joint press conference in Krems University’s main auditorium on Friday that the Western Balkans are “a guarantor of our security”. With regard to the war in Ukraine, too, it is evident that Russia wants to use hybrid warfare to cause discord in this region as well.

Ensure “Progress in the Western Balkans Region”.

It is clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Europe and the West are only strong if they act together. It is therefore important to introduce the Western Balkan countries to the EU and the western security architecture. The CEDC is a platform that supports the countries in this, emphasized Blazkovec, who came to Krems on behalf of the Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova.

As Tanner continued at the meeting of the CEDC defense ministers together with her colleagues from the Western Balkan states of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia in Wachaustadt, “resilience and progress in the Western Balkan region” must continue to be ensured and further on ” of our Western Balkans Initiative”.


Meeting of the CEDC defense ministers in Krems

Closer cooperation on migration

Migration was also discussed at the meeting, in particular with “a look at the Western Balkans route and the countries affected by it,” said Tanner. “Austria is not the gateway for migration, but the countries that surround us,” emphasized the minister. There should be even closer cooperation in the future and joint solutions should be found to stop illegal migration. Blazkovec added that the region is primarily the “gateway” for migrants from the Middle East to Europe.

Among other things, the “Western Balkan Defense College” should create a training basis in the areas of security and defense, which is based on the “principles of the European Union,” said Tanner. The aim is to raise this project, “which can only be implemented through the financing of the European Peace Facility (a financing instrument of the EU’s common foreign and security policy; note)”, to EU level, the minister continued. This should further strengthen the Western Balkans and support the pre-accession to the EU, she said.

support for Ukraine

On Thursday evening, the CEDC defense ministers signed the “Joint Declaration” which defines goals. For example, it includes support for Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia. In addition, cooperation with the Western Balkan countries is to be further expanded with a view to EU accession.

The CEDC is a cooperation between the Central European countries of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. It was founded in 2010. Poland, which also sent a representative to Krems, has observer status. The presidency changes every year, next year it will be the Czech Republic’s turn. Austria will assume the CEDC chair again in 2028.

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