Slovenian Defense Minister Matej Tonin said on Sept. 2 that the EU should expand cooperation with candidates for membership "in every area in which this is possible, even during the accession stage."
In an interview with EURACTIV, ahead of an informal meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers, Tonin said that Slovenia took the promise that the EU would admit the entire region "very seriously".
Asked whether the EU should consider expanding the advantages of the European Defense Union to the Western Balkans so that the process unfolded simultaneously with the expansion process, Tonin replied "absolutely." "Of course this step would include extending both benefits and the responsibilities of the Union's efforts in the defense field."
He stressed that the EU's partners from the Western Balkans were already partaking in several EU missions, that some were included in EU combat groups and cooperating with the European Defense Agency (EDA). "All of this shows that they want and are capable of being active members of the EDA," Tonin said adding that the Slovenian EU chairmanship was actively striving to bolster dialog on a joint security and defense policy with the region.