Brussels 11.05.2021 “…And it is a very timely meeting because just yesterday, we had an interesting and long discussion at the Foreign Affairs Ministers Council of the European Union about the Western Balkans. About the importance of the Western Balkans and our continued commitment to the region. The Ministers [of Foreign Affairs], all of them, reaffirmed the European perspective of the whole region, Prime Minister” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell after his meeting with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.
“There was a strong support to convene the first Intergovernmental Conference for North Macedonia as soon as possible. We know that you have been waiting for a long time – 16 years maybe. You are the second longest lasting country at the door of enlargement. But I can tell you that there was a strong support from all [Foreign Affairs] Ministers for the first conference to take place.
“Let me stress again very clearly: I did yesterday after the [Foreign Affairs] Council, at the press conference and I want to repeat it today that there is no support for “decoupling” – neither in the European Union institutions, nor among the Member states. North Macedonia met the necessary conditions to start the accession negotiations and, similarly to Albania, deserves to proceed to the next stage of the process without delays.
“I also would like to underline the high level of your alignment with our Foreign and Security Policy. And for me, the High Representative, it is very important that you very courageously – and sometimes paying a price – you have been aligning with our Common Foreign and Security Policy. We appreciate it a lot. And I understand that it is an expression of your commitment to the European path for your country.
“I want to insist on this idea, North Macedonia can count on us to support [it] when it comes to finding a solution to advance on the accession path, but also when it comes to vaccines. We just delivered the first batch of a total of 120.000 fully EU financed vaccines for North Macedonia. And this comes without a string attached, without conditionality. These are geopolitical challenges for us to help the Western Balkans in general and – North Macedonia in particular – to face the pandemic.
“Our commitment was clear in our meeting today and it was also in the discussions of the 27 EU Foreign Ministers yesterday”.
Capital city of North Macedionia – Skopje – regularly registered the most polluted cities in Europe, and sometimes in the world.
In 2018, levels of PM10 – tiny pollutant particles 10 nanometres in size that are harmful to human health – exceeded he European Union limits for a total of 202 days.
While North Macedonia is not part of the EU, it has entered accession negotiations and has some way to go to meet EU ecological air quality standards.
At present, the World Health Organization (WTO) has estimated that around 4,000 premature deaths a year in North Macedonia may be due to air pollution, and the economic cost to Skopje is thought to be between €570 and €1,470 million.
Flag raising ceremonies were held simultaneously at Allied Command Operations (SHAPE) in Mons (Belgium) and Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia (United States). North Macedonia became the 30th member of the Alliance on Friday (27 March 2020), when it deposited its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with the US State Department in Washington DC.
Standing alongside the Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation of North Macedonia to NATO, Mr. Zoran Todorov, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “This is a historic moment for North Macedonia. It comes after years of perseverance, determination, and commitment to reform. In the best spirit of the Alliance, and through political courage and vision, North Macedonia and Greece reached a historic compromise over the name issue. The Prespa agreement made NATO accession possible. It has also contributed to good neighborly relations and a brighter future for North Macedonia. Your hard work has made today possible.”
“Joining NATO is good for North Macedonia. It is good for the stability of the Western Balkans and it is good for international peace and security,” Mr. Stoltenberg added. “At times like these, friends and Allies are more important than ever and North Macedonia now has the best friends and Allies in the world. We are all safer and stronger together than alone. So, welcome to NATO,” he added.
North Macedonia became NATO’s newest member on March 27, upon depositing its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with the US State Department in Washington DC. NATO Allies signed North Macedonia’s Accession Protocol in February 2019, after which all 29 national parliaments voted to ratify the country’s membership.
“North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of thirty nations and almost one billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together“ said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in his welcome address from Brussels Headquarters.
North Macedonia is a long-standing contributor to our Euro-Atlantic security, including by participating in NATO-led missions in Afghanistan and in Kosovo.
A flag-raising ceremony for North Macedonia will take place at NATO Headquarters on 30 March 2020, in the presence of the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, and the Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation of North Macedonia to NATO Mr. Zoran Todorov.
The flag of North Macedonia will be simultaneously raised at the Allied Command Operations in Mons (Belgium) and at the Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk (US).
Image: archive – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev in Brussels NATO Headquarters,
“Today’s political agreement to open accession negotiations with Albania and the Republic of Macedonia is a recognition of the significant reform efforts made by these two countries. Both have demonstrated clear political determination to move forward on their European path. The road to accession is long. But when real and sustained progress is made in fulfilling the accession criteria, this brings Western Balkan partners closer to the EU. I am truly satisfied that a new stage has opened in the process of the accession of Albania and North Macedonia to the EU during the Croatian presidency, which has the European perspective of the Western Balkans at heart” said Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, Croatian State Secretary for European Affairs.
Ministers exchanged views on enlargement and the stabilisation and association process, focusing on Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia.
They gave their political agreement to the opening of accession negotiations with both countries.
On this basis, a written procedure has been launched for the formal adoption of Council conclusions. It is expected to end on Wednesday 25 March in the morning.
On October 17 the EU leaders discussed the enlargement. The overwhelming majority wanted to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. However, such a decision requires unanimity, and there was no unanimity yesterday. That is why the EU will revert to this issue before the Zagreb summit in May 2020.
‘Let me be very clear: North Macedonia and Albania are not to blame for this. And the Commission reports are also clear that both these countries did what they were asked to do. And the adoption of the Prespa Agreement was a truly extraordinary achievement. So both countries have the right to start EU negotiations as of today. They are ready. Unfortunately, a few member states are not ready yet. This is why we didn’t manage to reach a positive decision. Personally, I think it was a mistake, but I will not comment on it further” the President of the European Council Donald Tusk said.
‘Today I would like to send a message to our Macedonian and Albanian friends: please do not give up. I fully understand your frustration, because you did your share and we haven’t. The EU is a complex political entity, and it is true that sometimes it takes too long to decide. But I have absolutely no doubt that one day you will become full members of the European Union.”
‘Today leaders also discussed the priorities of the new Commission with President-elect von der Leyen, as well as the future EU budget. It was an important discussion that will continue in the following months. However, without Jean-Claude (Juncker) and myself around the European Council table, as you know. On this note, I want to thank Jean-Claude, my colleague and friend, for our friendship, for your loyalty and solidarity and for our really great cooperation. And I also want to thank you, the media, for your tough but fair questions, for your patience, for staying up so late with us. And for laughing at some of our jokes. Never funny, frankly speaking…”
North Macedonia is likely to gain the European Union support to start membership talks later this year, according to the EU diplomats.
“North Macedonia has a good chance, given the historic resolution of its name issue,” the diplomatic source confirmed.
The name change from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Republic of North Macedonia has offered Skopje momentum and is highly likely to persuade Paris, Berlin and The Hague to back EU talks.
Image above: Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, Johannes Hahn, Member of the EC in charge of European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, receive Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of North Macedonia.