Thank you dear President Pendarovski,
Dear Speaker Xhaferi,
Honourable Members of the parliament,
Prime Minister Kovachevski,
President of the Supreme Court Ademi,
It is a pleasure to be here and I thank you very much for the invitation, the honour to speak to you here in this honourable parliament and to this plenary. I wanted to be here today with you so that I may speak to you directly, so that you may hear from me how Europe is waiting for you. Waiting and hoping that you will take yet another step towards the Union.
Your country is a candidate to become a member of the European Union. Since 2005, many of you here – and many, many more who are absent – have worked so hard to become a member of the European Union. And only four years later, in 2009, the European Commission recommended that we open accession negotiations with you. Since then, we have consistently stood by your side. And now, finally, we could be on the threshold of a decisive step forward. I am here today because I believe that this is the moment for you to move ahead towards our common future. Towards our common future in a European Union with North Macedonia as a full-fledged member.
You have shown boldness and determination before. The Prespa Agreement was a profile in courage; two countries that agreed to move forward and write the next chapters of their histories together. This led you to become a member of NATO. And after more than two years of NATO membership, North Macedonia has shown that it is a reliable security provider, a real added value to the Alliance.
I know that the same will happen when you become a member of the European Union. I know this because you have already demonstrated a vital capacity to change your society for the better. Your efforts to strengthen the rule of law to fight against corruption are commendable. You have established a strong record on human rights. You have a free media. You have a vibrant civil society. You are a successful model of a diverse, multi-ethnic society, forged in the historic Ohrid Framework Agreement. You chose a path of peace rather than conflict. And this was the path of peace shown by the late President, Boris Trajkovski. He said that he intended ‘to be the President of all citizens […] regardless of their ethnic or religious background, regardless of their political standing.' He added that he would ‘not allow ethnic hatred and intolerance' to undermine the stability of the country.
Many of you will be understandably frustrated that your country has not yet begun accession negotiations. Let me tell you: I am too. The Commission has been recommending the opening of negotiations for the last 13 years. And you will be understandably frustrated that the opening of negotiations with the European Union did not immediately follow the Prespa Agreement. This was bitter. But you never gave up. And we, together, never gave up. Together, we followed our dream of one European Union. And together, we will turn this dream into reality.
We must all now turn our gaze forward. We must grasp the opportunity that lies before us: to launch accession negotiations and work together on the path that takes you into the European Union. We can do this as soon as next week, by taking the first step of the revised French proposal. You are all very aware of the revised proposal. It protects your interests and addresses the concerns of all sides. Be reassured that the Commission – that has always stood by your side, in this country – continues to stay by your side and will be there for you tomorrow and all the many days after. We are convinced that this is of historic importance. But the decision is yours to take and yours only. Ultimately, this is about the path you choose, and you have chosen before with the Ohrid Framework, with Prespa, with the building of a vibrant society and democracy.
Should you decide to endorse the revised French proposal, a political Intergovernmental Conference will be held within the next few days. We, the Commission, will then start immediately the process of screening the acquis. This is the first step in the negotiation process. We will then be glad to welcome your negotiating team to Brussels and send our negotiating team to your capital to start working together.
I have listened carefully to the concerns expressed regarding the Macedonian language and identity. There can be no doubt that the Macedonian language is your language. And I am happy to repeat it: There can be no doubt that the Macedonian language is your language. And we fully respect that. That is why the revised proposal refers to the Macedonian language, without qualification by the European Union. The proposal also respects your national identity. The principle of self-identification is so important for each one of us. You can count on me, as President of the European Commission, to ensure that the accession process will strictly abide by European principles and European standards. Yours is a successful multi-ethnic society. It mirrors the EU's motto: ‘United in diversity.' You have shown commitment to the rule of law, the protection of human rights and to the rights of all communities. These are values that we all share. Amending your Constitution to advance fundamental rights further will reinforce your commitment to these values. And then, this will automatically complete the opening phase of the negotiations. It will trigger another Intergovernmental Conference, without any further decision.
Good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation are part of the DNA of European integration. These are also essential elements in the enlargement process, as well as the Stabilisation and Association Process, for all enlargement countries. Let me reassure you: Bilateral issues, such as the interpretation of history, are not conditions in the accession negotiations. Some say, it would be better to wait for a better deal than the one presented by France. It is, of course, your right to do so. But please consider how hard we all have tried to get here through successive Presidencies – Germany, Portugal, Slovenia and now France. I encourage you to seize this opportunity. By opening this door now, North Macedonia empowers itself by being in the negotiation process rather than outside of it. And benefits will accrue as you progress. Investments, improved trade links, closer collaboration in key sectors such as energy and transport. New good jobs, business opportunities. This is what the young generation wants. They love their country. They want to build their future here. They are willing to work hard for that. But they need the opportunity. Let us open the next important door for them. I have children, I have a granddaughter. Many of you have children, some of you have grandchildren. All of us together, I think that we share the same dream, that one day our children and our grand-children, they are all part of the same European Union. That is what we want. And this is the future you are deciding about here – today, tomorrow and the next days.
We live in very difficult times. As the COVID-19 pandemic is stretching into the third year, its catastrophic effects have continued to impact people's lives and livelihoods. Russia's brutal war in Ukraine has unleashed a devastating humanitarian and global food crisis. Energy prices are skyrocketing. In addition, we have to fight the escalating climate crisis. These are all daunting challenges that we must face. But we can master them. We will master them – together, as strong democracies, as one Union. Your country has risen to the occasion. You stand steadfast with the Union. You are a true and reliable partner. And I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart. You have shown your determination to the EU values. You deserve to move forward on the path to membership. Your decisive step forward is now yours to take.
I would like to end with another quote from President Trajkovski: ‘I consider two things, on a daily basis: what is right to do and what is wrong to do […]. According to my conscience, I am trying to abide by the right thing. My vision is peace. My vision is prosperity.' I fervently hope that you too will do the same. Do the right thing for the peace and prosperity of North Macedonia, a soon-to-be member of the European Union. The future of your country is in the European Union. And Europe is not complete without North Macedonia.
Ве сакаме во ЕУ!
- Publication date
- 14 July 2022
- Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations