Press Releases European Council: Remarks by President Charles Michel after his meeting in Skopje with Prime Minister of North Macedonia Dimitar Kovačevski

European Council: Remarks by President Charles Michel after his meeting in Skopje with Prime Minister of North Macedonia Dimitar Kovačevski

Thank you for your warm welcome back in North Macedonia. It is just a couple of weeks since my last visit. I would also like to thank the President and the Prime Minister for our constructive and very useful talks today. I will meet with the political party coordinators in the parliament later this afternoon.

I come to Skopje at a crucial moment, for North Macedonia but also a crucial moment for the European Union. At my last press conference with the President, I shared my strong personal conviction: that the future of my three children and the future of all our children, will be safer and more prosperous with the Western Balkans in the European Union.

At the European Council following my previous visit, it is exactly the same sentiment that inspired the 27 European leaders to take important geopolitical decisions for the future of our Union. We decided to re-energise the Enlargement process and to further advance the gradual integration of the EU and the region, already during the enlargement process.

The 27 EU leaders also met with the Western Balkans leaders in Brussels two weeks ago. We had a frank, open and hard discussion. But it was much needed. We opened our ears, we listened carefully to each other, and as a result, we formally decided to inject a new dynamic and a new determination to move forward together with the Western Balkans.

We want you to join us and our goal is to speed up the process. The launch of negotiations will rapidly bring advantages — in investment and trade, for instance. You will also be part of more EU initiatives and programmes, normally open only for EU Member States.

You are deciding on your future and on the pivotal next steps. In my opinion, North Macedonia belongs in the EU. In my opinion, your future is with us. Together we are on the eve of a possible breakthrough in your country’s EU accession process. We have worked towards this moment since March 2020 when we decided to open negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.

Last week, the Council of the EU put forward a revised compromise solution. I’m personally absolutely convinced this is a balanced solution that addresses your main concerns. The goal is clear: to start North Macedonia’s accession talks and to finally move forward to build our common EU future.

If you say “yes”, the first intergovernmental conference will be organised in the next few days and will implement the March 2020 decision. The next steps will follow immediately, most notably the screening process will begin — not only the updated explanatory screening, but also the bilateral screening. Negotiating teams will be called to Brussels without delay.

Importantly this proposal clearly refers to the Macedonian language, without qualification by the EU. Macedonian language is your language and the proposal respects that. The acquis, the EU legislation, will all be translated into Macedonian.

We are also very aware of the concerns expressed by some regarding your national identity. You can count on my full support, as President of the European Council, to systematically stand up for your legitimate rights. And good neighbourly relations are also an essential element in the enlargement process like it is for all Western Balkan partners.

As for respect for minorities, it is enshrined in the EU Treaty. North Macedonia has already built an impressive track record on this. You are an example of how a multi-ethnic country can advance. If you change the constitution, it will be seen as a further commitment to these high standards, it will automatically, without need for further decision, trigger the second IGC, and it will automatically complete the opening of the negotiations.

The decision of course lies with you. It is your sovereign choice. I know how committed your country, and your people, are to the free world and democratic values and principles. And let me honestly tell you, as a friend, this opportunity is too important to be missed. We have never been so close.

Macedonians, you have an historic opportunity to say “yes”: “yes” to the start of negotiations, “yes” to the EU, “yes” for our children. Your country has a chance to once again become an enlargement frontrunner.

EU-related reforms will also get a new dynamic. These reforms will bring you closer to the EU and lead to greater prosperity, stability, and resilience for your people. You can count on our political and financial support and maybe more importantly, on our respect and loyalty.

Dear Dimitar, dear Macedonians, only together can we face the enormous challenges of our times, only together can we live in prosperity and security, and only together can we overcome our greatest obstacles. I strongly believe we can do that right now.

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