Press Releases North Macedonia: Speech by High Representative Josep Borrell at the Intergovernmental Conference

North Macedonia: Speech by High Representative Josep Borrell at the Intergovernmental Conference

Thank you, President [of the Council of the European Union, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Jan Lipavský].

Today marks a major breakthrough that will be crucial for North Macedonia, for the Western Balkans and for the European Union as a whole.

I was President of the European Parliament in 2005 when the Prime Minister of North Macedonia at that time, Vado Buckovski, received a positive opinion from the European Commission. It was in 2005, 17 years ago.

Today, we are finally starting the process. You have been working and waiting a lot for it. 

We live [in] times of big geopolitical changes, tectonic changes. We are moving forward through strategic and historic decisions. Certainly, we stand at a crossroad of the history and we are, as I said, witnessing changes in our geostrategic environment – and you are a part of it. I strongly believe that we can only advance together, by fully integrating the Western Balkans in the European Union. We would not be complete without you. 

The European Union was created to overcome divisions and to heal the wounds of war on our continent. The enduring value of the European Union, as a peace project among Europeans and as a strong actor in the international arena is to create security among us and uphold security worldwide, starting from our continent and projecting our values, more visibly than ever, in the whole world. 

Today, North Macedonia is moving to the next stage on its path into the European Union. 

We are living a critical momentum and this momentum has to be seized by North Macedonia to push ahead crucial reforms. And we will support you on that. The deep and comprehensive work of reaching European Union standards, through the accession process, will transform your society – it has been transforming all societies of the States that became Member [of the European Union], [and] bring tangible benefits for your citizens and on that long-delayed journey, we – the European Union – will support you in view of attempts by third powers to influence you, [by] building your resilience, and help you to address the consequences of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, which will be very visible on food and energy security.

We are also working to strengthen your military and defence capacities, including through the European Peace Facility that is playing such an important role at the moment. We will stand firmly with you, all the way.

Allow me to focus on the Common Foreign and Security Policy, [of] which I am in charge of developing.

North Macedonia is already 100% aligned with this Common Foreign and Security Policy. As I said at our meeting with all Western Balkans leaders in June here in Brussels, alignment with the European Union’s foreign policy and sanctions is not a technical exercise. And we do not take it for granted. It costs a lot and it comes with a cost. This is not a simple transaction of interests, but a relationship based on shared principles, values and goals. Your full alignment shows clearly the strategic direction that you have chosen.

Allow me a few remarks on identity. We are living [in] times of identity politics. Identity is a topic that has been discussed passionately over the past weeks, months, and years. On your path to the European Union, you will not lose your identity – none of us does. We have a complex multi-layered identity. North Macedonia with its identity, its own identity, its rich history and culture, has always been part of Europe. You do not need Council Conclusions to know that. Your identity will remain and it will be enriched by other identities which are not alternative, but complementary. The richness of the human being is to have several, all of them compatible.

And that is what, essentially, we are celebrating today.

We [the European Union] need you, we need North Macedonia in order to complete our complex identity . We need each other because we are stronger together.

Thank you.

Link to the video (starting at 11:05):


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