I know that the European Union is dealing with itself, but it must be aware that we are in the Balkans for 30 years in transition and we have to see the light at the end of the tunnel, said the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, in the interview with N1 TV, during his participation at the Summit of the South-East European Cooperation Process, held in Sarajevo.

He said he expects North Macedonia to begin accession negotiations with the EU this autumn.

“Objectively, all of us in North Macedonia are a bit disappointed with the double talks by the European Union as a whole. Last year in Sofia, the Summit ended with a crystal clear formulation that the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania will start negotiations, i.e. will receive a date for negotiations in June 2019. That did not happen. We were convinced by the highest German officials that it is only a technical delay of the process; we accept it and we will wait for the September decision of the German Bundestag and the October decision of the entire European Union. However, we ask the question – what if, meanwhile, another Parliament, for technical reasons, delays the process, because of a consensus-based decision making principle therein. One state is enough to say no, and it ends up in another delay”, President Pendarovski said.

“Why is this extremely important for us? We are constantly talking about historical moves, that we live in historical times and, as expected, as good or less good old Balkan people, we exaggerate in this. The last year or two were indeed a historical period for my country because we did something that nobody has made in the entire diplomatic history of the world. We changed the name of the state. Previously, we had another name, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but now, the new name North Macedonia is also valid internally, within the legal order of our country, and there was a significant resistance among our population, among our citizens. I cannot say this is not true. We repeatedly explain to our electorate; I was two months ago in the presidential elections and then I was asked whether we must do that, why we do that, and I told them – we are doing it for Europe, for our perspective in a united Europe. Now they say – where is Europe? Delayed for October. And what if it is postponed again for the next year? Another fact we discussed at the meeting with the President of Montenegro Djukanovic – every new and next member or a promising member of the European Union negotiates longer than the previous one. Up to now, Montenegro has been negotiating for 7 years and has not yet opened all the chapters, not to mention when they will close all 35 chapters. If the European accession process, and here I refer only to negotiations, lasts 10 or 15 years, what prospect can I offer to my people or any other Balkan politician. Hence, the European Union, though I know it deals with itself, with its internal architecture, must know that we are in the Balkans generally 30 years in transition and we have to see, but really, we must see the light at the end of the tunnel”, President Pendarovski said in the interview with N1 TV.

President Pendarovski, after the change of power in Greece, does not expect a change in the Greek position regarding the Prespa Agreement, but expects, as he says, a somewhat more rigid stance regarding the implementation of the Agreement, especially in the part of the trade marks of the products from the northern part of Greece and North Macedonia.

“I do not expect a change. I expect probably a slightly more rigid stance regarding the implementation of the Agreement. To clarify or translate – we do not expect any obstruction from the new Greek government, now in October, when a final decision to open negotiations is to be made, for setting a date to start negotiations. However, I expect, because of their known political position from before, that in the next months and years, within the negotiations on different chapters, Greece will require strict implementation of some provisions of the Prespa Agreement, especially in the part of ​​the trade marks. There is a special commission established to mark all the products produced in the northern part of Greece and North Macedonia and maybe in that part will require more rigid implementation of the Agreement, which is otherwise clear in that segment”, President Pendarovski said.

In the interview with N1 TV, President Pendarovski reiterated his position expressed at the Sarajevo Summit that the internal transformation of the EU and the accession negotiations with candidate countries should take place in parallel.

“In my address at the Summit, I commented on the decisions of some European politicians who are in favor of internal transformation of the EU first and then enlargement. However, from the very beginning to the present, the European Union has been running these two processes in parallel. You can discuss internal structure or better procedures for solving problems that visibly exist since the European Union is not consisted of 12 members but of 28, but at the same time it must enlarge. We are not talking about full membership of North Macedonia, not even of Montenegro that negotiates, nor of Serbia. We are talking about us, about giving us a chance to start negotiations. You know why? I say this on many receptions, on many forums, on many of my public appearances and that does not sound good to some nationalists in the Balkans, but it is a fact – we do not have a great democratic experience in the region, especially North Macedonia. We are a formal democracy since 1991; we must have an external evaluator in the character and deeds of several old European Union members so that we can make such reform in key areas: in the judiciary, in the media, in the administration, in the political system, following the best European practices. Otherwise, we will not be able to do much if we are left alone. That is why we need Brussels and the negotiating system. It means that we will reform much faster if someone from outside tells us – these are European standards and at the end of the process, if you are doing well, you can proceed, but if you are not doing well, you have to go all over again. You know, if you let us in the Balkans reform alone, that process will last for too long”, President Pendarovski said in the interview with N1 TV.