The President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, held a bilateral meeting in Brussels today with the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

President Pendarovski expressed his gratitude for the huge and unreserved support of the President of the European Council and for his personal efforts for setting a date for the start of the negotiations for North Macedonia.

The two interlocutors agreed that in the past two years, the country has made difficult and courageous decisions on very sensitive issues and has shown that the open issues in the region can be resolved in the spirit of good neighborly relations.

President Pendarovski stressed that North Macedonia took decisive steps in fulfilling the reform agenda, demonstrating its commitment to the Euro-Atlantic processes.

At the press conference, the President of the European Council Tusk said in his statement that the agreements that North Macedonia reached with Bulgaria and Greece are historic and can be an example in the region. Tusk stressed that the state has done everything needed and everything expected from it, and that the place of the Republic of North Macedonia is in the European Union.

President Pendarovski said that in June, the European Union has a historic opportunity to show leadership and a vision of the future of our region by setting a date for negotiations with North Macedonia. The citizens of North Macedonia do not ask for an undeserved award, but for a deserved chance to build a European state with a just, humane and advanced society.

Below is the integral statement of the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, at the joint press conference with the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

Distinguished media representatives,

My first international visit as President of the Republic of North Macedonia indeed hides a great symbolism and Brussels is not chosen by chance. Primarily because the choice of the vast majority of our citizens were the European Union and NATO.

On this occasion, I would like to extend my gratitude for the strong support and commitment of the President of the European Council, Mr. Donald Tusk, and his personal efforts in setting a date for accession negotiations of the Republic of North Macedonia to the European Union.

Mr. Tusk, I thank you on behalf of all citizens of North Macedonia.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Just two weeks ago, we received the best, most positive European Commission Progress Report on our country. Not only did we get a clear and unconditional recommendation for the start of the accession negotiations, but we were also referred to as a bright example in the Western Balkans.

We have become a positive example in the Balkans through the intensive diplomatic engagement that helped us solve decade-long pending issues. We made courageous and difficult decisions on very sensitive issues for my fellow citizens, decisions aimed at eliminating the biggest obstacle in the process of our membership in the European Union and the NATO Alliance.

By signing the Agreement on Friendship, Good Neighborly relations and Cooperation with Bulgaria and the Prespa Agreement with Greece, we have freed ourselves from the burden of the past. North Macedonia is the only country in the region that has no open issues with its neighbors. North Macedonia regularly delivers good news in the region over the past two years.

In addition to resolving issues with our neighbors, we are carrying out substantive and thorough reforms in many key areas. We are aligning our internal and external and security policies with the European Union’s policy.

We are aware that further reforms are needed and I agree that there are weaknesses and that a lot of work is still ahead. But I have to stress one Balkan political reality – we are most effective when we are given concrete tasks. Hence, membership negotiations are the best reform tool.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end, I would like to remind you of 2016 and the role of my country in dealing with the migrant and refugee crisis. Then, we stopped on the fender of the security of Europe and together with the successful mission of Frontex, we showed that we are solid European partners.

This June, the European Union has a historic opportunity to show leadership and a vision of the future of our entire region by setting a date for negotiations on North Macedonia. Our citizens do not ask for an undeserved reward, but for a deserved chance to build a European state with a just, humane and advanced society.

Thank you.