President Stevo Pendarovski addressed the traditional annual reception that he hosted yesterday evening in Skopje for the representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in the Republic of North Macedonia.
As Dean of the diplomatic corps, the Ambassador of the Republic of Albania, Fatos Reka, addressed the reception.
Distinguished Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Esteemed Ambassador Reka, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in the Republic of North Macedonia,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the onset, let me welcome you to the traditional annual reception for members of the diplomatic corps accredited in the Republic of North Macedonia and wish good health, happiness and success to you and your families, as well as success and progress in every field to your countries in the coming period.
We left behind a year filled with numerous activities and commitments aimed at advancement of relations between North Macedonia and the countries you represent, and, therefore I would like to express my special gratitude for your engagement and contribution.
I am pleased that in the past period we maintained the intensity of contacts and partnership relations while discussing various aspects of our bilateral and multilateral cooperation, the European integration, the stability and security in the region and beyond, the reforms and political developments in our country.
In the last year of my term as Head of State, I had the opportunity to pay important visits to several countries, including the Kingdom of Belgium, the Czech Republic and the United Arab Emirates, to have numerous meetings with my colleagues, heads of state, on the sidelines of various international events, but also to be host to the presidents of Hungary, Slovenia and Kosovo.
Last year, Skopje, through the final Ministerial Meeting of the OSCE, the Summit of Heads of State of the Brdo-Brijuni Process, the Ministerial Meeting of the Adriatic Charter, Struga through the Prespa Dialogue Forum and Ohrid as the host of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, were centers where discussions were held and important decisions made not only for the Region, but also for the European continent. For us, as a small country, this is really of paramount significance.
Therefore, I want to thank everyone who participated in the implementation of these activities, the employees in my Cabinet, the employees in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the diplomatic staff in your embassies and all those who carried a huge burden for the successful implementation of these important forums.
Your Excellences, Dear Friends,
As president of a country located in a turbulent region, for the past five years, I have tried to lead a balanced, transparent and predictable foreign policy, in the interest of peace and security, good neighborliness, stability, prosperity and common values that we share with the democratic countries.
The European integration of North Macedonia and the Western Balkans have always been at the core of my efforts and the efforts of my team, my closest collaborators. I believe in this since the beginning of my public engagement and I will continue to advocate for it until its full realization.
Speaking about the European integration during my mandate, we did not finish the job, because after the compromises we made that were not detrimental to the Macedonian national interests, we started the negotiations after a long period of 17 years of waiting with the candidate status, but, inside the country, despite the clearly drawn path and open door, we failed to adopt the constitutional amendments, which, after the successful completion of the screening, would have allowed us to continue the process with the second intergovernmental conference.
However, after many years with a frozen status, we made a big step forward and reached a stage where the progress in integrations depends only on us now, not on any external factor. In this sense, the entire process of integrations has shown that we are not alone in this endeavor, because we have built solid partnership relations with almost all the member states of the Union, which will be more than necessary in the period to come and which will be a guarantee that the integrations will take place in a European manner, without setting obstacles and inventing criteria that have nothing in common neither with negotiations, nor with European values.
At the same time, this entire period of uncertainty, often filled with unprincipled demands and attacks on our identity attributes, led to a significant drop in support for the European integration, above all, among the Macedonians, which should worry not only us, but also the countries that believe in the enlargement of the Union and consider it a key stake in the security and prosperity of the continent.
With this in mind, I still believe that our future would be much more predictable as a member of the Union, than being alone or trying to integrate in some other forms that have nothing in common with democratic values.
Therefore, I would like to reaffirm my position that the country must stay on the European integration path and build good neighborly relations, regardless of who will be in the executive power after the elections in May this year.
The same applies to my vision for the region of the Western Balkans, which from the first day of my term was and remains diametrically opposed to the ideas of changing borders, exchanging territories, concepts of big states, or worlds of one kind or another. The Western Balkans, integrated in the EU will be safe, economically prosperous and resistant to malicious influences and this should be a priority for every responsible politician, first of all, in our country, but also in Brussels.
This is where my support came from for the new negotiation methodology, for the common regional market, the investment plan, the growth plan, the green agenda and the principle of gradual integration, with the view that there are good ideas for the future of the region, but decisions are missing, which will not remain in the domain of bureaucratic symbolism, but will actually move us forward.
The future of the region deserves even greater attention in terms of the challenges we will face this year, which is a year of elections in several countries, including our key strategic partners, the EU and the USA.
The growth of populism in Europe is not new, but, as never before, populists are gaining political weight and decisive power in the processes in which our country is involved. All this is happening against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the conflict in the Middle East and tensions in relations between key factors in international relations.
Regardless of the outcome of all these election cycles, I am deeply convinced that the cohesion in the Euro-Atlantic bloc and the processes of further integration and enlargement of the European Union with the Western Balkan region must be imperative for the governments in Europe and in Washington, if we really want peace and stability on the European continent.
In these frameworks, the outcome of the war in Ukraine and the support that the democratic world gives to this European country are of particular importance, because the defeat of Ukraine will undoubtedly be the defeat of democracy and the wide opening of the doors for regimes that do not behave democratically towards its citizens, and even less in international relations.
We, as a small country, have demonstrated our support and solidarity with the heroic Ukrainian people from the beginning, which must remain and last until Ukraine achieves its goals in this unjust war.
Excellences, Dear Friends,
Pertaining to the domestic political events, my intention today is not to repeat what I said in my fifth annual address to the Parliament, where I clearly underlined how I see the current political processes.
A few weeks separate us from the beginning of the pre-election campaign for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, the outcome of which will depend on the dynamics of the reform processes, the fight against organized crime and high corruption, the reform of the public administration, the functioning of the rule of law, as well as on facing the everyday problems that often make the ordinary citizen feel neglected by those whose priority must indeed be solving their problems.
We are in front of a period in which political tensions and emotions will grow, but we must not allow the struggle for power to undermine the foundations on which our society has been built all these years.
It is the responsibility of us, the politicians, not to allow the political opponents to turn into enemies. The electoral process must be fair, peaceful and democratic, and the next government must reflect the will of the citizens and our ethnic diversity.
After the elections, the responsibility of the politicians will have to be measured not only by the fulfillment of election promises, but also by the practical commitment to the further harmonization of inter-ethnic relations and continuation of European integration.
Regarding the constitutional changes, the future parliamentary composition will have to continue the debate and close this issue as soon as possible, because the state must fully focus on solving everyday problems, which will alleviate the negative demographic trends and the low standard of living of Macedonian citizens.
In conclusion, Your Excellences, allow me, by raising this glass, to wish once again prosperity and progress to your countries and organizations, and much happiness, health and success to you personally.
TO A SUCCESSFUL YEAR!