President Stevo Pendarovski addressed today the meeting of the leaders of the countries participating in the Brdo-Brijuni Process, which is being held in Brdo pri Kranj.
Congratulating the jubilee, 10th meeting of the initiative, President Pendarovski said that this meeting also confirmed the strategic task – full integration of all Western Balkan countries into the European Union. Referring to the current dynamics in the enlargement process of the Union, he stressed that the pace of enlargement is in obvious crisis. At the same time, he pointed out that in the context of the current geopolitical movements, this issue is gaining even greater importance for the stability and development of both the region and the Union itself. President Pendarovski reaffirmed the position on the inviolability of borders and the need for dialogue on all open issues in the spirit of good neighborly relations and regional cooperation.
The Covid-19 pandemic, President Pendarovski said, has worsened the existing problems of poverty, youth unemployment, mass emigration, especially of trained and educated young people. According to some estimates, President Pendarovski said, countries will need one to two years to return to the pre-pandemic levels of economic activity. In that context, it is crucial to start accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. On that path, it is absolutely clear that historical issues have nothing to do with the EU-integration process. Any possible failures on that path will further undermine the credibility of the European Union and its influence in the region.
“The opinion was undivided, practically it is in one of the conclusions of the Declaration we just adopted that the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans is stalled for various reasons and those reasons are not only in the region, many of them are in Brussels, however, it is a fact that a new impetus for European integration is needed. Otherwise, some other alternative models of governance and some other regional organizations that are not from the European continent will gain importance. Regarding our problem in integration, the opinion was shared that the European integration process, the negotiation process in general should not be burdened with historical controversies at all, that historical problems and interpretations of historical events have literally nothing to do with the Euro-Atlantic integration and the values respected by the members of the organizations”, President Pendarovski said, noting that in the coming period several of the participants, especially the two presidents of Croatia and Slovenia, pledged within the European Union to try with their initiatives to give a new impetus to this dispute between us and the Republic of Bulgaria.
“We hope that in the next 6 months, when Slovenia takes over the presidency of the European Union, we will notice some progress in that direction. My position was that the European Union should not be afraid of the integration of the Western Balkans at all, say for some economic or social reasons because all of us together, the total of the six economies of the Western Balkans, are not more than 1% of GDP of the European Union with our 18 million people in all 6 countries of the Western Balkans. We are barely 4% of the total population of the European Union, so if the European Union, and the Commission in this composition says exactly that, wants to be a geostrategic and geopolitical player on the global stage, it is impossible to fail this exam. If 454 million people, citizens of the European Union, cannot absorb the 18 million people living in the Western Balkans, then it is a matter of much more difficult tasks and challenges facing the European Union today”, President Pendarovski said.
Regarding the EU contribution in dealing with the consequences of the pandemic and the economic recovery, President Pendarovski expressed satisfaction with the adopted Economic and Investment Plan of the European Union and said that its implementation should be timely and effective. He also reiterated the Union’s contribution to the early stages of the health crisis through the provision of medical supplies and emergency funding. In addition, he expressed satisfaction with the recent provision of more than 600,000 vaccines to all countries in the region through the EU Solidarity Instrument.
President Pendarovski concluded that Europe should be brave in the integration of the region. The economic and demographic burden on the EU, according to President Pendarovski, will be much lower than previous enlargements of the Union, but for the countries of the region and their citizens, the benefits of future EU membership will be extremely important.