The President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, addressed the youth event “Bilateral Youth Cooperation Offices between North Macedonia and Greece”, organized by the Youth Alliance Krushevo, in partnership with the UNESCO Youth Club Thessaloniki and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation – Office in Skopje, supported by the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US Embassy in North Macedonia.
The event promoted the initiative to open Bilateral Youth Cooperation Offices between North Macedonia and Greece, which would increase the scope of cooperation and initiate joint activities to respond to the needs of the young people in both countries.
The following is an integral text of President Pendarovski’s address.
Respected representatives of youth NGOs,
Distinguished representatives of the diplomatic corps,
I have the privilege of addressing you today on this, for many reasons, specific and important day. Namely, today this cultural event announces the opening of the Bilateral Youth Cooperation Offices between North Macedonia and the Hellenic Republic, which is certainly a remarkable step in increasing the cooperation between the youth of both countries. Practically, this is a kind of a product of the Prespa Agreement that has removed the political obstacles straining our relations and, at the same time, is a natural, normal course of cooperation between two neighboring countries.
On this occasion, I would like to stress that despite the open question in our relations in the past, the citizens of both countries, of course, especially the young people, had no problem in communicating, cooperating and implementing joint projects. The organizations hosting today’s event – Youth Alliance Krushevo and UNESCO Youth Club Thessaloniki have been implementing joint projects and events for a decade. I must mention here the example of Mr. Babis Papaioannou from the UNESCO Youth Club Thessaloniki, who for decade and a half has been professionally connected with our country in various roles and has been a consistent supporter and participant in the processes related to youth policy, youth work, the recent launch of the youth card and many other initiatives. Mr. Papaioannou is also project coordinator from the Greek side. All this speaks to the existence of deep and strong ties, which, in addition to the professional dedication, vision and joint efforts for progress and success in the region, turn into deep and sincere friendships.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Unfortunately, there are still people on both sides of the border, including young people, who have prejudices about the neighboring country, who simply did not have the opportunity to get to know the other side’s life, to socialize with their peers, exchange opinions, ideas. Hence, the initiative to open Bilateral Youth Cooperation Offices between North Macedonia and the Hellenic Republic is an idea for a project that will increase the scope of cooperation and initiate joint activities to respond to the needs of young people in both countries. It will indeed significantly contribute to enhancing cooperation and friendship and overcoming negative perceptions and stereotypes that result from a long absence of accurate information. Many young people, through this initiative exactly, will have the opportunity for the first time to socialize with their peers and witness directly that they share common interests, visions, problems.
I want to assure you that my presence at the very beginning of this initiative means absolute support for youth activities and in particular support for projects that contribute to the development of good neighborly relations. The participation of representatives of the diplomatic corps shows how important bilateral initiatives are not only for the Republic of North Macedonia and the Hellenic Republic, but for the whole region. I believe that times are finally coming when we will pay much more attention, care and responsibility to young people because they deserve it. The adoption of the Law on Youth Participation and Youth Policies in the Macedonian Parliament fifteen days ago gives me the right to hope that 2020 will bring many more positive changes in this regard.
At the end, let me wish you a successful event and a pleasant stay in our capital to the guests from the Hellenic Republic. We are looking forward to the opening of the Bilateral Youth Cooperation Offices between our two countries soon.