Statement at the press conference following the Leader’s meeting of Brdo-Brijuni Process
Friday, 27 April 2018 18:28   

BB1Distinguished President of the European Council, Mr. Tusk,
Distinguished Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Borissov,
Distinguished President of the Republic of Croatia, Ms. Grabar Kitarovic,
Distinguished President of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Pahor,
Dear collegues,
Respected representatives of the media,

Today is an important day for the Republic of Macedonia and for our region. We are hosting one of the rare regional cooperation mechanism that delivers concrete results.

The Brdo-Brijuni Process opened up the opportunity to us, the presidents, to define the general strategic directions that the prime ministers and governments are to further specify and operationalize through the Berlin Process, which will soon be rounded up in London. Hence, I would like to emphasize that the new processes and initiatives neither reduce nor exhaust the significance of the Brdo-Brijuni Process, which retains the irreplaceable role of generating strategic solutions.

Therefore, I am very grateful to the Presidents Pahor and Grabar-Kitarovic, who, as leaders of the Brdo-Brijuni Process, tirelessly represent the interests of our region. The upcoming EU - Western Balkans Summit in Sofia is a result of our demands and their commitments, but also the readiness of Prime Minister Borissov to put the region at the top of the agenda of the Bulgarian presidency with the EU. Thank you Mr. Prime Minister.

Today's meeting was in the spirit of connectivity. Connectivity is a priority above all priorities. It depends on the connectivity whether our region will be counted among the developed European regions. And there are at least three things that connect us.

First is the economic connectivity. We expect the European Union to continue with its assistance for transportation and energy connectivity projects of the Brdo-Brijuni Process members.

Second is the security connectivity. Exactly one week ago, I opened the first meeting of heads of intelligence agencies of the Brdo-Brijuni Process participating countries. At the meeting, the directors warned of three things. First, that the migrant crisis is not over yet and is still a regional threat. Second, that existing bilateral disagreements could potentially destabilize the region. And third, that there is a dark side to connectivity as well. Illegal migration, criminal networks, corruption, foreign fighter returnees, and terrorism are closely connected. To cope with this growing threat, intelligence services need to be even more tightly connected. Our role, as leaders, is to enable the services to cooperate.

With us today is the President of the European Council, Mr. Donald Tusk, who has a huge merit for the successful management of the migrant crisis. Mr. President, you recognized that the stronger the Balkans, the stronger the European Union will be.

And so we come to the most important thing that connects us, and that is the desire for membership in the European Union. We expect from the EU not to give empty promises, because the EU membership for us is not an empty ideal. As a region we have a task to secure good governance through the rule of law, and the respect of fudamental human rights and freedoms.

A few months ago, the EU Strategy for the Western Balkans was adopted in Brussels as an open window for our region. We welcome the objective criteria for enlargement of the European Union with the Western Balkans by evaluating the merits of each country individually.

However, I cannot remain silent on the following. The strategy explicitly states that new open issues may not be imported into the Union. I want to remind you that border issues and identity issues have a different nature, and therefore different consequences. And issues with different consequences cannot be treated on an equal basis. The Republic of Macedonia has no open territorial and border issues, and therefore it rightfully expects greater flexibility from the European Union.

Top strategic goals of the Republic of Macedonia are membership in NATO and the European Union. But, for a long while, the enlargement policy failed in the case of the Republic of Macedonia, not because of the principles and criteria of the European Union, but because one member state failed to respect those principles and criteria.

As a President of the Republic of Macedonia I call the European Union to allow parralel movement of the EU negotiations and overcoming the billateral issue between Macedonia and Greece. By its very nature, enlargement is a political, not just a technical matter. The European Council, not the European Commission has the final word. A political issue cannot be solved only by a technical approach. It requires courage, determination and creativity from the Union. The perfect example is Slovena and Croatia who with the help of the EU managed to find a way for parallel negotiations. Thanks to such European approach, today Slovenia and Croatia are leaders of the Brdo-Brijuni Process.

I will finish with this. If the EU fails to secure our future, then we will deal with the past. While we are still dealing with questions from the 19th and 20th centuries, and while we are still talking that we need to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century, are we aware that children who are now born will live in the 22nd century?

We have to cooperate because we all have tickets for the same European ship. On that European ship there are cabins reserved for each of our countries. And each of our countries has its place and role. The European Commission's Progress Reports are the map, and the recommendations are a compass that tells us if we are on the right course.

Therefore, the open window strategy should be replaced by an open-view strategy for fair and equitable prosperity for all candidates for membership in the Union.

Thank you.

BB2

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