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President Pahor’s speech at Sobranje of the Republic of North Macedonia

Skopje, 25. 9. 2020 | press release, speech

The President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, addressed members of Sobranje, the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia during today’s formal visit to the country.

President Pahor’s speech at Sobranje of the Republic of North Macedonia
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Below is the keynote speech by the President of the Republic of Slovenia. The spoken word applies.

"Mr President, Mr President of the Republic, Prime Minister,
Distinguished Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends.

It is a great honour to be able to address you. On this wonderful occasion, I would like to convey a message of Slovenia’s sincere friendship and particular fondness for your country and all its people.

I came to express my strong support for your efforts to join the European Union. No other country had invested so much effort and political will into meeting the conditions before the start of the negotiations. I admire your courage and appreciate your willingness to make compromises in order to ensure North Macedonia a clear European future. It is self-evident that this has become your first priority since you became a member of NATO at the beginning of the year – on which I sincerely congratulate you.

Slovenia supports the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans. We are convinced that this has become primarily a geopolitical issue. In terms of absorption capacity, the integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union is of almost negligible scope. As for territorial integrity, it is evident from the map that the Western Balkans naturally fit into the area of the European Union.

Slovenia understands the many reservations that Brussels may have regarding the enlargement; however, it believes that delaying enlargement due to other issues the EU faces internally and globally would be the worst decision for both the European Union and the Western Balkans.

In this regard, I would like to stress the following, which, if it proves correct, is important: if there is no enlargement of the European Union or the enlargement is significantly delayed, the belief might eventually prevail in the region that the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia is not yet complete and that ethnic borders should be established instead of the existing ones. Historical experience shows that there is very little possibility of such a process unfolding peacefully and without conflict and that could also undermine safety and stability in the wider area of South-East Europe. That is why, as I have said several times, the enlargement of the European Union to the Western Balkans is an important political issue that demands an even more prudent strategy from the European Union.

Slovenia insists, in particular, that negotiations with North Macedonia begin as soon as possible. Your country has gone above and beyond to meet the required conditions. Delaying the start of negotiations any longer would therefore be unreasonable and unfair. It would also undermine the authority of the European Union.
In other words – now is the time for North Macedonia. This maintains the principle of pursuing an individual approach for each candidate country and the hope of continuing and successfully concluding negotiations with all the countries in the region and ultimately integrating them into the European family.

Slovenia will continue to assist you and cooperate in this process. Our bilateral relations are excellent in all areas; we have established many contacts and engage in regular political dialogue.

And, first and foremost, we are a strong supporter of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans. We simply want Europe to be more closely connected and even more united in the future.

Slovenia is a true friend of all the nations and countries in the region. At the level of heads of state, we prove this by co-leading the Brdo-Brijuni Process initiative, in which North Macedonia also participates. The summit of the initiative will be organised in Ljubljana as soon as the epidemiological situation allows.
As early as at the Brdo-Brijuni meeting in Sarajevo in 2016, I drew attention to the possibility of the process of EU enlargement slowing down, stressing, in this regard, that it is the task of each country and of all of us together to accelerate the processes of democratic and structural reform internally and resolve bilateral issues externally.

This holds true now more than ever. It is North Macedonia, in particular, that leads by example in adopting this approach, taking this responsibility when it comes to the internal development of the country and building good relations with neighbouring countries. In recent years, you have made considerable efforts to build a modern, multicultural, and multi-ethnic community based on respect for human rights and the rights of minorities.

As a rule, relations with neighbours are most complex, always charged with emotion, and often also burdened with history.

I am pleased that you have recognised the importance of nurturing relations with your neighbouring countries in the European spirit of reconciliation and mutual understanding.

By mature and wise statesmanship, you have succeeded in reaching two agreements – with Greece and Bulgaria. You know best how difficult that was. The European Union reasonably expects that you will comply with the provisions of the two international agreements. Implementation is not an easy process, but it should be carried out as wisely and carefully and in the spirit of good neighbourly relations as you carried out the process of negotiations for the conclusion of the agreements.

In that case, you can also reasonably expect that Greece, Bulgaria, and the European Union will keep their promises. That is why I reiterate – the Republic of North Macedonia now.

This is important for the Republic of North Macedonia, for the Western Balkans, and for the European Union. A steep and demanding path led to this situation, so it is only right and fair that official negotiations between North Macedonia and Brussels begin as soon as possible. This is simply too good an opportunity to miss. And it is a good opportunity for everyone. Please consider my visit as a sign of such an understanding regarding this issue. North Macedonia is an example to us all. That is why it deserves our respect and support. Now is the time."