Dimitrov: The Western Balkans’ journey to the EU reminds us of Ulysses’ journey-but we will make it to Ithaca

Dimitrov: The Western Balkans’ journey to the EU reminds us of Ulysses’ journey-but we will make it to Ithaca

The Foreign Ministers Meeting was held In Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, signaling the start of the 2020 joint Presidency of the Berlin Process for the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Bulgaria. Apart from the EU and Western Balkans’ Foreign Ministers/country representatives participating in the Berlin process, representatives from the EU institutions and the Regional Cooperation Council were also present.

The meeting was co-chaired by Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov and Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva, while the President of the Government of North Macedonia Oliver Spasovski welcomed the participants of the meeting.

The meeting focused on the European prospects of the region in the framework of the March European Council and the Zagreb Summit, with the Ministers of the region expressing their support for the renewed EU political attention in the region.

They endorsed a joint statement reiterating their commitment to democratic values, the rule of law, independent justice, the building of healthy institutions, the fight against organized crime and corruption, sound economic governance as a basis for the political and economic stability of the region, and its vital connections with the rest of the European continent.

They also showcased a common political vision for the future of the process, agreeing that the Berlin process and other relevant regional initiatives do not replace the EU enlargement process. The meeting reaffirmed the strategic interest of the countries in the region to become full EU countries, building peace, stability and prosperity in the region as part of a strong and united Europe.

The major issues pending closure were also discussed, while the progress and expectations of some countries for the proper utilization of the EU in the coming period were highlighted, in the light of the EC announcement on a new methodology for the EU accession process and the EC mini-reports on progress.

Nikola Dimitrov said in his speech: “Some parts of the Western Balkans’ journey to the EU remind us of Ulysses’ journey – a long and challenging one. But as this legendary hero has reached Ithaca, I am sure that each of us will reach the “place” we belong to through strong will, hard work, mutual cooperation and wisdom. Speaking of the European perspective of the region, I must focus particularly on our case, which is truly a sad story in which at the end of the day we can see all the negative precedents that have fallen upon on us. It is undeniable that we have strong arguments. And if the EU wants to be a force with a positive influence in the region and beyond and to maintain its credibility, this time it must accept it with a clear decision and start accession negotiations with North Macedonia”.

In her statement, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva noted: “This first joint presidency symbolizes the regional ownership of the Berlin process. I see it as a positive sign that an EU Member State and an EU candidate country can unite and work together for the benefit of the countries in the region”.

The Joint Presidency Priority Agenda presented at today’s Meeting aims to reflect enhanced regional integration based on the principle of full participation, and seeks to intensify connectivity and facilitate the movement of persons, goods and services.

The Forum was organized within the framework of the Joint Presidency from 8 to 10 March in Skopje by the Institute for Democracy Societas Civilis – Skopje in co-operation with the European Foreign Policy Council (ECFR) in Sofia. /ibna