Zaev and Tsipras were awarded with the Peace Prize of Westphalia 2020

Zaev and Tsipras were awarded with the Peace Prize of Westphalia 2020

The Peace Prize of Westphalia 2020 was received today jointly by the Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia Zoran Zaev and the former Prime Minister of Greece and President of SYRIZA – Progressive Alliance Alexis Tsipras.

The award’s international committee honored the two leaders for their “diplomatic prowess” with the Prespa Accord and their contribution to stability.

The President of the Westphalia and Lippe Economic Union, Reinhard Zinkann, referring to the reasons that prompted the international jury to award the Westphalian Peace Prize for 2020 to the two leaders, noted that one of the reasons was that “Alexis Tsipras and “Zoran Zaev with the Prespa agreement, which resolved a decades-long dispute over the name, created a work of diplomatic skill and made a decisive contribution to the stability of the entire Balkan region.”

After the award ceremony, the Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev and the former Prime Minister of Greece, President of SYRIZA Progressive Alliance Alexis Tsipras addressed the audience.

The following are the speeches of Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras:

Zoran Zaev

Dear Dr. Reinhard Zinkann, chair of the Economic Society for Westphalia and Lippe,

Dear President of Latvia Egils Levits,

My dear friend Alexis (Tsipras),

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor and privilege to receive the award International Peace Prize of Westphalia 2020.

It is a great honor that mine, and the name of my friend Alexis Tsipras, will be added to the long list of winners of this award,alongside renowned names such as next to Václav Havel, Helmut Kohl, Valéry Giscar d’Estaing, Kofi Annan, Helmut Schmidt, the crews of the International space station, the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and others.

As the International Peace Prize of Westphalia award honors personalities or representatives of states and groups who have been particularly committed to European integration and peace in Europe, I want to share with all of you the story of two countries dedicated to Europe and peace. 

In one of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes, in the untouched nature of the Prespa Lakes, where the borders North Macedonia, Albania and Greece meet, on June 17, 2018, we signed the historic – Prespa Agreement.

If the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was a turning point because it developed Europe’s ability to live with religious diversity, the Prespa Agreement is a turning point for our region.

In matter of fact, even the first article of the Westphalia Peace Treaty does not really speak about peace, but for friendship, – “true and sincere friendship” between its signatories. That is what Prespa Agreement also stands!

With this agreement, we put an end to a dispute and a long-lasting difference that raised a wall, making the neighborly relations between North Macedonia and Greece difficult.

The issue was open for three decades. We underwent three decades of uncertainty about our future. Three decades of serious concern for unwanted consequences. Three decades of blocked perspectives that are of key strategic interest for our country, for the region and Euro-Atlantic structures.

The future was the guiding idea throughout the process.

Both sides accepted the compromise as a friendship and as a concern for the interests of your political partner, as well as for your own interests.

That friendship was important to create an atmosphere in which we openly discussed all issues even when it seemed that there is no solution.

Throughout the process, we insisted that we are not talking about red lines. We told each other that the red lines are limiting.

Red lines put you in a box. We said – we will not put the process in the box.

That is the way friends work. Focused on solutions. Building bridges, not walls!

What are the challenges if not a chance for solutions! If you do not see them as opportunities for creative solutions, as steps toward achieving our vision.

That’s why Alexis and I chose to find a solution. Not to delay. Who is decorated with virtues? The one who simply prolongs the problem, or the one who accepts to solve it?

Both, me and Alexis, are fully aware that we have put our political careers at risk.

This firm determination, the willingness to sacrifice our own political careers in the name of the future, connected us and leaded us through the process.

When you see on the other side of the negotiations table a person focused on solutions, a person with whom you share the same political values, you have all necessary ingredients for friendly relationship and atmosphere to reach a mutual acceptable solution to the problem.

More importantly, this kind of relationship becomes motivating. It turns into friendship. Both of us, we poured this budding friendship into the foundations of the new relation between our countries. It is the most precious benefit.

We chose to leave solutions like traces behind us. Solutions for our citizens and for our societies. An example of European leadership!

We came to a solution when everyone claimed it was – impossible!

This year North Macedonia celebrates 30 years of independence, and I am happy to say that at our thirtieth anniversary, we are the thirtieth member of NATO.

That was possible because of the Prespa Agreement. 

I’m honored as well, that I had the opportunity to fulfill the dream of many generations of citizens of the North Macedonia.

NATO membership was realization of our strategic goal and it is among our biggest foreign policy achievements. NATO membership is a reflection of our sovereign choice, and testimony to our strong cross-party and societal goal to become fully integrated in the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.

Today, North Macedonia has improved security and stability, and consequently the Western Balkan region as a whole. We are committed to a vision of Balkans in 21st century, as a region of peace, stability and increased regional cooperation for economic benefit and prosperity of all citizens.

Our second strategic aim is full membership in the European Union. We are still on the path to EU.

The Euro-Atlantic future is impetus for economic growth: stimulus for investment, more trade, access to the EU single market, increased mobility of people, goods and capital, lower credit rates.  It will help us create more jobs and prevent brain-drain, by keeping the youth at home.

Good neighborly relations and regional cooperation remain our common priority and strategic goal and we continue to work towards accomplishing our ambitions for EU integration.

We are committed to a vision of Balkans in 21st century, as a region of peace, stability and increased regional cooperation for economic benefit and prosperity of all citizens

Now it is time to unite over the fact that history is an important part of our identities, but the vision for a future, has a special place in our hearts. 

Finally, I once again express my deep gratitude for the International Peace Prize of Westphalia.

This award is at the same time a recognition, but also an obligation for all our future political decisions to be committed to European values and peace that have no alternative.

Thank you!

Alexis Tsipras

Ι would like to warmly thank the Economic Association of Westphalia and Lippe on receiving this important Peace award.

An award that I have the honour of sharing with the Prime Minister of North Macedonia.

And I would also like to thank the President of Latvia for his words.

Historically, the Balkans have been a difficult region to promote peace.

We have seen war burn the hopes of many generations.

And nationalism destroy the branches of peace and prosperity when they were starting to grow.

This is why the goal of the Prespa Agreement was to develop deep roots in the conscience of our peoples and the relations between our countries.

We wanted an Agreement that would last and not fall apart at the first difficulty.

An Agreement that would not only resolve the differences between us, but bind us in a new strategic partnership in order to confront challenges and seize opportunities, together.        

This was not easy particularly at a time when both our countries were in economic crisis and at the front line of the worst refugee crisis after the Second World War.  

It was not easy, at a time οf national retrenchment and Brexit in the EU

It was not easy at a time when the EU had frozen the enlargement process and was interested in the Balkans mostly to control migration flows.

At a time when the United States were moving away from multilateral diplomacy.

And at a time when nationalist forces were strong.

In our countries as well as the rest of Europe.

But the people of Greece and North Macedonia proved that common problems can be solved peacefully and on the basis of international law.

Even at the most difficult moment.

They can be solved if we keep an open mind, we have the necessary political will and we speak on the basis of mutual respect.  

We proved that Europe can be a catalyst for peace and stability instead of

– waiting for others to take the lead,

– or kicking the can down the road

– or making statements that mean nothing to peoples’ lives. 

Today this message is even more important than it was in 2018 and 2019.

The experience of the global pandemic crisis, as well as the developments we see in Afghanistan should be giving us a lesson:

that we cannot go back to the economic and geostrategic models of the last 40 years.

It must be clear that in these extraordinary conditions, the EU will fail as an international force if it does not develop a clear, reliable, assertive voice for peace.

And peace means resolving regional differences, protecting international law and promoting sustainable development and social justice.

When it comes to regional differences, the clearest test is in Europe itself: the Western Balkans, the Cyprus issue and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The EU must support the Prespa Agreement actively.

It must do whatever it takes to hold Intergovernmental Conferences for North Macedonia and Albania, as well as to make progress in the Belgrade-Pristina talks. 

And the EU must give a clear message to Turkey that the only possible solution to the Cyprus issue is the reunification of the island on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions.

It must underline that relations will improve only if it respects the sovereign rights of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus.

But also the EU must deal with conflict resolution in the broader region.

Τogether with the United States, it must take the lead in establishing a new security architecture in the broader region, that includes regional powers, as well as Russia and China, depending on the conflict zone. 

In the case of Afghanistan in particular, the EU must support such a framework.

It must also support neighbouring countries in hosting Afghans, but also organize a resettlement program of Afghan refugees to the EU, directly from these countries, with specific quotas. 

In terms of social justice, the EU must make even more steps in confronting the pandemic and growing inequalities. 

For example, it is more important than ever to accept the proposal of the World Health Organization on waiving the patents on vaccines to strengthen vaccination programs in the developing world.

And, of course, it is extremely important that Europe makes even more steps in the just transition to a green agenda against the climate crisis.

Today, it is our honor to share this award with the organization “Plan for the Planet” that has planted millions of trees.

As you know, this year alone, hundreds of thousands of acres of forest-land were burnt by wildfires in Greece.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Centuries after they were signed, we honor the Treaties of Westphalia because they established a NEW framework for interstate relations on which peace was built.

Today, more than ever, we need a NEW balanced international framework aimed at promoting peace, through initiatives on all the levels I mentioned.

Particularly after the German and French elections, it is time that the EU takes the lead in this direction.

And I am convinced that the Prespa Agreement can contribute significantly to this necessary, new European and global vision.

Thank you very much!”/ibna