site.btaGerman Foreign Minister Encourages N Macedonia to Continue Process of Constitutional Change
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told a press conference on Thursday in Skopje after talks with her Macedonian counterpart Bujar Osmani that the negotiating framework of the Republic of North Macedonia for EU membership is a European framework, not a negotiating framework of an EU country and a candidate country. She noted that all member states stand behind it and will remain committed to its implementation.
She said that she understood the debate in North Macedonia about constitutional changes because the constitution is something that does not change often, especially when it comes to identity and language, but pointed out that with this decision the country can start real EU accession negotiations.
"We know what compromises and concessions you made for all this, starting from changing the name of the country to reaching an agreement on changing the constitution last summer. I know that the agreement you reached with Bulgaria was not easy for you and that is why I am addressing all those people who still feel uneasy about this. At times like these, when it is a question of identity, there should be no black and white debate. With this bold step, the negotiations can officially begin, you are sending a clear signal to the whole region that you want to be a member of the EU. If you do not want your young people to migrate to Europe, you must be in Europe. I encourage you to use all possible means to continue this process in the coming months. In December, we will be coming to Skopje under the OSCE, and I hope that the opening of the negotiating chapters will begin then. The EU lives by differences, we are united in differences. You have proved that nothing can stop you on the road to the EU and I hope that by December we will be on that road together. A few years ago, changing the name seemed unacceptable, but the Prespa Agreement showed what you can do if you have the political courage," said Baerbock.
According to Osmani, the citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia know that there is no alternative to EU membership. He thanked Germany for not allowing the EU accession process to be bilateral because bilateralism "damages the attractiveness of EU membership".
"Russia's influence in the region is a possible threat to peace and stability, to reconciliation in the region. Russia has never offered an alternative to the Western Balkans. The way it tries to exert its influence is through futility and by keeping frozen conflicts alive here. By exploiting bilateralism in the European process, it transforms discontent into pro-Russian sentiment," Osmani said.
"The Western Balkans have no other alternative than the EU, neither geographically, nor politically, nor economically and now it is time to move forward together", Osmani pointed out.
Baerbock is on an official visit to Skopje at Osmani's invitation and Thursday will have meetings with the North Macedonia's President Stevo Pendarovski, Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi, Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski and Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bojan Marichikj. She will also have meetings with the parliamentary committee on foreign policy, as well as with representatives of opposition parties.