"EU citizens must understand that the enlargement process can transform us. We make mistakes but also correct them. The accession process is an opportunity for transformation of societies," said FM Dimitrov and added that the political crisis in Macedonia made the public angry, critical, and intolerant to mistakes.
He said the Macedonian Government is working together with the civil society to implement this transformation, while the country's EU and NATO accession would have a calming effect in the entire region.
"Although we want deadlines and dates, it is more important to make our countries European. Macedonia would be the same if it joined the EU tomorrow. We need the accession process as a tool for the transformation process," added Dimitrov.
A British journalist asked Dimitrov, "Why do you want to join the EU when we are leaving?", to which the FM responded "When inside, you do not how cold it is outside".
He stressed that the referendum represents a historic crossroad, voicing optimism that citizens will support the name agreement.
"One of the main lessons we have learned from the past is the use of nationalism as a front for corruption and abuse of office. This is a struggle between past and present, nationalism and patriotism. We will do our best and I believe it will be enough. People in Macedonia have made wise choices at such historic crossroads. It would be better for the opposition to think more about the country than their careers, but we will all mature during this process," said Dimitrov.
Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said the referendum represents a free choice for citizens, not something imposed to them.
He referred to the Western Balkans Strategy that was presented back in February, which said that EU would no longer accept new members having unresolved conflicts and disputes with neighbors.
"This creates even more energy to solve certain issues, the most impressive of which the name row. Now the country needs to to everything in order to convince citizens that the decision is the right one," added Hahn.
According to him, the Strategy's launch has forced EU members to work on improving the way in which the Union is functioning.
"The Strategy clears up the road for the countries of the Western Balkans," noted Hahn and said 2025, which has been mentioned as the year when the next enlargement round could occur, means that accession negotiations should be completed by 2023.