Pendarovski: Not the time for apathy, we have friends and allies in Europe

Let us not dwell in disappointment, apathy or calculations for obtaining small daily political points. Now it is time to reunite around what is most important for the Republic of North Macedonia – our future and the future of generations to come. I am convinced that only if we work together – we will succeed, said President Stevo Pendarovski in Friday’s address following the European Council’s failure to take a decision on the start of North Macedonia’s EU accession negotiations.

Following is President Pendarovski’s full address:

Dear citizens,

I am addressing you on the occasion of the recent decisions of the Council of the European Union with respect to setting the date for the beginning of the negotiations for membership of our country in the afore-stated international organization.

Unfortunately, the conclusions of the Council fall short of our justified expectations and they certainly do not correspond to the previous announcements of the Union. The sense of disappointment that many feel in these times is understandable. However, putting our emotions aside, we must soberly face the new reality. No political decision is set in stone, no turn of events is final. We have had some past experience since our independence that speaks in favor of this conclusion.

However, before we decide how to proceed, it is important to understand why some decisions are what they are, not what we have rightly expected them to be.

Namely, it is an undisputed fact that we have met all preconditions for the start of the negotiations and this was agreed at the previous Council meeting in June, when with no other remarks, the conclusion was reached that, due to technical reasons associated with the timeframe, which coincided with the recent end of the European elections, the decision will be taken at the summit in October.

All the information we have on the talks, before and during the summit, speak about the uncontested conceptual differences between the leading EU countries in terms of the enlargement process. Some of those comments refer to the methodology with respect to the implementation of the accession negotiations. My view, from the very beginning to date, was and still is that the proposals for improving the methodology are welcome, since our common goal is to ensure the positive changes that need to occur during the process.

However, in the background of all negotiations there were certain considerations for building some special relationship between the European Union and the countries of our region, which is different from the path of all former candidates. Ladies and Gentleman, these dilemmas touch the very essence of the European idea, and that is that all countries of the continent, by meeting the criteria, are entitled to full-fledged membership in the European Union. The idea of ​​a united Europe is the right of all Europeans and no one can take that away. We are a European country, and we have the right to be part of the common European home.

Dear citizens,

Our country has many true friends and allies in Europe. In these times, when some of us are reflecting on the state of affairs, I want to publicly say that there are no enemies in Europe, there are only countries that have their own specific national interests, which they protect, and there is nothing controversial about this.

We are witnessing that the vast majority of member states have fought and are still fighting for our interests, as they are fighting for their own national interests. Their support is sincere and unconditional, and I was assured in this during my visit to Brussels, Berlin, Vienna and Ljubljana. I am confident that they will continue to support us, regardless of the developments in the future.

Now, for us, the most important thing is to, once again, reaffirm our position on the Euro-Atlantic integration which has no viable alternative. The NATO membership will happen soon, and we have known all along that the EU membership will not be the assignment of a single government, a single parliament or only one president. I am convinced that if we wish our country well, the only right approach, taking into account the new circumstances, is to be even more decisive in the transformation of our society. We do not need a de facto membership in the Union, we need to adopt the system of values ​​and apply them in the everyday life of our citizens.

The reforms in many areas, most notably, the functioning of the legal state, must continue and they must be intensified without any calculations. Tackling organized crime and high-level corruption is not only a prerequisite for integration, it is much more a necessity for the survival of a sustainable legal order. The European standards should become national standards. If our people do not experience the European standard of living, no one benefits from the formal EU membership alone.

Regardless of the conclusions of the EU Council, the agreements we reached with our neighbors Bulgaria and Greece must continue to be implemented, as agreed. With a fair approach from all sides, because they are the foundation of good neighborly relations and regional cooperation and stability. Moreover, the internal reforms for full integration and equality of all ethnic communities must continue because that is the precondition for the internal cohesion and stability of the country.

Dear citizens,

In these moments, the last thing we need is to direct our dissatisfaction to certain EU member states and waste our energy in creating political tension. Therefore, for the sake of our future, I have invited the leaders of the largest political parties, to leave their legitimate party interests aside and to reaffirm our vision for the future of the country together. For this purpose, I sent invitations for a leadership meeting to the largest parliamentary governing and opposition political parties. I am convinced that now is the time to show unity around our strategic orientation, regardless of the legitimate political differences on many issues.

I want to inform the Macedonian public that I received a positive response from all of them, and this meeting has already been scheduled for Sunday, 20 October.

Dear citizens,

Let us not dwell in disappointment, apathy or calculations for obtaining small daily political points. Now it is time to reunite around what is most important for the Republic of North Macedonia – our future and the future of generations to come. I am convinced that only if we work together – we will succeed!