Pendarovski: There’s only one way to progress – through the EU and NATO

Ever since we declared independence, there has been only one way that leads to progress, and that is through the EU and NATO, SDSM’s presidential candidate Stevo Pendarovski said speaking at the main rally of his campaign, held in front of the EU Info Center in Skopje.

We, he said, have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a generation to leave behind a permanent legacy: a safe and secure state that is a partner of the democratic world, an equal part of the world’s most important alliances. “Those who think we can solve long-standing issues, such as brain drain, provide security and stability are lying to themselves.”

“We have no more generations to lose, which is why we won’t allow the political opposition to derail us… I’m not seeking your support only to become the next president, instead, I’m seeking support for the concept of the future, the concept of one society for all,” Pendarovski said.

Addressing the crowd, the presidential hopeful pledged he would champion unity instead of division. “I’ll aspire to promote reconciliation, rather than to inflame conflicts. As president, I’ll work tirelessly to complete our bit to become a NATO member and to be the beacon of our membership in the EU.”

Pendarovski said he was prepared to be a president ‘in every sense of the word’, noting that his program consisted of eight key projects that would be launched in the first eight months of his term.

In his speech, he mentioned the agreements with Bulgaria and Greece, saying they set ‘an example in the region and around the world’, because they had marked the end of decades-long issues, solved in the interest of the state and the citizens.

On his rival Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, Pendarovski said she couldn’t be the president of all citizens, because ‘she only wants to be like (outgoing president) Gjorge Ivanov.’

His speech was followed by an address by PM Zoran Zaev, declaring: “The Republic of North Macedonia will get a president who doesn’t treat the country’s future as an adventure, but as a duty, a president who’s not a wanderer, but a true leader.”

The SDSM leader, who is often criticized by the opposition for changing the country’s name and identity, said it had been protected and ‘cemented.’ “We are proud Macedonians who speak Macedonian, a language recognized worldwide.”

Speaking at the rally, Zaev publicly called on opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski to condemn the policy of his predecessor Nikola Gruevski. “We haven’t heard a word from Mickoski and Siljanovska about the 11-year rule of their mentor.” Gruevski fled to Hungary last year, where he was granted political asylum.