The mood in the government press center was positive yesterday during the signing of the first bilateral agreement between the Republic of North Macedonia and Greece after the Prespa Agreement. The Memorandum of Understanding is the first bilateral activity after the signing of the Prespa Agreement, and in the future, as both ministers announced, bilateral agreements in many other spheres will follow.
Many reporters’ crews from Greece followed the visit of Greece’s Minister of Digital Politics, Telecommunications and Media Nikos Pappas, who along with North Macedonia’s Minister of Information Society and Administration Damjan Mancevski signed the document. As some of them noted, it is quite evident that positive energy is spreading rapidly, but the question is how long it will take to fill the gap that has been created over the decades-long dispute.
Both ministers assessed that the Prespa Agreement opens new perspectives in all fields between the two countries. Minister Pappas thanked, as he said, the excellent hospitality, and called the Prespa Agreement “an agreement for the people – for their better life”.
Cheaper roaming between the two countries, firstly in the segment of data traffic (the Internet), is expected at the beginning of the summer season, when the flow of people between the two countries will increase.
“We agreed that the maximum prices for roaming services should be reduced to the level of those prices that are applied in the EU. The Memorandum envisages a dynamic reduction in wholesale and retail prices in roaming services in order to reach the level as it is in the EU before the introduction of the roaming principle as home, “said Mancevski.
The regulatory telecommunication agencies of the two countries in the next two months should submit adequate plans for implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding to the governments.
“We will try achieving concrete results especially in the part of the Internet by the end of May and early June. The pace we define on fully ending the roaming charges will be equalized with other Western Balkans countries by 2021,” Mancevski said.
Greek Minister Pappas said that other projects, exchange of knowledge of technologies, electronic movement of documents in public administration, improvement in the agricultural area were discussed.
“The work that has opened before us is great. It is our obligation to take advantage of the positive moment and atmosphere in order to bring a better life to the citizens of both countries in the future,” Pappas said.
Certain problems that appeared recently in the direction of the implementation of the Prespa Agreement prompted Minister Pappas to send an encouraging message which in essence meant that isolated statements by individuals who did not bring any benefit shouldn’t be considered a big deal.
Greek Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas, under whose jurisdiction are Chalkidiki, Imathia, Kilkis, Pella, Pieria, Serres and Thessaloniki, said Thursday that he would not change the signboards on the roads to Macedonia. As the governor of the Central Macedonia region said, he does not intend to respect the Prespa Agreement, according to which the signboards that have so far read “Skopje” should be replaced with “North Macedonia”.
“The particular gentleman supported the agreement when he was a member of New Democracy. The Prespa Agreement is already being implemented and there is no political benefit from such statements. He needs to understand this. There are politicians on both sides who have lied to the people. I belong to those people who believe in what’s better and that this will stop happening, and if it doesn’t stop, then we should help it stop” said Pappas.
The two ministers stressed that the Prespa Agreement was tortured by fake news, but that the spreaders of fake news have less and less power because the communication channels between governments are now completely open. Regarding the possible cooperation in the fight against tackling fake news, Pappas said it would be great if the journalistic communities in both countries begin some kind of cooperation measures to ensure timely reporting and removal of fake news.
He assessed that if the past period was not missed, the position of the two countries in the region would certainly have been better and that the processes should be speeded up so that the opponents of the Prespa Agreement gain their trust.
“We have many open spheres. I recently thought about the many things we would have been saved from if the dispute was resolved fifteen years ago. This agreement that we signed today was long prepared, but now, conditions have been created to present it,” Pappas said.
The Scientific and Technological Park was opened in Skopje yesterday, where representatives of the Thessaloniki Science Park were also attending, which shows that communication between the two sides is improving at all levels.
“This is the beginning of a new era. We’ve had enough of the Balkans being mentioned in a negative connotation. It will take some time, but we need to put more efforts in transforming the region into a new Scandinavia,” said Minister Mancevski.