Tusk: There can only be one decision – to launch negotiations, question is not ‘if’ but ‘when’

I personally believe that there can only be one decision: to launch the negotiations in line with the European Commission’s recommendations, said European Council President Donald Tusk at a press conference with President Stevo Pendarovski on in Brussels.

“To keep in line with my role as President of the European Council, I do not want to prejudge the EU’s decisions. You have done everything that was expected of you. But I want to be honest with you: not all member states are prepared to make the decision on opening negotiations in the coming days. The question today is, not if, but when. If I am a bit cautious, it is because I know that, sometimes, reaching consensus among 28 member states takes more time than I would like,” said Tusk.

According to him, President Pendarovski’s first visit to Brussels was highly symbolic, and a source of hope for the country and the region.

“First, your undisputed election victory shows the new trust among citizens and political forces in the democratic process, and creates a solid basis for institutional stability. Second, the elections confirmed your country’s Euro-Atlantic orientation. Third, your elections turned into a referendum over inter-ethnic reconciliation and mending of relations with neighbours. And you passed this test successfully. The agreements that your country reached with Bulgaria and Greece are nothing but historic, and are examples to be followed by your region and beyond,” said Tusk.

President Pendarovski said North Macedonia does not want an undeserved reward, but a deserved chance to build a European country with a fair, humane and advanced society, adding that EU and NATO membership are strategic commitments of the vast majority of citizens.

“Two weeks ago we received the best and most positive EC report for our country. We not only received a clear recommendation for the start of accession negotiations but were highlighted as a shining example in the Western Balkans. We did this by solving decades-long issues. We made brave decisions on very sensitive issues for our citizens and removed the biggest obstacle in the EU and NATO accession process. The Bulgaria Friendship Treaty and the Prespa Agreement lifted a burden from the past. North Macedonia is the only country in the region without any open issues with neighbors. We also delivered reforms in many key areas and are aligning with EU policies. However, we are aware of the fact that more reforms are required, of the shortcomings and the work ahead. I will tell you one thing – we are most efficient when having a task to do and the accession negotiations are the best reform tool,” said Pendarovski.

He recalled on the country’s role in the migrant crisis management back in 2016 in maintaining European security.

“We have demonstrated our commitment as European partners. This June the EU has a historic opportunity to show leadership and vision for the future of the entire region, by giving a date for accession negotiations of North Macedonia,” said Pendarovski.