North Macedonia: Press statement by High Representative Josep Borrell after his meeting with President Stevo Pendarovski

EEAS Press Team

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Thank you. Thank you, President, [of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski] for hosting me and my team today, tonight. 

We had a very important and useful discussion. We talked about North Macedonia’s accession process certainly, but not only [about it].

We discussed about the situation in the wider Balkans region - a region which has a strategic importance for the European Union. 

I had the opportunity to brief the President on the outcomes of today’s Stabilisation and Association Council which, as the President has said, was the first ever in this country.  

I appreciated your role, Mr President, a strong role and an outspoken supporter of the reforms needed to move North Macedonia closer to the EU membership. These reforms have to be agreed and implemented for the benefit of North Macedonia – not only on the European path, but in order to build a more vibrant democracy, and a more prosperous economy. 

I also appreciated, Mr President, your role in regional affairs and your contribution to the regional cooperation and [to] the stability of the Western Balkans.  

Because good relations among neighbours - and regional cooperation - remain essential elements of the enlargement process. If the Western Balkans countries have to become members of the European Union, it is good, it is necessary, that they have among them good relations and good regional cooperation. 

In this context, we discussed about the next High-Level meeting of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue - which I have the honour to coordinate - that will take place tomorrow in Ohrid. 

And I want to thank you, I want to thank North Macedonia, for providing the venue for this important meeting, [and] for your overall support to the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. And I hope that the beautiful landscape of Ohrid will create the nice atmosphere necessary to reach [an] agreement. 

Allow me, President, to briefly recall where we are and where we want to go. 

Three weeks ago, in Brussels, Prime Minister [of Kosovo, Albin] Kurti and President [of Serbia, Aleksandar] Vučić agreed on the European Union’s proposal. A proposal tabled by the European Union, with the strong support of France, Germany, Italy and the United States. They agreed that this proposal will be the path to normalisation of relations between them.  

They also agreed that we would meet again soon to finalise the implementation Annex. An agreement is good, an implementation path is better. And this meeting that we agreed, is going to take place tomorrow in Ohrid, in order to define the practical steps that have to be followed - in concrete timelines, what needs to be done, [by] when and how.  

Because we have a long story of agreements that have never been implemented. The added value of this agreement is that it has to be implementable. And we have to agree on when and how to implement. 

Since the last meeting in Brussels, there has been a high-level shuttle diplomacy and our Special Representative [for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue], Miroslav Lajčák, has been travelling extensively to Belgrade and Pristina.  

Both sides have provided comments on the Implementation Annex. We will discuss tomorrow, and we will produce a consolidated version of the Annex based on their feedback. And then, I hope, Kosovo and Serbia will be able to agree on the final result of these discussions. 

This implementation Annex will be an integral part of the Agreement in order to share a clear understanding of how we will put in place all their provisions.  

If we manage to do that, Mr President, we will put the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia on a sustainable, long-term and future-oriented track, overcoming the permanent crisis management in which we have been for the last months. 

This will have a clear positive impact on Kosovo’s and Serbia’s European path and increase the stability of the region. I hope that we will create a new dynamic and a new momentum for the enlargement, which should be also useful for everyone in the region.  

I am going to Ohrid with the hope of facing a unique opportunity for Kosovo and Serbia to move forward, and to make progress to normalise their relation. Mr President, in your presence, I want to underline that this opportunity should be used – because no one stands to benefit from it more than people in Serbia and Kosovo, as no one is benefiting from the necessary reforms to be a part of the European Union, [as much] as the citizens of the countries which are today candidates. And there are opportunities that should not be lost. 

On Monday, I will brief the [EU] Foreign Ministers [about this meeting]. The European leaders will be briefed on Thursday and Friday. Today, the eyes of the European Union and the Western Balkans people are looking at Ohrid. Let’s hope that we will be successful. 

And finally, Mr President, if you allow me, I want just to make a comment about one news that I learned minutes ago. 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for President Putin for the war crimes of [unlawful] deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.  

The International Criminal Court states that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears individual [criminal] responsibility for these crimes. 

And the gravity of the crimes and the statement of the ICC speak for themselves.  

This is an important decision of the international justice and for the people of Ukraine. We have always made clear at the European Union that those responsible for the illegal [Russian] aggression against Ukraine must be brought to justice. 

And this International Criminal Court issue is just the start in the process of accountability and holding Russia and its leader to account for the crimes and atrocities they are committing in Ukraine.   

Mr President, the European Union appreciates and supports the work of the International Criminal Court and its investigators. There cannot be impunity.  

Thank you. 

Link to the video:

Peter Stano
Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
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Zoi Muletier
Press Officer for Neighbourhood and Enlargement/Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
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