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Thank you so much dear Prime Minister, dear Dimitar,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is so great to be back here in Skopje. And indeed, I vividly remember my last visit four months ago, when I came here to address the parliament of North Macedonia. As you can imagine, I also very clearly remember what we have promised on that day. And, yes, we have promised that if North Macedonia with its parliament is able to take the necessary steps, it would lead to the opening of accession negotiations. It would then start the screening process of the EU acquis, without any delay. And above all, that we would fully respect your identity and your language, that is the Macedonian language.
And I must say, dear Dimitar, that it took a lot of leadership, that you have shown, and it took the parliament of North Macedonia a lot of courage to cross that threshold. And I am so glad that you did. Because it led to that historic day of July, when we finally opened accession negotiations. Dear Prime Minister, as I promised, the screening of the acquis started immediately. It is now firmly on track and the negotiation process is gaining momentum. And there is very good work being done.
And finally, indeed, on your language: I promised you that we would get the Frontex agreement signed, translated into the Macedonian language. No footnote, no asterisk, on an equal footing with all the 24 languages of the European Union. And today, we delivered. As I said, there are 24 official languages in the European Union. I am deeply convinced that it will not take too long until we have 25 official languages. Because the Macedonian language is such a beautiful language. I really want to thank Commissioner Johansson for her tireless work on the agreement. And this agreement is not only very important because it strengthens our cooperation on migration but also because it shows that there can be no doubt that the Macedonian language is your language. And we fully respect that.
North Macedonia is now moving forward along the European path. That is what our latest enlargement report also shows. We have just published this enlargement report. And I must really congratulate you. It is amazing to see how determined you are moving forward: You have strengthened your democracy. You have strengthened your rule of law. You have made progress in the reform of your justice system. You are developing a solid market economy that has already proven its resilience. Congratulations on the progress, on the success so far. And I know that you are – and listening to you I am deeply convinced of it – determined to keep up the good speed, the good pace to move on on the path towards the European Union. And I am very aware that you are doing all this against a very challenging backdrop. That is Russia’s brutal war against our friends and neighbours in Ukraine. This war is bringing cruelty and destruction to the Ukrainian people. And it is sending shock waves through the entire world. As we all know and see, Russia is using energy, for example, as a weapon and it is heavily manipulating the energy market. This results in rising energy prices and in problems in security of supply. And, yes, North Macedonia has been affected, too. But rest assured: We are feeling the same pressure, but we will not give in, not a single centimetre.
Rest assured that the solidarity and unity we show in the European Union also means solidarity and unity with North Macedonia. Because we are in this together. And this means that we will solve this crisis and we will overcome this crisis together. We will keep supporting our friends in Ukraine. And we will be very strong and determined to make sure that here in the European Union there is the solidarity and the unity that we need. My message today to the citizens of North Macedonia is very clear: The European Union is by your side. We are in this together. We will go through this together and we will overcome this crisis together and move towards a better future. We are now putting forward an energy support package for the whole Western Balkan region. It begins with EUR 80 million in grants here for North Macedonia as immediate budget support. It will help address the impact of the high energy prices on your citizens and on your businesses. We will finalise this by the end of the year so that you can get the funding already in January. But of course, more will come. For example, there are EUR 500 million in grants for the whole region to invest in what is so necessary now to get our independence: to invest in energy connections; to invest in energy efficiency; and of course to invest in renewable energy. We have spoken about the fact that we need to be self-sufficient regarding energy. So, for example, the renewable energy that is home-grown, that creates good jobs here and that makes us independent of Russian fossil fuels.
This support – and more financial support – will be channelled under the so-called Economic and Investment Plan. As you know, the Investment Plan is already at work with investments in wind parks, for example, in solar power plants – I was very happy to hear that you are planning to intensify this work –, and with new gas interconnections between your country and Serbia and Kosovo that are also planned. Finally, it will also enable you to participate in the European joint procurement for pipeline gas and LNG. In the European Council, we have decided that we want to purchase gas on the global market together because this strengthens our purchasing power. We invite you, North Macedonia, to join us, to be with us, so that we go to the market together. And of course, you are also benefitting from all the decisions we have taken in the last days, the legal proposals that we have taken to reduce the prices of gas in the European Union, but more importantly the price of electricity, because we are in one Energy Union. And this means that whatever we do, we do it together. As I said, unity and solidarity.
Dear Dimitar, it was touching and moving to listen to you. The people of North Macedonia, and you and your government, and many people in this country, have shown so much commitment to European Union values. Therefore, I am indeed deeply convinced that you will move forward on your path to membership. You deserve to move forward on the path to membership. It was touching for me to listen to what you said about young people in North Macedonia. Yes, they are dreaming of Europe, but I am also deeply convinced that they are dreaming of North Macedonia in the European Union, a place where they want to shape the future of North Macedonia. You can rely on us and we know that we can rely on you. I know that you still have a way ahead of you. Because of the way I got to know you and the determination that I have seen, and this parliament I have spoken to, the people of North Macedonia that I have met, I am deeply convinced that you are able to make the dream of your young people in North Macedonia come true. Because let me tell you that I am deeply convinced that the European Union is not complete without North Macedonia. We want to have you with us. We are friends, we are partners. And one day, we are going to be together in one European Union.
Thank you very much.
Photo credits: European Union
Photo credits: European Union
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