Heiko Maas welcomed his guest by saying the timing of their meeting could not be better. Just two days earlier, Athens and Skopje had agreed on the future name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, following lengthy negotiations. The two Governments want the country to be called the Republic of North Macedonia in the future. However, this name has yet to be ratified in both countries and will also require an amendment to the Macedonian constitution.
The country’s name had been disputed between the two nations for over 25 years. Maas said there was now a huge opportunity to resolve this dispute and open new doors to Europe. “This historic agreement shows what diplomacy can achieve if patience, reason and, most importantly, respect prevails between those involved, even if this does not preclude heated debates,” he added. Germany repeatedly endeavoured to mediate on this issue.
Reforms and the path to EU accession
“The agreement reached on the name ultimately removes an important, and perhaps the final obstacle, on the path to EU accession. We continue to support the country’s prospects of EU membership,” Maas said. “The Western Balkans’ prospects of acceding to NATO and the EU are important for stability in the region and are also in European and German interests,” he continued. “Germany will continue to support this process.”
The Foreign Minister praised his guest for his country’s reforms and encouraged him to continue on this path. “The Macedonian reform process of the past years is impressive and deserves recognition in Germany and the EU,” he said. “We should convey the important message to the Macedonian people that it is worthwhile continuing on the path to EU accession, as we do not want others to stake their interests in the region.” It is in the interests of the entire EU that the prospect of accession is now addressed in concrete terms, Maas said, adding that he would encourage the Netherlands and France to follow up this matter.