The Western Balkans are part of Europe

Foreign Minister Maas and his counterpart Dimitrov from North Macedonia

Foreign Minister Maas and his counterpart Dimitrov from North Macedonia, © Florian Gaertner/photothek.net

12.11.2019 - Article

On today’s trip to North Macedonia, Foreign Minister Maas seeks to encourage perseverance with reforms, saying that Germany will support and assist the Country.

Foreign Minister Maas and Prime Minister Zaev from North Macedonia
Foreign Minister Maas and Prime Minister Zaev from North Macedonia© Florian Gaertner/photothek.net

North Macedonia and Greece put an end to their decades-long dispute over the naming of the Balkan country with a historic agreement last year, thereby removing a major obstacle to the perspective of EU accession. Germany would like to support and assist the country as it travels along this path, as was underscored by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas today (13 November) before he set off for the North Macedonian capital, Skopje.

EU accession negotiations firmly in our sights

Maas called the Prespa agreement, which is designed to settle the longstanding dispute between North Macedonia and Greece, “a sign of awakening,” and noted that Germany had the early opening of EU accession negotiations “firmly in its sights.” The accession of North Macedonia could, he said, contribute to the further stabilisation of the Western Balkans and is thus also in the European Union’s own interest.

Reforms in the interest of the people

However, this presupposes that the domestic reforms in North Macedonia are continued, said Maas, for example with regard to strengthening the rule of law, reforming the electoral system and tackling corruption. These steps are of great importance, and not only with a view to possible EU accession. First and foremost, the people of North Macedonia itself would benefit from transparent procedures and institutions, and respect for the rule of law.

Canvassing for support among our EU partners

Foreign Minister Maas travels to North Macedonia shortly after the European Council failed, at its latest meeting in October, to agree on opening accession negotiations with the country. North Macedonia’s accession to NATO is however envisaged for later this year. Germany supports an EU perspective for the country and will canvass intensively among its EU partners for an imminent decision to open the accession process.

During his visit to Skopje, Foreign Minister Maas will meet Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in order to discuss German support for the country’s reforms and the future of the accession process. A meeting with President Stevo Pendarovski is also scheduled.


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