Minister of State Michael Roth will travel to Skopje and Tirana on Sunday, 22 July. He issued the following statement today (20 July) prior to his departure:
It is vital for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s process of drawing closer to the EU and to NATO that the historic agreement with Greece now be ratified by both sides. Skopje and Athens have shown in an exemplary fashion that difficult issues can be resolved with courage, perseverance and a willingness to compromise. The resolution on the controversial issue of the country’s name is inseparably bound up with its further path towards the EU and NATO. Moreover, the Government in Skopje must continue to make courageous progress with respect to the implementation of key reforms.
Important reforms have also been successfully launched in Tirana. These efforts must now be continued with all due resolve. The vetting process, with which judges and public prosecutors in Albania are being systematically reviewed, is a shining example of ambitious judicial reform. Such reforms show that both of these countries are serious about moving closer to the EU.
In Albania, Minister of State Michael Roth will meet Prime Minister Edi Rama, Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, head of the opposition Lulzim Basha and representatives from civil society.
On 23 July, Roth will depart for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. His programme in the country will include talks with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bujar Osmani, Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov and head of the opposition Hristijan Mickoski. He will also take part in a panel discussion on prospects for young people in the country, organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the regional non-governmental organisation CIVIL – Center for Freedom.
On 26 June, the EU announced that it would be able to commence accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania in 2019, provided that sufficient progress had been made in important reforms by that time. The status quo of judicial reform and the vetting process, the fight against organised crime and corruption, and good governance will therefore be key topics on the agenda in Tirana.
Minister of State Roth’s trip to Skopje comes a little over a month since agreement was reached between Skopje and Athens over the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which has been a contentious issue for over 27 years. A referendum on this question is to take place in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the autumn. The talks will focus not only on the implementation of the agreement with Greece, but also on the rigorous efforts to continue necessary reforms in the country.