14:02, Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Dear Citizens

Id also like to offer my special appreciation to Ambassador Zbogar for your extraordinary efforts to promote

the EU for you initiative. and Id also like to recognize the esteemed Bulgarian Ambassador Petkov, for

working so hard to raise the Western Balkans high on the EU agenda. exactly where it belongs.

We honestly feel that this day, Europe Day, is a meaningful day for us here because we too are a part of Europe. And after much hard work, I believe we are finally ready to deepen that relationship.

If we consider our shared history, our shared geography, and most importantly.. our shared values, and common strategic interests, in political and economical terms, the conclusion is simple:

We are already an important part of Europe

But at the same time we need to admit that to become part of the European Union, with all the rights and obligations, we need to continue down the path of growth and commitment to democratic values. And we are absolutely committed to that path.

We must maintain and deepen the hard-fought reforms we have started, with the aim to build a modern and functional democracy.

We must also continue our work to create sustainable and professional institutions, a prosperous economy and an inclusive society.

One that values equal opportunity for all, regardless of the nationality, ethnicity or religion of those we serve.

When we achieve these goal I am confident - with your continued support - we will become a proud member of the European Union.

After all A Europe that is truly united will be a stronger and more prosperous Europe, especially in the face of the new and unprecedented challenges to our shared values - which are all facing from abroad.

I believe the majority of people in our country understand this truth. In fact, between 70-80% of the population favours both EU and NATO membership.

And this government is prepared to successfully overcome any and all challenges or obstacles that stand in our way.

Without question, the political crisis that we have encountered over the last years threatened to turn our country in the wrong direction, toward isolation and autocracy.

However because of my brave fellow citizens who who remained united and firm in demanding a return to European values for our country, as well as our political leaders who stood up or listened to the will of those people and for our shared democratic values, our country is now back on track to joining the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.

And we are making significant progress.

And all of this is in no small part due to the incredible support and encouragement we have continually received from the EU and United States and everyone in the room today.

As a result, we have a lot of expectation, hope and goodwill toward the west in our country at this moment.

Because we always knew. And we know where we belong.

And in my view, the crisis which we struggled so greatly to overcome - and the progress we have made since- is clear evidence that keeping this country in the proverbial waiting room of inclusion into NATO and the EU for too long risks creating a lack of democratic oxygen for the people. Together, we have been crying out for the fresh air of democracy. And we cannot afford to turn back.

Therefore we must ALL do everything possible to ensure this never happens again. And we can only find that security as a member of NATO and the European Union.

To that end, the New Government, when taking over responsibility last summer, drew a clear line in what direction the reforms will go, and that is toward the creation of a truly European stateone that people want to live in, and will return to.

Our citizens want, and are committed to, creating a stable state with democratic institutions which will ensure a life without fear and repression.

They want elections in which votes will be cast freely, without pressure and without violence.

They want an economic environment where competitive ability, and not political affiliation, will be valued.

They want a state that has friendly relations with all its neighbours and a Government that will solve open issues - openly - and not to escalate them and encourage historical animosities.

These were the guidelines for our reforms and Plan 3-6-9 was a tool to lay the ground for these reforms.

We focused on,

first: URPs and key reforms implementation in judiciary, public administration, security services, media and

second: resolving internal (OFA) and open issues with our neighbours (Bulgaria and Greece).

We have already had very important achievements in this regard, with the signing of the Agreement on good neighbourly relations with Bulgaria (ratified in both Macedonian and Bulgarian parliaments), thus removing the obstacles and closing a long lasting and serious issue.

In relation to Greece, progress is visible. And I believe success is finally within reach

We now have frequent high level official meetings between Skopje and Athens and re-energized UN mediated negotiations. Similarly, the implementation of the CBM - Confidence Building Measures, have already resulted in increased confidence not only among politicians, but among people in all aspects of our society.

With Greece, we are on the doorstep of a major political and historic moment of reconciliation.

And we need brave decisions now - on both sides - to ensure a brighter future for the people from both countries and for the wider Balkan region as welland no less for Europe itself.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Looking back at the year we left behind, this year, you will agree, we have a special reasons to celebrate because of what we have achieved so far .

2018, has become a year of unique and exciting opportunities.

In only one year we have succeeded in returning the country on the right and irreversible path towards Euro-Atlantic integration.

This reform government is seeking to boldly address the challenges at hand, and is managing to make great strides in transforming a once captured state into an inclusive, transparent and European one.

We have already succeeded to "unfreeze" relations with our international strategic partners and supporters, endeavored to "free" our institutions, administration and indeed our whole society.

And believe me the work continues.

President Tusk during his visit stated that in just one year the we has impressed with its reform processes and is writing a completely new chapter in its history and in the relations with the EU and HR Mogerinni said its like I am coming to a completely different state.

I agree with Mr. Tusks statement and would add that as mush as we have achieved in this short time, we recognize there is much work still to be done and are fully aware that it wont be easy, and will take time.

But such is the nature of democracy, as we all know.

Its very often that I am asked to give arguments why we should be part of the EU and should start accession negotiations.

In my speech I hope I have given some arguments, but let me summarize few more to have when you will be deciding in your capitals in the following weeks about the future relations of the EU with my country. Please take into consideration that:

is the only country in the region that has fully solved all geographical border disputes,

is a fully functional multiethnic and multi-confessional democratic society,

is the missing peace in the EU mosaic that can bring to the EU new breath of cohesive spirit, and can serve as positive example for the whole Western Balkan Region,

is ready to act fully in line with the CFSP positions and to be part of the new EU Defense structures,

Is doing everything it can to upgrade its good neighborly relations to the level of the EU standards and requirements,

and is ready in political terms and in terms of institutional capacities, to start accession negotiations.

Further on, as arguments for the decision, dear Excellencies, in case we do not start accession negotiations, the risks are many but let me highlight few:

loss of hope for EU and NATO membership will provoke young educated people to continue leaving the country reducing the workforce and potential for development and growth,

loss of hope can also produce strong EU fatigue and EU skepticism,

will rise anti NATO feelings,

population division by ethnic, religious and social lines will deepen, resulting in vulnerability of the democratic institutions and its capacity to govern,

will downsize the level of resistance and will create fertile ground for THIRD COUNTRIES interference and increased influence,

will leave space for penetration of potential violent groups thus raising risks from terrorism, extremism and nationalism.

Therefore, we cannot afford to miss this historic momentum.

It must be used as a basis on which we will build an even broader internal consensus for all the challenges on this path, and we will not allow ourselves to miss the opportunity to provide future generations a secure, stable and prosperous perspective.

I talked about about 2018 being a pivotal year. The positive mood set during last year around the future of the Western Balkans countries as potential members of the European Union has one added to that excitement. not to mention the powerful statements of Chancellor Markel and the successful Berlin process and Trieste meeting, the Sorbonne speech by President Macron, the SOEU speech by PEC Junker and PM Borisovs persistent push of the Western Balkans on the EU agenda.

I could go on and on.

I am looking forward to the historic Summit in Sofia next week, the first European Union enlargement summit after Thessaloniki in 2003, where we expect the European perspective of the Western Balkans countries to be reiterated with the Declaration and its Annex-Sofia (positive) Agenda.

Sofia will certainly bring even more energy and incentives for Western Balkan connectivity, stability, security and economic prosperity, thus paving its European future, including concrete political and financial support.

At the June Council meeting, our expectation is to officially hear a date to start accession negotiations, verified by the European Council.

Bulgaria has successfully paved the way forward for the Western Balkans and laid the ground for further enlargement, and our strong expectations are that Austria, Romania, Finland and Croatia consecutively, as future EU presidencies, will follow that path.

I consider upcoming London Summit also an important step to keep Western Balkans and right topics on the agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The process of EU integration is long-lasting, generational project that cannot be tied to one Government or political party, but belongs to the whole society, to every single person.

Its a historical choice that will not come as a gift, but only as award for the hard work and investments. In democracies, as we are, the people are lead by elected Parliaments and Governments.

Its on the Government to lead, to take decisions and to set the tempo of the reforms.

The success or failure of one Government in this process will measure how successful it was during its time

Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs
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