The Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European affairs, Bojan Maricikj, gave a lecture today at the "College of Europe" in Bruges, where he pointed out to the students that in order to maintain peace and stability in the Balkans, a clear plan for the accession of the region to the Union is needed.
- That is why we set 2030 as our priority goal for full membership in the EU. I know it's ungrateful to talk about deadlines and dates, although I think we should have a goal, but European institutions and member states should also understand that we have a goal in order to be more focused, more motivated and more efficient in implementing reforms, said Maricikj.
The Deputy Prime Minister explained that there is a general division in the Balkans, whether you are a Balkan or a European, and according to him we can be both Balkans and Europeans at the same time.
- This way, we will also restore the citizens' trust in the EU and as history has shown us, if the EU proves itself as a global player in the Balkans, it will be able to prove itself as a global player worldwide as well, added Maricikj.
The Rector of the "College of Europe", Federica Mogherini in her welcoming speech said that it is a great honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to host members of governments from countries that are their partners and collaborators.
- This time I am also emotional because we have worked so much together with these people, we spent together both joyful moments and challenges. We have signed major agreements with joint efforts, such as the Treaty of Prespa, Mogherini said.
Maricikj introduced the students to the path that the country has taken since the day it submitted its application for EU membership in 2004, talking about the perspectives and challenges of the accession process of the Republic of North Macedonia, but also gave an image of the entire Western Balkans region.
- We delivered results with the Prespa Agreement. It was not easy at all, but in this way, we resolved a decade-old problem, which was recognized by the UN Security Council as a serious security problem. Thanks to the reconciliation in 2018 and the signing of this Agreement, Greece has become one of our strongest supporters. We have increased trade and advanced bilateral relations at all levels. But for all this to happen, we had enormous support and cooperation from Mrs. Mogherini at that time, from Commissioner Han, and we really appreciate that and are grateful to you, Maricikj pointed out.
Pointing out that North Macedonia was the first country from the Western Balkans to apply for membership in the Union, the chief negotiator with the Union, Maricikj, said that we were the last to start accession negotiations, while Croatia, which became a candidate country for membership in the Union in 2004, had already become a full member with the expansion in 2013.
The students showed interest in the topic and asked several questions, among which was the question about the relations between Albania and North Macedonia and the joint monitoring of the explanatory screening, to which Maricikj explained to them that the two countries have excellent and close cooperation and that recently, at the joint government session a Memorandum of Cooperation was also signed with Albania, precisely in the field of accession negotiations for the exchange of experiences, documents, etc.
- I think it is good to have one or more partner countries to move forward together. There are areas in which we are ahead, there are areas in which they are ahead, but that is normal. If we make the necessary constitutional changes next year, we will move forward together. We would separate only if we don't make the constitutional amendments, and then we would lay back, said Maricikj, expressing confidence that we will continue together, but in case that does not happen, of course, North Macedonia will never lobby against a neighbouring country.
The College of Europe is the world's first institute for postgraduate studies and training in the field of European studies. It was founded in 1949 by leading European figures such as Salvador De Madariaga, Winston Churchill, Paul Henri Spaak, and Alcide De Gasperi, on the eve of the first Congress of the European Movement in The Hague in 1948. The idea behind the concept of the college was to establish an institute where graduates from many different European countries could study and live together in preparation for a career in the fields of European cooperation and integration.