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It was really a pleasure for both of us to welcome today our good friends [Nikola Dimitrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bujar Osmani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] for the 14th [European Union-the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] Stabilisation and Association Council.
Let me say from the outset, it has been an excellent meeting, reflecting an excellent work that has been done during the course of this last year.
If I can steal your sentence, Nikola [Dimitrov]: last year in the Council we were doing some good plans; this year we were getting an overview of the good results and we are sure that next year, we will continue to see progress at an impressive pace.
As I said, it has been an excellent meeting. Almost exactly four weeks ago I had the honour to witness, together with Commissioner [for the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes] Hahn, the signature of the historic name agreement with Greece.
I can say that it made me personally proud of being European and I think it was not only a historic moment, but also a moment that showed how courage, leadership, determination can lead to resolving issues that seemed impossible to resolve or very difficult to resolve in a positive manner.
Just two weeks after that, the European Union Member States set out a clear path towards opening accession negotiations with Skopje in June 2019, setting out a clear vision and an Action Plan for all of us in the year ahead – I am sure Commissioner [Johannes] Hahn will say more about that.
And, again, I think this last month has really shown us the power of working together and of leadership and, let me say, political maturity, because just one year ago this was really unthinkable.
The country has achieved one of the biggest success stories - I say this without fear of exaggerating - and also serves a positive example for the entire region; and you know how this region is crucial for us in the European Union.
We hope that all leaders, all political parties, all citizens now engage constructively for the ratification and the implementation not only of the agreement signed with Greece, but also, let me mention, the agreements signed with Bulgaria, which also extremely important.
Unity, responsibility and pragmatism from the entire society have been key in achieving results, especially on the reform agenda. And we believe that, as they have been instrumental for achieving results, they will also continue to be instrumental in the months ahead for the coming steps.
We expect all political forces in the country now - those in government and those in opposition - to continue working jointly and in a coordinated manner also on the European Union related reforms. The government Plan 18 is an excellent basis for doing so.
And, I have to say, on my last visit to Skopje addressing the Parliament and meeting with the older political forces I witnessed how far the unity and the sense of national interest can lead the country.
I hope that this spirit can be maintained and expanded to other fields as well.
To conclude let me say that the doors of the European Union are open. This has been clearly stated in the last weeks and the path the country has decided to take, the path towards the European Union has become now irreversible. So we are firmly next to you walking along this path step by step, hand in hand, to achieve even more progress in the years to come. Thank you.
Q: Could you specify what this process is exactly? It is not an actual screening process per se, there will be no screening reports? So what exactly is this preparatory work and what will both teams be doing exactly?
In some of the media in the region there have been reports that the European Commission will propose an end to the veto in enlargement negotiations. But the reports were not very clear. Could you clarify what the Commission is going to propose exactly in terms of vetoing enlargement negotiations? Does the government [of fYRoM] have a plan if next year we are faced with the same kind of objections from France and the Netherlands. What's your plan? Are you discussing with France and the Netherlands to convince them? Do we risk the same kind of crisis at the Council next year?
FM: Let me just add that the decision taken by the Council following the positive and unconditional recommendation by the Commission to start negotiations is clearly defining a path towards accession negotiations and this is what allows Commissioner Hahn to start this work immediately. Think of one month ago, 13 June, where were we: the agreement was not signed yet, the invitation to NATO was not extended, and the Council decision to open this path of preparing the negotiations, with also a clear time framework for that, was not taken yet.
In only one month - in less than one month - you are in a completely different place and it is a positive place. And I want to say this, because you referred to the need to avoid a crisis next year similar to the Council of this year. Well if this is a crisis, I would repeat it very happily, because in one month you have, I think, seen the results of months of work - positive results.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I158495