Dear friends, dear Europeans,
For more than a year now our lives have been profoundly affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. Normal social and work relations have been disrupted. Some have experienced illness, or loss. Livelihoods have been at risk. Many have suffered from feelings of isolation.
But there is now reason for hope. Earlier this week I was pleased to welcome the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Várhelyi to Skopje. His visit coincided with the arrival of the first batch of nearly 120,000 doses of vaccines, gifted by the European Union. It also coincided with the launch of the country’s mass immunisation programme – offering the best hope of an exit from the pandemic.
But while the pandemic has caused turmoil in countries across the globe, at the same time it has reminded us of two crucial things: that we are all inter-connected, and that we overcome challenges best by working together.
These considerations inspired the European ideal in the first place. They led to the establishment of the European Union itself. And they continue to guide our actions today.
They have been at the heart of the EU’s massive response to COVID19 in the Western Balkans and beyond. In North Macedonia this has included the provision of urgent assistance for healthcare (over 25 ventilators, 35,000 pieces of medical equipment and over 2 million pieces of personal protective equipment) and 66M€ in grants and 160M€ in favourable loans to mitigate socio-economic consequences of the pandemic and help save jobs.
They also underpin the EU’s strong commitment to enlargement and the European perspective for the Western Balkans, including for North Macedonia. This is why the European Union remains a constant partner, supporting the country on its reform path including through substantial financial and technical assistance.
In this regard, we also very much hope that it will be possible rapidly to resolve outstanding issues, allowing in turn, for the launch of accession negotiations.
Since I arrived in North Macedonia last September I have had the privilege to meet many extraordinary individuals. People who have demonstrated a belief in these same principles: that we are all interconnected and that we work best together. People who believe in the power of change.
These include the doctors, nurses and support staff who have worked tirelessly to provide medical support during the pandemic. And professionals and ordinary citizens that stepped forward to do their part: by producing protective materials, donating food and medicines, or by taking care of their neighbours in isolation.
There are also the extraordinary young people with whom I have had the chance to meet and discuss, inspired by a vision for a better future - greener, safer and more equal.
And it is these examples of dedication, responsibility and solidarity that I would like to honour today on Europe Day. They represent the founding values and aspirations of the European Union and they point the way forward. For all of us, as Europeans. And for a future, enlarged EU.
Happy Europe Day!
Среќен Ден на Европа! (Srekjen Den na Evropa)
Gëzuar Ditën e Europës!
Ambassador David Geer
Head of the Delegation of the European Union