Check against delivery!
Good morning to everybody,
I am very glad that I could welcome today Prime Minister [of North Macedonia Zoran] Zaev at the External Action Service headquarters, here in Brussels.
And it is a very timely meeting because just yesterday, we had an interesting and long discussion at the Foreign Affairs Ministers Council of the European Union about the Western Balkans. About the importance of the Western Balkans and our continued commitment to the region. The Ministers [of Foreign Affairs], all of them, reaffirmed the European perspective of the whole region, Prime Minister.
There was a strong support to convene the first Intergovernmental Conference for North Macedonia as soon as possible. We know that you have been waiting for a long time – 16 years maybe. You are the second longest lasting country at the door of enlargement. But I can tell you that there was a strong support from all [Foreign Affairs] Ministers for the first conference to take place.
Let me stress again very clearly: I did yesterday after the [Foreign Affairs] Council, at the press conference and I want to repeat it today that there is no support for “decoupling” – neither in the European Union institutions, nor among the Member states. North Macedonia met the necessary conditions to start the accession negotiations and, similarly to Albania, deserves to proceed to the next stage of the process without delays.
I also would like to underline the high level of your alignment with our Foreign and Security Policy. And for me, the High Representative, it is very important that you very courageously – and sometimes paying a price - you have been aligning with our Common Foreign and Security Policy. We appreciate it a lot. And I understand that it is an expression of your commitment to the European path for your country.
I want to insist on this idea, North Macedonia can count on us to support [it] when it comes to finding a solution to advance on the accession path, but also when it comes to vaccines. We just delivered the first batch of a total of 120.000 fully EU financed vaccines for North Macedonia. And this comes without a string attached, without conditionality. These are geopolitical challenges for us to help the Western Balkans in general and - North Macedonia in particular - to face the pandemic.
Our commitment was clear in our meeting today and it was also in the discussions of the 27 EU Foreign Ministers yesterday.
Thank you for your visit.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-205753