During his first visit to North Macedonia, a few weeks after taking office, European Council President Charles Michel delivered what he described as an 'ambitious first message': the future and the destiny of North Macedonia are European and the Council should continue discussions on how to keep progressing on that ambition.
At a joint press conference with President Stevo Pendarovski, Michel announced proposing to the Council a three pillar-strategy for the region.
The first pillar is a reform and modernisation of the enlargement process. 'There are several European countries for which it is important to give this process more political leadership and more tangible results', said the Council President.
The second one is the start of negotiations with North Macedonia and with Albania. 'Here I would like to stress my awareness of all the efforts that have been made, the important reforms carried out and the whole process of reforms that must be kept up over the coming weeks and months, to continue to implement in particular the Prespa Agreement and the treaty of friendship with Bulgaria. I am fully conscious that the issues involved are extremely important and extremely sensitive, but that they can be moved forward'.
The third point is arriving at an agreement in the EU on an investment and growth strategy for the Western Balkans. 'It seems to me extremely important to be able, in conjunction with these structural reforms on the rule of law, the fight against corruption and against crime, also to work on short-, medium- and long-term investment ambitions', said Michel.
The EU official also held meetings with caretaker PM Oliver Spasovski, as well as with the leaders of SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE, Zoran Zaev and Hristijan Mickoski, respectively.
'The message I wish to give you through this visit and these meetings is that of the EU's commitment to ensuring that there is a common European destiny. I wish also to convey another message, that of the need to continue, intensively, the dialogue we are already engaged in and which we are going to continue, because it is important to achieve unanimity in the European Council, to bring about agreement among all European countries on this common objective', Michel said.
The Council President wrapped up his stay in the country with a visit to the site of construction of wastewater collection infrastructure near Skopje, a major project funded by the EU with 9.7 million euros. It is only part of EU's considerable efforts to help the country take better care for the environment and thus contribute to the ambitious agenda that the EU recently adopted known as a 'Green Deal'.