Intervention of Hon. Talat Xhaferi at the April 2022 Balkans Leadership Conference

Dear former and current senior political representatives from the Western Balkans region and beyond,

Dear Vice-President of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania, Ms. Vasilika Hysi,

Dear members of the Universal Peace Federation,

Dear Members of the Podgorica Club,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a special pleasure for me today to be among you again and to have the opportunity to greet the participants of the Balkan Leadership Conference and the Podgorica Club on behalf of the MPs of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia and on my own behalf, which this time focuses on the topic “Peace, security and economic development in the Western Balkans”. The commitment and seriousness with which the countries that are part of this region approach the Western Balkans clearly shows that we are aware of the challenges we have faced and still continue to face day by day, and that the only way to be successful in this battle for the survival and progress of the region is the regional inclusive cooperation with commitment to the main European values of democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights, but also the importance that reconciliation has for the success of these transformation processes of the region.

Inclusive regional cooperation is a fundamental factor for our partners and for us as countries on our path to membership in the European Union and the future of the whole region is exactly in it. Therefore, on this occasion, I will reiterate the call I made a few days ago at the Conference of Speakers of the European Union Parliaments, in Brdo, Slovenia, that it is time for the vision of the future of Europe to be turned into action, the enlargement process to gain momentum while membership negotiations to become a reality. The enlargement of the European family with the Western Balkan countries represents a strategic investment in peace, democracy, prosperity, security and stability, especially now, in this war situation in Ukraine, which clearly demonstrates how quickly peace and stability in the region can change and increase the challenges of security, economy, energy and other challenges in the continent.

The Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia, on March 3, adopted the Declaration which strongly condemns Russia’s aggression against Ukraine as contrary to the international law and as a state we fully harmonized our policies with the stands of the European Union foreign and security policies in the context of sanctions against Russia. Of course, given the fact that as countries we are positioned in a turbulent region and we have witnessed many conflicts, we deeply sympathize with the citizens of Ukraine, we express our condolences for the lost lives and we call for a rapid diplomatic solution and termination of military operations, with the vocabulary of hatred to be replaced with the contemporary vocabulary of civilized dialogue.

Dear friends,

This Conference proves that we as a region continue to build bridges of cooperation and rapprochement between our nations, our countries and the whole region with the European Union, because thus we create ample space for the development and advancement of this part of the continent by coordinating joint projects initiated under the Berlin Process and Union policies, with a specific focus on the Economic and Investment Plan, the Green Agenda and the Common Regional Market. This provides the right impetus for building the best economies and structural change of the Western Balkans toward a green transformation and will prepare us for economic integration in the Single Market, especially in this post-Covid-19 period. This regional cooperation is a proof of the comprehensive potential and will accelerate the economic modernization and thus facilitate the rapprochement of our region with the socio-economic principles and standards of the Union.

In this context, I must mention the achievements, such as the Green Lanes in ensuring the circulation of basic health and nutritional products during the pandemic, which were an excellent example of how rapid and effective response to disasters can be facilitated, and that the pandemic crisis provided opportunities for closer regional cooperation and further deepening of the economic cooperation with the European Union. In this case, the solidarity of the European Union in the fight against the pandemic, the support in the form of vaccines through the EU Mechanism, only confirms this necessity. The connection to a sustainable transport as an important cornerstone of economic and social integration, the full implementation of the Regional Roaming Agreement with free regime with an attempt to further reduce costs, but also the commitment to the adoption of the Agreement on the free movement of people with Ids are also valuable.

At the Berlin Summit, we as the Republic of North Macedonia proposed the establishment of a regional program for the rapprochement of young diplomats, and not only diplomats, but also young people in general. Why? Because we believe in the importance that young people have for the future of the Western Balkans as the main power for the promotion of European integration and, therefore, this group should be more involved in the European processes and we as political factors should take concrete measures for the development of the region as a place of opportunities for young people to stay and contribute in the region. The role of young people as the main engine of good neighbourly relations, cooperation, reconciliation and peace building that will further contribute to the development context should not be left without support of the civil society, governments and parliaments. It is our duty to sign and adopt the respective agreements and decisions for the benefit of our citizens.

Distinguished guests,

The Republic of North Macedonia has worked and continues to work towards achieving the strategic determinations since its independence in 1991, namely, full membership in the EU and NATO. On March 27, we marked the second anniversary of our membership in NATO and the satisfaction is understandable, which cannot be said about the membership in the European Union where the situation is different from what we want and this is seriously reflected in the citizens’ confidence in the European future. In fact, trust at the moment is at the lowest possible level, there is disappointment and disbelief that this process will ever end successfully. However, given the current developments, we consider that the European Union should urgently set a date for holding the first Intergovernmental Conference for the start of negotiations, while the open issues with Bulgaria should be resolved in the format that is currently taking place.

Dear colleagues,

I wish we have a fruitful exchange of opinions and thank you for the attention!


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