Increased trust, close relationship

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Visit by the Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia Increased trust, close relationship

During the visit by the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, to Berlin on Wednesday, Federal Chancellor Scholz said he wanted to "encourage North Macedonia to resolutely continue along the reform path it has embarked upon". Germany, he said, was "very serious" about the prospect of the Western Balkan states acceding to the EU.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Dimitar Kovacevski, Prime Minister of North Macedonia, outside the Chancellery. A soldier salutes in the foreground.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz received the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, with military honours in front of the Chancellery.

Photo: Federal Government/Denzel

At the joint press conference ahead of the meeting with the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovacevski, at the Chancellery in Berlin on Wednesday, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz referred to the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and North Macedonia.

"The contacts and ties between our countries have become increasingly closer during this time and the level of trust has increased," Scholz said: "In the last few months alone, the Federal President, the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs and I have all visited North Macedonia, which shows the importance of this relationship to us."

The Republic of North Macedonia is a landlocked country in South-Eastern Europe. It used to be a semi-autonomous republic within Yugoslavia but proclaimed its independence in 1991. The country covers an area of 25,700 square kilometres and has a population of around 2.1 million, 700,000 of whom live in the capital, Skopje. Following the settlement of a decades-long dispute with Greece over the country's name, the country has been known as North Macedonia since 2019 and is bordered by Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania.

Great respect for Macedonian identity

Germany was "very serious" about the prospect of the Western Balkan states acceding to the EU, the Federal Chancellor told his North Macedonian counterpart, "and this is particularly true for North Macedonia".

Germany, he added, had "great respect" for the Macedonian identity, its language and history, and for the far-reaching efforts that North Macedonia was making on its reform path towards its accession to the EU.

Further reform steps necessary

The central issue now was the planned amendment of the constitution and much depended on the success of this, said Scholz. "I know that this is not an easy step. Yet it is necessary in order to clear the way to continue the process of accession to the European Union."

This, the Federal Chancellor emphasised, was why he wanted to encourage North Macedonia to continue resolutely on the reform path it had embarked upon. "Reforms are not an abstract requirement. Already they are having a very specific positive impact on the lives of citizens."

The Berlin Process as an opportunity

The same applied to the Berlin Process, which, he said, involved close collaboration between the six countries of the Western Balkans to complete their pathway into the EU together, which held a lot of potential.

In addition to its geographical significance, the term "Western Balkan States" also has political meaning. It was adopted as an official EU term at the EU summit in Vienna in 1998 and refers to those states in the Balkan peninsula which are not yet members of the EU. This is why, alongside Albania, the Yugoslav successor states Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are counted as Western Balkan States, but not Slovenia and Croatia, which acceded to the EU in 2004 and 2013 respectively.

The Berlin Process, Scholz said, had been reinvigorated at a summit in Berlin in November 2022. Certain agreements, he added, had brought us closer to the goal of creating a common regional market. "Our goal for this year is to make progress with this as well," Scholz stressed: "And I am very pleased that the summit will be held in the region itself in Tirana on 16 October."

Kosovo and Serbia: supporting normalisation

The symbolic aspect of holding the summit in the Western Balkans, he said, was an important matter, particularly in view of the current tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. Thinking ahead to the summit in Albania, the Federal Chancellor said that it would "provide a welcome opportunity for Serbia and Kosovo to fully refocus on normalising their relations, in particular by implementing the Ohrid Agreement, in which North Macedonia played a crucial role as the summit host".

United against Russia's war

One important topic to be discussed with Prime Minister Kovacevski, he said, would be the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its consequences. North Macedonia, the Federal Chancellor added, was part of the great alliance, both in Europe and with our transatlantic partners, which "stands united against the Russian offensive".

North Macedonia, Scholz said, takes its responsibilities seriously, both as a member of NATO and in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), where it currently holds the chair.