Zaev: Macedonia can join the EU by 2023

Zoran Zaev; Photo: Government of Macedonia

SKOPJE – “At the moment, we have adapted our legislature and completed much of the work. There are chapters which we are going to open and then immediately close. Nonetheless, everything depends on us and if we push through everything according to plan, I believe Macedonia can join the EU by 2023”, stated Prime Minister of Macedonia Zoran Zaev in an interview for Serbian weekly NIN.

The statement was a response to the assessment of professors at Swiss University of St. Gallen. Zaev reminded that Macedonia has been an EU candidate country since 2005 and expressed hope that it will join the EU together with Serbia.

“We want friendly relations with Serbia and we will try to keep them on a high level”, he stressed.

In the past, however, relations between Macedonia and Serbia have suffered some setbacks, the potential new one being the fact that former Prime Minister Gruevski fled to Hungary via Serbia.

“It is now clear to everybody that Gruevski had help, because he was driven in a diplomatic vehicle through Albania, Montenegro and Serbia to Hungary. We are now investigating whether he had help in Macedonia as well”, said Zaev.

“Gruevski’s safety has not been endangered, nor has he been a victim of political persecution. Everything has been transparent, everybody knows that he had been found guilty in a judicial process that even his own party has not challenged”, he stressed.

Another obstacle to good Serbia-Macedonia relations is the question of Kosovo, which has been recognized by the latter country. Zaev expressed his belief that the potential agreement would lead to the prosperity of the whole region, peace, stability, European integration and economic cooperation.

“This is why I believe that Serbia-Macedonia relations will be even better”, he underlined, avoiding to state Macedonia’s position towards potential territory swap, because, according to him, “those are only speculations and unconfirmed information.”

“Constitutional changes by the end of January”

Reflecting on the process of amending Macedonian Constitution, Zaev stated that he expects it to be finalised by the end of January 2019.

“We are all working together to achieve more than 80 necessary votes. I sincerely hope this will happen”, he said, reminding that the next phase will be ratification of the Agreement by Greek Parliament.

“What is important is that Greece has confirmed our right to self-identify as Macedonians, our Macedonian language has also been accepted”, he emphasised.

Asked whether President Ivanov, who has opposed constitutional changes, will promulgate the Law on Ratification of the Agreement between Greece and Macedonia and the Law on Use of Languages, Zaev answered positively. He added, however, that “we will otherwise wait for 2 May 2019, when his second mandate expires”.