Hahn: Green light for North Macedonia in self-interest of the EU

Johannes Hahn at Vienna Economic Talks; Photo: European Union 2019

VIENNA – Opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia is very much in the self interest of the European Union, and if we fail to reward the historic Prespa agreement and the great reform effort we will make damage to the power of attraction the EU has over its neighbours and the Western Balkan in particular, said the European Commissioner Johannes Hahn at the conference Vienna Economic Talks – New Perspective for North Macedonia today.

Hahn explained that the incentive of EU membership will lose its leverage and that this could be a big blow to the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue and in the efforts of the EU to export stability to the region.

“For these reasons, we must deliver on our commitments, just as North Macedonia is delivering on the reforms we have requested. It is in our common self interest,” Hahn pointed out.

The Commissioner said that both government and opposition alike behave in a very responsible manner and they country had managed to resolve bilateral relations with Bulgaria and with Greece. He also pointed out that the country is about to become a NATO member and on the brink of opening accession negotiations with the European Union.

“The government has taken great steps to advance on its Euro-Atlantic path. Greece was the first country to sign the NATO accession protocol, which led to the entry into force of the Prespa agreement. The NATO accession process is ongoing and anchors the country as a credible partner in ensuring security, stability and prosperity of the region and beyond,” pointed out Hahn.

He reminded that the Prespa agreement set an example of reconciliation for the region and Europe as a whole, adding that it is also a testimony to the transformative power of the EU accession perspective. As he stated this would not have been possible without a clear and credible EU accession perspective as outlined in the Western Balkan strategy from February 2018.

“If we fail to reward the historic Prespa agreement and the great reform effort of North Macedonia we will make great damage to the power of attraction the EU has over its neighbours and the Western Balkan in particular. The incentive of EU membership will lose its leverage and this will be a big blow to the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue and in the efforts of the EU to export stability to the region. Instead, we will be creating a big vacuum that other players are very keen to explore,” Commissioner underlined.