H.E. Mr. Ramadan Nazifi, Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of North Macedonia to the Federal Republic of Germany
The Republic of North Macedonia, a small country in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula, with its rich cultural tradition, sunny days and hospitality, this year on September 8th marked the 30th anniversary of its independence, as a NATO member and awaiting a date for the start of accession negotiations for membership in the European Union.
It is not easy to be small and successful among the big ones, but we have been trying hard to achieve that and we are happy for that.
Thirty years ago, our citizens clearly decided to say goodbye to the old system and build a new, independent, democratic path, the benefits of which we enjoy today.
It was not easy, because we faced many challenges and obstacles, with the struggle for international recognition, wars in the neighborhood, traumatic transformation of the economy, political unrest, ethnic tensions and so on. Through the 30 years of independent existence, the country has gone through a series of problems and difficulties. The triple-digit inflation in the early 1990s, the economic embargo, the Kosovo refugee crisis and the conflict in 2001, were real challenges and threats for the young Macedonian state and slowed down its development path.
But, thanks to the wisdom and pragmatism of the political, intellectual, academic structures and institutions, as well as the wisdom and patience of our citizens, we managed to overcome all these challenges and build a successful model of coexistence, based on the Ohrid Framework Agreement and a modern constitution. Today, the Republic of North Macedonia is an example of a functional, tolerant, multiethnic, multi-religious and multicultural democratic state.
North Macedonia, with its constructive policy of good neighborliness, significantly contributes to peace and stability in the Western Balkans. This was practically confirmed with the signing of the Agreement on Friendship, Good Neighborliness and Cooperation with Bulgaria and the Prespa Agreement with Greece. In this way, we have resolved two long-standing disputes with our neighboring countries, with which we are building friendly relations today. We are also happy for the good relations with other neighboring countries.
North Macedonia has also proven to be a reliable and constructive partner in bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation. This is happening through active participation in many forms of regional cooperation, as well as mutual support with many countries in various international organizations. Such successful cooperation was confirmed during the migration crisis in 2015.
As a result of major, successful democratic changes, reforms, and the systematic harmonization of legal provisions, the country has made significant progress in Euro-Atlantic integration and has become a member of NATO. We are still waiting for the next process, ie the start of the accession negotiations with the EU and we hope that the first Inter-governmental Conference will be held as soon as possible.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all European Union member states for their overall cooperation and support of my country in the Euro-Atlantic efforts. This cooperation and support has been confirmed in various forms, including the Berlin Process started by Germany, as a project of political reconciliation, infrastructural connectivity, digitalization and economic prosperity of the Western Balkans region.
As Ambassador of North Macedonia in Germany, I would particularly like to thank Germany and to emphasize the professional, constructive, close and friendly cooperation with the German Institutions and authorities, chambers of commerce, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, foundations and all kinds of associations, which significantly contribute to the excellent bilateral relations between our countries and to strengthening Germany’s reputation in North Macedonia and vice versa. The Federal Republic of Germany continuously supports the realization of many projects and the overall economic and social development of North Macedonia and we are very grateful for that.
The break-up of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the result of a series of political riots and clashes in the early 1990s.
After the disintegration of the former state of SFR Yugoslavia, independent states were formed, including the then Republic of Macedonia, today the Republic of North Macedonia, which this year marked 30 years of independence and independence, after a successful referendum on September 8, 1991, in which citizens declared themselves an independent and sovereign state. Over 95 percent of the citizens who went to the referendum, voted in favor of an independent Macedonia. Earlier, on January 25, 1991, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the first multi-party Macedonian Parliament. An important step for the country was the adoption of the new Constitution on November 17, 1991.
After the declaration of independence, the statehood of Macedonia was recognized among the first by Turkey and Bulgaria, as well as Slovenia, Croatia, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then other countries.
Following the adoption of the Declaration of Sovereignty of the State, Kiro Gligorov was elected the first President of an independent and sovereign Republic of Macedonia by the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia, on January 27, 1991.
The country gained monetary independence with the introduction of the Denar on April 26, 1992, and then received its own Army, which celebrates its birthday on August 18.
The state International Legal Entity of the state as subject of international law was definitely confirmed on April 8, 1993, when by acclamation in the General Assembly of the United Nations, Macedonia was accepted as the 181st member of the United Nations.
Due to the disagreements of our southern neighbor, which did not accept the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, the membership in the UN was under the temporary reference: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Negotiations with Greece to resolve the name dispute
Over the years, negotiations to resolve the name issue with Greece periodically continued and stopped, and finally resumed in 2017. The negotiations between Skopje and Athens became topical after the first meeting of Prime Minister Zaev with the then Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, during the Davos Summit in January 2018.
Negotiations to resolve the name dispute under the auspices of the United Nations, after many years, have borne fruit and the Prespa Agreement (Agreement on the settlement of the name dispute and strategic partnership) has been reached. The agreement was signed in June 2018 on the Greek side of Lake Prespa.
According to the Agreement, Macedonia changed its name from the Republic of Macedonia to the Republic of North Macedonia, and after the signing of the Agreement followed the steps for its implementation, such as holding a referendum in North Macedonia in September 2018. Then the constitutional amendments were voted in the Assembly by a two-thirds majority, in order to change the constitutional name.
The Agreement was also ratified by the Greek Parliament, followed by the next stages provided by the Agreement and the promotion of relations between the two neighboring countries, which with the Prespa Agreement resolved the decades-long dispute and the open issue that was a barrier to the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
The road to NATO
Membership in the world’s largest military-political alliance, NATO, has been a strategic goal of the country since the independence. In 1999, at the Washington Summit, North Macedonia became a candidate for NATO membership.
Following the Prespa Agreement, the doors opened for its NATO membership. In July 2018, North Macedonia received an invitation from NATO to start accession negotiations. In February 2019, NATO member states signed the Protocol on the Accession of North Macedonia to NATO. Following the ratification of the Accession Protocol to the parliaments of all members of the Alliance, on March 27, 2020, North Macedonia became 30th member of NATO.
EU membership – a strategic goal
Also, EU membership for North Macedonia is a top priority and strategic goal of the country. Our expectations are that the country will finally receive a date for the start of accession negotiations by the end of this year.
The Stabilization and Association Agreement governing the country’s relations with the European Union was signed on 9 April 2001.
In 2005, Macedonia received the status of a candidate country for EU membership, and in 2009 it received the first recommendation from the European Commission to start accession negotiations with the EU.
In August 2017, the Agreement on Friendship, Good Neighborliness and Cooperation was signed between Macedonia and its eastern neighbor Bulgaria. The agreement aims to develop co-operation between the two neighboring countries, as well as to harmonize certain issues of history.
The country continues to systematically and successfully implement the reforms outlined by the European Commission in its annual reports. In the Progress reports of the European Commission in recent years, it is constantly emphasized that North Macedonia has made great progress in the implementation of internal reforms and deserves to start accession negotiations.
North Macedonia, despite the mentioned difficulties, remains on the European path, expects a soon solution to the misunderstandings and fulfillment of the strategic goals – EU membership, strengthening democracy and economic development. In fact, it is a determination of the majority of citizens and political actors in the country.
North Macedonia, despite the thorny path to independence and the obstacles so far, both internally and in terms of foreign policy and relations with neighbors, today is an example of international, inter-religious and intercultural harmony, as well as a nurturer of democratic values. It, with its famous combination of traditional and modern, reflects respect, love and tolerance, which are in fact EU values, and only such an EU has a future. North Macedonia is seen as a natural part of such a mosaic called Europe, which is home to all of us. Home to every person with human values, developed consciousness, where there is equality in diversity.
I recommend you to visit North Macedonia and I cordially invite you to see for yourself the natural beauties of my country, to taste its food delicacies and wine, to experience on the spot its hospitality, rich cultural traditions and multiculturalism. Its really worth it!