Rama-Zaev at joint press conference

*Joint press conference by the Prime Minister Edi Rama and the Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev in Skopje:
PM Zoran Zaev: My dear friend Edi Rama!
Dear media representatives and dear citizens!
I am here today with my friend, Edi Rama. The great visionary idea of a united Europe has a problem today and the problem is the European Union itself. Brussels said that the European Union fails to ensure and deliver on the promised integration of the Western Balkans and that is the problem. Failure of 27 member states of the European Union to prevent a blockade by a member state is a problem of Europe and it is caused by the European Union.
However, we are not alone and we won’t remain alone and isolated. I am here with my friend, colleague, and brother Edi Rama. Our Macedonian people and Albanian people share the same path, same vision, they share same values, namely the true European values and not the policy of walls and partitions. We won’t stop here and Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina are on the same path too. We are part of Europe, no matter whether Europe would succeed or not to shun blockades.
Our people and our governments in the middle of the Balkans demonstrate European values and manners. We are working fast to remove the border barriers among us so that citizens, services and goods move freely. We share common ideas, common challenges, common culture and our brotherly people in the region. I am here with Prime Minister Rama to announce that we will bring our people closer together.
We will convey messages to our citizens and the European citizens, domestic politicians and the European ones. What is alarming … [inaudible] the essence and value of European cooperation is being questioned. The European values are commonly shared by all EU member states, as well as the candidate countries. The Western Balkans affirms such values and they are: inclusiveness, mobility, tolerance, justice and solidarity. Everyone in the European Union should know what are the widely accepted values and promote them as integral part of the European way of life and that in no way and in no act should those values be disputed, human dignity, equality and solidarity, the rule of law and human rights.
Last week, I and the delegation from the Republic of North Macedonia travelled to Sofia openhearted, with our hand extended and ready to take a positive step towards the Republic of Bulgaria. Prior to that visit, Prime Minister Rama was here in Skopje to coordinate our efforts. Although we took a positive step forward, unfortunately, although our messages to the international community were clear and unequivocally that it was time to break the blockades. The Bulgarian colleagues failed to amass sufficient strength to allow the start of the accession negotiations with the European Union for the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Albania.
Though we were fully aware of our expectations, European Union’s decision not to set a date for the first intergovernmental conference with us and Albania, however, was actually really disappointing, but it was also an extremely great failure of the European Union’s enlargement policy and this is a bad message for the whole region. Bulgaria’s vote not to allow the negotiating framework, despite the unanimous stance of the 27 member states, we think is not in the spirit of good neighbourly relations. Our position is clear. We believe the European integration cannot become hostage to the bilateral issues. The negotiations with the European Union should not end up as negotiations with Bulgaria. Our progress towards European integration should mainly depend on our chapter-related reforms, European legislation and fulfilment of European standards. This is exactly why we think bilateral issues should not be decided in this framework, as it is a dangerous precedent and this is a position shared by all other EU member states. Macedonian national identity simply cannot be the subject of negotiations. We showed courage and sincere will to resolve bilateral relations through mutual respect and protection of national dignity. North Macedonia became NATO-s 30th member and took its seat on the table of the world’s most powerful nations led by the United States of America. Today we are NATO members and partners with Albania and other countries in the group that became members of NATO. The European Union remains the only strategic alternative in our national goals to which we are totally committed and make sincere efforts.
European values ​​are as sacred as the European Union itself. The European Union has no exclusivity over Europe. European leaders must seriously consider these failures, because endless and repeated disappointments will undoubtedly open the door and encourage Euro sceptics. It is precisely for this reason that the European Union should find the formula on how to deliver on its promise and keep further enlarging with the Western Balkans. We will again give a chance to the process and we remain committed to our strategic goals of membership with the European Union and full implementation of the European values and standards in the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania.
I have another message to convey. Those who know me also know that I do not give up easily. Those who do not know me let them know that I will not give up. I will travel to Sofia once again, again and again and look for solutions. We will succeed in achieving this goal. Macedonia is Europe, Albania is Europe, and the Balkans is Europe.
PM Edi Rama: It is a coincidence that on the day when would be speaking about what didn’t actually happen in Brussels, we have come together in an important Economic Forum here. I believe this is an opportunity to state that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen in Brussels, we are determined to vigorously go on with our efforts to grow economy and welfare and increase the sense of pride and dignity of our people. The EU can set various tasks as part of the integration process, it may set deadlines for us to deliver on these tasks, but what EU can’t really determine is our location right at the heart of Europe, it cannot determine neither our culture nor our European identity, or the future of our people as European people in European family, European states with institutional, political and economic European standards.
Albania has already made its choice since Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg era and it has reconfirmed this choice since the Albanian Renaissance era. For Albanians the sun rises right where it sets and our future lies precisely where God has entitled us to have as our own land, right at the heart of Europe.
To me – and this is actually where I and Zaev differ – nothing has happened, but the European Union has again failed to deliver on its promises, honour its commitment and adapt right approach. Life goes on and progress will go full steam ahead, as progress is not imposed externally, but internally. 
Regional cooperation will move full steam ahead with all Western Balkan countries, which are ready to move forward, as this region is surrounded by EU borders and if we are unable to alter the way how the European Union works with us, we can constantly change the way we work with each other. Merging the borders among us in order to transform our region into a space where four main freedoms of the EU are fully implemented – free movement of persons, free movement of goods, free movement of capital, freedom to establish and provide services – will go on unstoppably, as our economies are very small to build strong ones by working separately and otherwise we would become big enough if we together transform the region into a common economic space.
– Question [inaudible]
PM Edi Rama: It is not at all about us. It is about the European Union itself. But again, I am not worried and frankly speaking I am not losing my sleep about this, since I have much more important things to lose my sleep. What is fundamental is that we have done our job and they acknowledged that both Albania and North Macedonia, they have all said that we have done our job and this is all. We will keep doing our job, because the job is not finished and they should let us know once they are ready.
The challenge for us is to build a European state, European institutions, European standards, economically and socially here, in Albania and North Macedonia, in the Western Balkans, because this is what our children ask and this is what our countries deserve. If they then decide to go further in a process, we are very happy. If they don’t, frankly, I am not unhappy.
–Question [inaudible]
PM Edi Rama: I wouldn’t say or term it “the Bulgarian attitude”. Every country and state in the European Union can have its own moments of disconnection with the rest of the European Union family. But, as Zoran already said, this is not about North Macedonia and Europe. This is about North Macedonia and Bulgaria. It is as simple as that. And that’s why this is quite an experience. However, I think Zoran and me are among the most consumed readers of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”. But contrary to Samuel Beckett’s characters, Vladimir and Estragon, we are not really waiting, we are going forward, pushing and pushing to make to make the life of our people and the life of our countries better, and make North Macedonia and Albania European states with the standards of a EU member state. All right? What can we do more than that? We love European Union. We love all of them. They say they love us too, but they are not ready for marriage. It is fine. We enjoy our freedom until we marry.
PM Zoran Zaev: I can only add something to what Edi said. I totally agree with him. It is especially not fair for Albania. It is not fair for us too, but it is especially not fair for Albania, because, as I already mentioned, this is a European issue and we need to find a solution within the European Union, as it is just the next step on our European Union integration process. As Prime Minister Rama mentioned it, we know we won’t become member countries by tomorrow. It would probably take five, seven, 15 more years, but it is a matter of keeping us motivated so that we can push forward Europeanization through the European process, through the chapters, through all aspects of the chapters under the new enlargement methodology, because the idea is to Europeanize Albania and Europeanize North Macedonia. And once Europe is ready, we will be ready too and someday we will become member states. Because of that we will continue to Europeanize our countries, because this is what our citizens, our young people and children are expecting from us.
PM Edi Rama: Asking for fairness from the European Union integration process is like asking for happy ends from Samuel Beckett. It is not possible. 
PM Zoran Zaev: So yes, we are waiting for Godot. OK, I will give answers. First of all, regarding the Tweet about our representation. It is true there are Macedonian players, Albanian players, Bosnian players etc and Macedonians like people who play that and it is the representation of the Republic of North Macedonia. This is true based on the Prespa Agreement. But this is not a reason to postpone the agreements and memorandums in the Greek parliament, because we waited two years for these agreements and memorandums to be ratified by the parliament of Greece and we can wait for three more months. But our citizens, Macedonians and Greeks expect that, because this is a matter of economic cooperation, it is a matter of coverage of our air space by Greek air forces in line with NATO standards normally and, third, it has to do with the support for European integration of North Macedonia, which Greeks practically did yesterday at the EU General Affair Council. They did it too previously at the Foreign Affairs Council and they have been practically fighting for their neighbours, North Macedonia and Albania.
And of course I do always send friendly messages, because I believe in the Prespa Agreement. I made it together with my good friend Alexis Tsipras. The Agreement is to the benefit of both sides, the citizens of both countries and of course I am the first to follow the Prespa Agreement. Sometimes normally we make mistakes, precisely because of this Prespa Agreement. But I am 47 years old. So it has happened to everyone to utter a sentence and repeat it sometimes …[ [incomprehensible]. But of course we are committed to fully implementing Prespa Agreement brings mutual benefits to our citizens. An official statement was issued by the government yesterday. We don’t sit and discuss this issue with my colleague Ali Ahmeti. We need to focus on European issues, economic issues, the green agenda. These are the areas we are focused on. We need to focus on Europeanization of North Macedonia. This is our main focus.
– Question [inaudible]
PM Edi Rama: If I were to see, then I would be a magician. Nobody sees it, but I am sure that Zoran, who is 10 years younger than me, will have ten more years to solve it.
– Question [Inaudible]
PM Edi Rama: The Regional Schengen – as I put it since the terms containing “mini” are not part of my challenges – is not an alternative to the EU, but it is indispensable for the future of our economies, our children and peace in this area. Whoever misinterprets the Regional Schengen, i.e. namely implementation of the four freedoms of the EU with a supposed another alternative to the EU, they either are unable to realize, or they are unwilling to realize that it is absurd to think that since we all want to become part of the EU, we, the countries in this region should stay back-to-back, facing in opposite directions. It is absurd one can think that since everyone is seeking to integrate into the European Union, then the goods, exports and imports within the region should wait on endless queues, directly hitting the body of our economy. It is absurd to think that since we want to become EU member states, then we shouldn’t deal with the free movement of people within our region.
This is absurd. But I already said these people who cherish such an absurdity they either are unable to understand, or they are unwilling to understand. We will keep explaining it to those who don’t realize it. While we will let those who don’t wish to understand continue living in their own parallel world with the reality of the economies and societies of our common space, which unfortunately has yet to become common and we should definitely work to do it in the entire region. It is as simple as that.

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