“Five years after the signing of the Prespa agreement and 4 years after its adoption by parliaments, many things have changed for the better,” Zoran Zaev told Naftemporiki TV on the sidelines of the Delphi Economic Forum and highlighted the assistance received by the country. of Greece both during the pandemic and during the energy crisis.
“Greece is now our second strategic partner after the United States. We only have two strategic partners. Thanks to this cooperation, even the new government has helped us a lot, starting with the coronavirus pandemic, by sharing vaccines, sharing experiences with us and helping our people to survive. During the energy crisis, we also received the greatest help from Greece. Heavy oil, crude, lignite, natural gas. All NATO countries were heavily dependent on Russian gas. But it’s very different when you have friends to help you,” he said.
Energy investments and Cebren hydroelectric power plant project with PPC
Mr. Zaev noted that after the agreement, bilateral trade increased by more than 20-25%. At the moment, investments of 2.5 billion euros are pending from Greece in North Macedonia, mainly in energy, he said, announcing that very soon we will have the signatures with PPC for the major development project for the Cebren hydroelectric plant. Construction groups such as Mytilineos, Kopelouzos, Intrakat also invest in the country, while Greek companies are present in North Macedonia also in the agricultural sector, the textile industry, the banking sector, insurance.
“The agreement is not easy for the citizens of Greece or North Macedonia, because we had to concede something. But we became friends and this friendship will continue in the future, because we are stronger when we are Greece is a developed country, one of the first members of NATO, one of the first members of the EU, and even Prime Minister Mitsotakis helped us a lot, Foreign Minister Dendias, Alexis Tsipras during his own administration. Now we are a more stable, secure country and the standard of living of our politicians is better,” he said.
Mr. Zaev said his country can learn a lot from Greece in the field of tourism. “Of course we don’t have the sea to develop our tourism in this way, but we have lakes and mountains and Greece has very well organized tourist organizations, tourist services, from which we can learn.”
Joint promotion of agricultural production
He also underlined the importance of cooperation in the agricultural sector, with the aim of jointly promoting our production on the European market. “The agricultural sector is also very important – not just for us to buy products from one country to another. We can beat Turkey, southern Italy, southern Spain with our products in the European market, which is very profitable. Our own production is very small, but with Greece we have sufficient quantities and excellent quality, ecological production, organic production and we can enter the European market dynamically,” he said, adding “If we want to have greater recognition from the West and Northern Europe, we have to work together. Our region is small, but together we are very strong. If we’re smart, we’ll do it.”
Asked to comment on the European perspective of his country and the wider Western Balkans, Mr. Zaev said: “After the Prespa agreement, we had the honor of becoming a member of NATO. Now with NATO we are safe and that applies to the whole region, not just North Macedonia. As you know, we are a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country and under NATO we have stability and security. Without insurance, you can’t plan your finances or even your family affairs.”
“We don’t want authoritarian regimes, we want democracy and freedoms”
The second strategic objective, he underlined, is membership of the European Union. Now the country is in the screening phase. “We hope that the selection process will be completed by November-December, and then chapters and clusters will be opened based on the new methodology. This means the Europeanization of North Macedonia,” he said. noted, while emphasizing that “Europeanisation means for us higher living standards, more opportunities to enter the European market, equal opportunities with European citizens and the best possible use of European funds” .
Through the European course, he said, the well-being of our citizens will be enhanced, which is most important, while he called on all Western Balkans to move forward as quickly as possible. “The war in Ukraine makes this imperative. We are pro-Western. Not just me personally or my government, but the citizens. More than 80% are in favor of NATO and the EU. We decided to go in this direction. We don’t want authoritarian regimes, we want democracy, we want freedoms, solidarity. This is the intention of our people and the European Union offers it to us.
How do the Greeks welcome it?
The former Prime Minister of North Macedonia arrived in our country with his motorcycle and had the opportunity to talk to many people. How was it received? “I’m the person who signed the Prespa deal and people are positive towards me even though not all of them are very happy with the deal. I know, these are choices. But everyone tells me, Zoran, that you are a good friend of Greece. Some like me a lot, others like me even though I was against the Prespa agreement. They say to me: ‘Listen, I am against the agreement, but you you’re a good guy, let’s have an ouzo, a coffee, a shake,'” he said. “The spirit of the agreement is good. And I am happy that the ND government also continues to support the cooperation with North Macedonia, it continues in the right direction, because it will bring benefits to both nations”, a- he concluded.