site.btaEscobar: North Macedonia's EU Accession Process to Depend on Closing Negotiation Chapters After Constitutional Change

Escobar: North Macedonia's EU Accession Process to Depend on Closing Negotiation Chapters After Constitutional Change
Escobar: North Macedonia's EU Accession Process to Depend on Closing Negotiation Chapters After Constitutional Change
Gabriel Escobar (Photo: North Macedonia Government)

In an interview with the "360 Gradusa" newspaper, US special envoy to the Western Balkans Gabriel Escobar, who was on a two-day visit to Skopje, where he met VMRO-DPMNE Chairman Hristijan Mickoski, said that he would like VMRO-DPMNE to explain to the public its dilemma as opposition, claiming to be for EU integration but against constitutional changes, which are a condition for the second intergovernmental conference and the opening of the negotiating chapters.

Escobar stressed that he did not come to Skopje to tell people how to vote or to form a government. "We don't do that with our NATO allies. What we are doing is setting expectations", he added, saying that he conveyed to Mickoski the same level of enthusiasm that he wants to convey to the citizens of Northern Macedonia, that the future of Southern Europe is in the European Union. In his words, this future presents huge opportunities for North Macedonia. "It is the largest trading bloc in the world and America's largest trading partner. Four billion dollars a day cross the Atlantic, and we want you to be part of that", Escobar said.

He expressed his wish to convey this enthusiasm at all his meetings. Regarding the leader of the opposition Hristijan Mickoski, Escobar noted that he has not come to dictate conditions, but to make it clear that "the US chooses as partners in the Balkans those who bring the region closer to Europe, those who show their commitment to NATO and who continue the fight against corruption". He added that the opportunities provided to move North Macedonia's accession status towards the European Union are part of this process. "I am not saying that people should support the government. I am asking the people - work with us to support (the country's) European path.Because it will benefit us too," Escobar stressed.

In his words, as a "close friend of North Macedonia", the US wants the country to overcome the "hurdle" with the constitutional changes and "to start defining itself through its relations with the transatlantic community, through its relations with the rest of the world and on the basis of its values, rather than defining itself through Bulgaria".

Escobar shared part of his conversation with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel in Dubrovnik, when she had assured him that "if North Macedonia fulfils what is in the current treaty, there will be no new conditions".

"I consider this to be her personal commitment and a commitment on behalf of her government", Escobar said, highlighting that if North Macedonia fulfills its obligations as per its treaty with Bulgaria, its accession process will be determined not by bilateral issues, but by the negotiating chapters and bringing the state economy closer to "the largest economy in the world."

Asked how the US would react if the country does not make progress, given the adamant position of VMRO-DPMNE against constitutional changes on the one hand, and the words of US Senator Chris Murphy that "this will raise concerns in Washington about the strategic orientation of a NATO member state that the US has pledged to defend on the basis of shared values" on the other, Escobar responded that he would not be so direct, but agreed that this would create "unpredictability in the strategic direction of North Macedonia".

He reiterated that it was not for the US to determine whether early elections are the solution to the problem - a matter, which is to be decided by the citizens of North Macedonia. "I hope they understand the huge opportunity that is in front of them and seize it", Escobar said, expressing hope that the citizens will send a signal to their political leaders that they want a future in the EU "and that they want it quickly, that they want it now, so that we can start to build this structure so that North Macedonia is fully and formally part of any Euro-Atlantic structure".

/KV/

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By 18:47 on 20.06.2024 Today`s news

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