The meeting of the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo (Ohrid, March 18, 2023) is a regional and European event of the highest rank, at which one of the most burning issues in the region and beyond is being decided. We spoke to Mr. Marjan Zabrcanec, National Coordinator for Open Balkan and Regional Initiatives, at the Government of North Macedonia, about the significance of this event, as well as about the role of our country in this and in the wider context.
“The values of peace and stability are best recognized when they are threatened. We have the Russian military aggression against sovereign Ukraine taking place before our eyes, as well as anti-democratic hybrid attacks on the territory of the Western Balkans. In such conditions, there is nothing more important than for us to again stand in the face of the challenges and again act responsibly on our behalf, but also on behalf of the region”, said Mr. Zabrcanec for CIVIL Media.
According to Mr. Zabrcanec, it’s obvious that the international community, and our neighbors Serbia and Kosovo, recognize our performance in building peace and cooperation in the Balkans. “As a country, as a people and as a Government, we should be proud for being recognized as a platform that can contribute to permanent peace solutions that move the region forward”, the National Coordinator Zabrcanec added.
CIVIL MEDIA: What is the significance of the Vucic-Kurti meeting in Ohrid, in general and in the context of the processes for promoting regional cooperation in the Western Balkans region?
ZABRCANEC: The meeting of the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo is of great significance due to two reasons. First, the goal is to solve one of the two biggest open issues in the Balkans. And second, it is taking place in an extremely specific moment of time and context, when the world is under the threat of the Russian military and hybrid aggressions aimed at the European countries and at member states or aspirants for NATO membership.
Regardless of the outcome from tomorrow’s Ohrid negotiations, the efforts that are being made by both negotiating parties, the commitment of the EU and the United States in seeking a solution and the support that we, too, are giving as a country and the entire region, show responsibility and dedication to peace and stability in moments when security is threatened at the global level. I believe that tomorrow’s meeting in Ohrid is a big investment in peace in the Balkans and in accelerating our common European progress.
CIVIL MEDIA: It’s not the first time that important meetings are held in our country and important agreements signed regarding burning regional issues. What does that mean for our country?
ZABRCANEC: We, both as a country and as a society, have demonstrated on several occasions responsibility in the face of internal political challenges, but also in regards to open issues with our neighbors.
We have two serious agreements behind us, the Framework Agreement and Prespa Agreement, with which we ensured lasting peace and lasting integration of our country in the direction towards the democratic world. Although with some challenges, on our soil and for the benefit of European perspective of the Balkans, we also concluded the Agreement for cooperation and friendship with Bulgaria, for which we have several more steps remaining in order to mark it as successful, for which I am convinced are achievable and do not harm anyone.
CIVIL MEDIA: What are the perspectives of regional cooperation and what is the role and significance of North Macedonia in that context?
ZABRCANEC: It’s obvious that the international community, and our neighbors Serbia and Kosovo as well, recognize our performance in building peace and cooperation in the Balkans. As a country, as a people and as a Government, we should be proud for being recognized as a platform that can contribute to permanent peace solutions that move the region forward.
Our responsibility is to continue in that direction, to work at home on maintaining the majority that leads the country forward, to foster and promote relations with our neighbors even more, and for the challenge in the relations with Bulgaria to remain a priority to be resolved as soon as possible.
The values of peace and stability are best realized when they are threatened. We have the Russian military aggression against sovereign Ukraine taking place before our eyes, as well as anti-democratic hybrid attacks on the territory of the Western Balkans. In such conditions, there is nothing more important than for us to again stand in the face of the challenges and again act responsibly on our behalf, but also on behalf of the region
Our role within the framework of the regional initiatives for cooperation, such as Open Balkan or the Berlin Process, is crucial and one of a leadership, having in consideration that together with Albania we are probably the two countries with the least open issues in the Western Balkans, whether domestic ones or ones with our neighbors. We also have the right and obligation to intensify relations with our neighbors from the region and we are doing this intensively with different projects and initiatives. It is our task primarily for the economic perspectives, for easier mobility of citizens and companies and for providing strong economic dynamics within the framework of the Western Balkans and in the relation Western Balkans – EU – US, which is a guarantee for higher standards and better life for our peoples.
Translation: N. Cvetkovska