Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA)
This is an important day, not just for Greece and North Macedonia but for all the Balkans, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in joint statements with the Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev in Skopje on Tuesday. Tsipras and the large Greek delegation that included representatives of Greek businesses, had a warm welcome in Skopje, while the selfie of the two leaders made the front page worldwide. Tsipras and Zaev have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because of their efforts to narrow their countries’ differences.
Tsipras, who is paying an official visit to North Macedonia, said that the two leaders’ meeting, the convening of the High Cooperation Council of Greece and North Macedonia and the business forum, marks the start of a new era in the relations between the two countries, based on cooperation, mutual understanding and joint development.
“A few years ago, to convene a High Cooperation Council between the two countries seemed impossible. Today it is becoming a reality as we are signing a series of important memoranda and agreements and an action plan that covers almost all sectors of cooperation between us,” Tsipras said.
At a diplomatic level, both countries will found embassies to replace the liaison offices, Tsipras underlined, adding that a few months ago, Greece was the first country that ratified North Macedonia’s NATO accession protocol and on Tuesday was signing a memorandum of cooperation for the promotion of North Macedonia’s EU accession course. “This is a framework that will allow the close coordination of the two countries at every step of this process, even after its accession, as well as the exchange of knowhow on the European policies,” he said.
“We are building bridges and tearing down the walls,” said Tsipras, quoting a statement by Pope Francis that “builders of walls…will end up becoming prisoners of the walls they build”, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday in joint statements with Prime Minister of North Macedonia in Skopje.
“It is not true what some say, that the Prespes Agreement creates problems. On the contrary, it solves problems created in the last 30 years,” the Greek prime minister said.
He accused those making this claim of being hypocrites, noting that those acting in good faith will be persuaded over time but the hypocrites and those with bad intentions.
“The signing of an agreement in the defence sector between the two countries’ defence ministers is tangible proof of Greece’s willingness to contribute to building North Macedonia’s defence potential, to transfer knowhow and strengthen its interoperability with NATO structures and processes”, Tsipras said.
This cooperation, he noted, includes the sectors of education, the defence industry and technology, cyber-defence, military information and mostly air space surveillance.
In the field of transport and infrastructure it was decided to upgrade road and railway interconnections, with emphasis on the Piraeus-Thessaloniki-Skopje railway route and the interconnection of the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki with the Central European markets via North Macedonia.
The opposition parties in Greece and North Macedonia used the same arguments against the Prespes Agreement, Tsipras said but today he was in Skopje representing all the Greeks, both those who agree and those who disagree with the agreement.
He noted that to disagree is a right vouchsafed by democracy but there are procedures that must be followed and the Prespes Agreement is now an international Agreement that will be implemented.
He pointed out that the interest of the major powers in the region is welcome but not on the same terms as in the past, adding that the people have an important role to play in creating their own future.
The two leaders also discussed the important developments in the region’s energy map and the opportunities that are open up in the Balkans, touching on oil, natural gas and electricity interconnections.
The addition to the memorandum of understanding between Greece’s DESFA and MER, the crucial deliberations by Hellenic Petroleum on the resolution of outstanding issues as well as on future cooperation and the talks between ADMIE-MEPSO on the electricity interconnection highlight the multiple levels that are opening for stronger cooperation, noted Tsipras.They also agreed to collaborate in the field of new technologies and digital policy with the transfer of knowhow in cyber-security and e-governance from Greece as well as in the transfer of knowhow in crucial sectors of health as the primary healthcare and the e-prescriptions.
The stability in Greece’s north borders will be the exchange for the assumption of the protection of North Macedonia’s aerial space by the Greek Army, Tsipras said.
At a question on what will happen if the opposition parties wind the next elections in both countries, Tsipras said that both he and Mr. Zaev hope to win the next elections adding nothing that is in the people’s interest can change.
From the signing of Prespes Agreement onwards “we are constantly making history,” North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in joint statements with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday in Skopje.
“Our country,” said Zaev, “is today hosting the large delegation from Greece in the presence of many entrepreneurs,” while noting that it was a historic meeting.
The two countries, he added, were leaving the past behind and are starting a voyage into the future with common interests. “We are two people’s that proved to the world that with bold decisions, desire and unity everything is possible,” he said.
The Prespes Agreement was fully implemented, Zaev added, noting that it offers the two sides the possibility to fully develop trade relations.Zaev also referred to the agreements and the cooperation memoranda signed after the High Cooperation Council meeting.
He pointed out the target to fully create the conditions for the development of opportunities through these agreements.
“In the afternoon, Mr. Tsipras and I will declare the start of the business forum with the participation of over 100 entrepreneurs from both countries,” he said, noting that the meeting was of historic importance.
He also said that cooperation via the High Cooperation Council will contribute to the resolution of differences and the development of mutually beneficial opportunities.
Zaev said he made a very good friend in the last months, in Alexis Tsipras. “He is my very good friend and a friend of my country,” he said.
“I totally agree with Alexis, the Prespes Agreement and its implementation will assist in the building of a stronger friendship between our peoples. I do not believe that anybody will remain against an agreement that promotes the friendship between the people of the two countries” Zoran Zaev said.
NATO is our future, he added, noting that everyone will soon see the benefits, including the financial benefits from the Prespes Agreement, when they will see the friendship that is being built and has been fought against for the last 30 years, even the most conservative and militant will understand.
“The Greek citizens should know that we, on our part, will fully implement the Agreement. The issue of the trade brands will be discussed at the committees, as we have resolved all the other matters,” he said.
“It is very important, we don’t have any indication in any of the two countries that someone will cancel the Agreement which leads to its full implementation and will bring only benefits to both sides,” said Zaev, when asked about the stance of the opposition parties in North Macedonia and in Greece “If the opposition wins the elections, would it reject NATO, will it slide backwards, will it stop negotiating the accession to EU? No it would not,” said Zaev.
“The interest of the major powers in the region is welcome, we want to build relations of friendship with all,” Zaev added and expressed his pleasure that Russia recognised North Macedonia’s new constitutional name, adding that his country also welcomes China’s interest and noting that his country wants to become a full EU member.
“Nobody will end this cooperation because it is in the interest of both peoples. Greece is our friend and will become a closer friend in the future” concluded Zaev.
PM Tsipras to Zaev: Making up for 30 years of lost ties (
Today, Greece and North Macedonia begin to regain the lost ground and to establish a deep friendship between the governments and two peoples, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday from Skopje, at joint press conference with North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev after the end of their meeting.
Referring to the positive outcome of the Prespes Agreement signed between the two countries to resolve a long-standing name dispute which led to the visit, Tsipras said, “This Agreement has very strong foundations visible even to those who have recently cast doubt on it.”
“We have lost a lot of time, three decades’ worth, and we must cover that distance,” the Greek PM said, reiterating that the Agreement’s benefits will become more visible and convince those doubting it. The relationship built with North Macedonia, he said, is “a multilevel strategic relationship with great prospects but to move forward with our relations we must guarantee that it stands on firm ground.”
Tsipras, who is heading a delegation of ministers and business owners during his Skopje visit, also outlined infrastructural projects that will boost trade and communications between the two neighbouring countries.
“Without further ado, we are here to boost the following matters,” Tsipras said, elaborating among other issues the avoidance of double taxation of products traded between the two countries, by improving the cooperation of customs authorities in both countries, and the collaboration between investment and trade-promotion agencies like Enterprise Greece and North Macedonia’s similar authority.
Tsipras mentioned the key role of the port of Thessaloniki and its interconnection with the port of Piraeus for sending goods from Greece to central European markets through North Macedonia, and also announced a fast train link for both passengers and goods linking Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Skopje and Belgrade, terming it “a very important project for the region that we will very soon sign on a tripartite level between Greece, North Macedonia and Serbia.”
The Greek premier also talked of the border control modernisation and the creation of several border posts to facilitate and enhance the already rising tourist and trade flows, and said he envisaged a deeper cooperation to improve connectivity between Greece and North Macedonia in roads and flights.
PM Tsipras meets with North Macedonia’s Parliament President Xhaferi during Skopje visit
The implementation of the Prespes Agreement will continue without obstacles, North Macedonia’s Parliament President Talat Xhaferi reassured Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, according to diplomatic sources, during a meeting the two had in Skopje midday on Tuesday.
Sources said that Tsipras thanked Xhaferi for carrying out his duties so responsibly in terms of the Prespes Agreement despite the difficulties and asserted that the Greek government will support North Macedonia’s accession talks in the EU.
According to the sources, Xhaferi spoke to the visiting PM of the support for a committee of friendship between the two countries and reiterated his invitation to Greek Parliament President Nikos Voutsis to visit Skopje.