North Macedonia and Turkey are part of the “United Europe” project, the North Macedonian president has said.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of the three-day Antalya Diplomacy Forum which closed on Sunday, Stevo Pendarovski said: “Unfortunately, our common European stories are not so successful and good to hear.”
I would not blame anybody else, but ourselves, he said.
However, if you ask me, he added, the naked truth is that some of the blame is shared by “our European partners and Brussels.”
Pendarovski noted that Turkey started full membership negotiations in 2005, but there has been no significant positive development so far. Similarly, he added, North Macedonia has been waiting for 16-and-a-half years.
“We are not waiting enter the EU, but to start the negotiations,” he said.
We have a longstanding dispute with our neighbor Greece and another blockade by our eastern neighbor Bulgaria, he noted.
We can only hope that we start this process soon and in due time become a full member of the EU, Pendarovski stated.
“Because not only geographically, but civilizational, in economic terms, in cultural terms, in any other domain, we are, I mean North Macedonia and Turkey, certainly part of that project named ‘United Europe’.”
‘More opportunities on horizon’
Pendarovski said Turkey has been the strongest supporter of North Macedonia’s membership to NATO since the country became a candidate in 1999.
“After we made some hard decisions and heavy compromises with our neighbors, we are there. We are formally now, the Allies.
“Before that we had good cooperation, as I said, but now after being formal allies even more opportunities are on the horizon for bilateral cooperation in the security and defense area.”
He went on to say a large number of soldiers from North Macedonia are being educated in Turkish military academia.
“But now we have even more chances to procure military weapons and equipment of different types, which is important for our plans … to reach as soon as possible that 2% of the threshold from the GDP allocated for the defense,” he added.
‘Turkey important investor in North Macedonia’
Pendarovski said the economic cooperation between North Macedonia and Turkey has stepped up in the past 10 to 12 years.
“Today Turkey is in some of the top 10 investors in the country. The latest statistics show that Turkey is on the sixth place on that top 10 list of the biggest investors in North Macedonia,” he said.
“And the trade volume between our countries are there between fifth and seventh place on that top 10 list, which means that Turkey is one of the most important investors in the country,” he added.
Pendarovski said he had longstanding cooperation with “the traditional NGOs, public intellectuals, important personalities in Turkish community in the political field and outside of that” even before becoming the president.
He said he is continuing to strengthen relations with the Turkish community in North Macedonia and North Macedonians in Turkey.
*Writing by Busra Nur Cakmak in Ankara
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