For things to change, political interests must be put aside, and focus must be placed on the national interests, EU Ambassador David Geer told Forum Europaeum 2023 “20 Years after the Thessaloniki Summit: the way ahead” on Thursday.

“In this context, the issue of constitutional amendments, which is a sovereign decision of this country, is an important step that must be taken, automatically leading to the second Intergovernmental Conference,” said Ambassador Geer.

According to him, it is important to have an open debate on the issue and urged political parties to overcome divisions and unite around EU accession, making it a national project.

He said Macedonia’s EU accession has been blocked as a result of three vetoes over the past 20 years, which shattered EU’s credibility and “it is understandable that people are frustrated.”

“However, partners in the region also bear responsibility. EU is not the main culprit for their failures to implement reforms but also on issues such as corruption and rule of law,” said Geer and added that the Union enlargement is in its interest, because of the need for security, stability, prosperity and democratic development,

Deputy PM for European Affairs Bojan Marichikj said the key message is that the Western Balkans can join the European Union but only by investing efforts to reach European standards, democracy and human rights.

“We should be honest and say that regional cooperation and bilateral issues among countries of the Western Balkans have represented a challenge over the past 20 years. The problem is probably that we did not approach these challenges seriously enough 20 years ago, up to the point they reached the level of blockades and vetoes,” said Marichikj.

Vice-President of the Party of European Socialists and former high-ranking official, Radmila Shekerinska, said blocking the constitutional amendments would transfer the blame on Macedonian turf, adding “we must not allow for this autoimmune disease”.

“I want to see a majority for the constitutional amendments. In fact, a few years back, Macedonia proposed that Bulgarians are included in the Constitution Preamble. The Bulgarian nationalists rejected this because they considered that such a change would show that Bulgarians and Macedonians are two different nations. The important thing is to make this revision in the quite liberal Constitution that incorporates various ethnic communities,” noted Shekerinska.

She referred to the need for a public political agreement because political parties in the country lack mutual trust.