The historic Prespa Agreement has paved the way for North Macedonia to join NATO as its 30th member and further its European integration. North Macedonia has taken an enormous step forward towards its rightful place in Europe and NATO, Philip Reeker said Monday in Skopje at a conference Skopje, organized by the German Marshall Fund.

Reeker, who is currently serving as Political Adviser to the Commander of the United States European Command, addressed the key challenges of the Western Balkan countries and the US support in their efforts to become part of Europe.

As a former public relations officer and later an American ambassador in Skopje, I’m delighted to be here. My visit is particularly important now because North Macedonia has taken an enormous step forward towards its rightful place in Europe and NATO. As you know, I am returning to Washington in a few weeks to assume the position of Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said Reeker.

Reeker noted that 27 years of mutual mistrust and historical disagreements between Skopje and Athens blocked the country’s path forward.

From my personal experience, I can tell you that this issue was extremely complex and many considered it unbearable. Getting to this point was not easy. Leaders repeatedly wanted to give up the process and move forward. The success of the Prespa Agreement is proof that a committed work and compromise can be achieved, and for that, leadership is crucial, said Reeker.

He pointed out that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, as well as the foreign ministers of the two countries, are credited with this historic achievement and that he believes that other Western Balkan leaders will take an example from this experience.

He said that Europe today is the center of geopolitical competition and that Moscow has tried to forcibly redraw the borders in eastern Europe by pressing its neighbors, carrying out a campaign of disinformation and interference against the West, adding that it has also strengthened its military capabilities at its borders.

The United States and Europe must work together to ensure that the West remains the most attractive model for modern and free societies. We will continue to support the countries that have chosen the West, in order to speed up democratic reforms so that we can include them in the nations of the Western community, Reeker said.

This afternoon he will meet with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev after which they will give statements to the media. Earlier Reeker met with Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov, and a meeting with DUI leader Ali Ahmeti is also scheduled, as well as a working lunch with Deputy Prime Ministers Koco Angjushev and Bujar Osmani.