“We must place the relations of our countries on solid foundations addressing irredentism”

Joint statements by Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, and the Prime Minister of FYROM Zoran Zaev.

Joint statements by Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, and the Prime Minister of FYROM Zoran Zaev, in Davos, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the sessions of the World Economic Forum.

ALEXIS TSIPRAS: I would like to thank Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, for our current talks. We are two people who belong to a new generation, two progressive politicians in an extremely difficult neighborhood. And I believe that we are both fighting to bring to the fore front what brings our people together, while trying at the same time to find solutions to what divides us.

My deep conviction is that the Balkans have suffered greatly because of nationalism and tensions. Therefore, what is needed is to promote a cooperation and co-development agenda in order to strengthen the European perspective of the Western Balkans, so the region to move forward and meet the major challenges of the 21st century, in the economy, security, and regional stability.

This is the position of Greece as a force of responsibility, stability and cooperation in the region. For this reason, we have moved ahead to important initiatives in the Balkan region, on a bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral level.

I know that today many people are watching from both countries. Some with skepticism and concern and others with genuine hope. I want to assure them that both of us want to solve our actual differences with pragmatism, and a sense of responsibility.

And I say this because we do not only want to solve the name issue, but we want to place our bilateral relations on solid foundations. The foundations of mutual respect and good neighbor relations, which means that first we must fight irredentism in all its forms and guarantees that we will not leave open any lop-whole that will allow similar challenges to emerge in the future.

Zoran, during today’s meeting, informed me that he is ready to take important initiatives immediately towards this direction. For my part, I also announced that, on this basis, I am ready to support procedures that my government has suspended. For example, the candidacy of the neighboring country on the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative and the promotion of the ratification of the second phase of the Association Agreement between the country and the EU by the Greek Parliament.

So, in order for the European accession process and its membership to NATO of our neighboring country to proceed, we must find a solution to all our pending issues. In particular, I have made it clear that we must agree on a complex name with power against all. And in this context, of course, we exchanged ideas and agreed to intensify the talks under our supervision already taking place within the UN framework.

At the same time, we agreed with the Prime Minister, Zoran, that the talks on confidence-building measures that we started, at the initiative of Greece in 2016, will be intensified. Measures that are particularly important in the areas of energy, transport and cross-border contacts, with the most important, perhaps, the opening of the Prespa’s crossing, a project that is particularly important, I believe, for the region.

With these thoughts, therefore, I would like once again to thank the Prime Minister for our genuine discussion and to express my conviction that today’s meeting, the first after almost seven years on a Prime Minister level, will create new prospects for a better future for the relations of the two countries.

An informal translation of Zoran Zaev’s statements.

ZORAN ZAEV: My Honorable fellow citizens, first I would like to express my pleasure for the first meeting that we had with Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras. We are committed to building trust between our countries, with the ultimate goal of working to overcome the problems that exist between the people of our two countries. We are all in a process in the region and we are at a time when we can build good-neighbor relations and create a prosperous neighborhood in the Balkans.

The majority of the citizens in both countries want to build close and friendly relations based on mutual cooperation. We want to be partners in the EU and we want to be allies in NATO, to face the difficulties during the hard times, we live in.

We have pointed out in the past, when both countries faced serious challenges that we can work together to serve our common interests.

As Prime Ministers, we have the political vision, the sense of responsibility and the courage to find a solution to such a long-standing problem that has existed for 25 years. The time has come to find a solution, as it is vital for our prospect of joining NATO and the EU.

The final solution must be acceptable by both parties. We must serve the interests of both sides. The solution must consider the national dignity of our people. In order to show practically that we are committed to finding a solution, I am announcing, that my country will change the name of the airport and the avenues. This action shows our good faith. This proves the fact that we have no irredentist attitude towards our neighbor. All these will help us to improve our relations and our relations with the EU as well as with other international organizations. With Alexis, Prime Minister Tsipras, we have already discussed this.

Honorable citizens, we will remain committed to the process, under the UN and Mr. Nimetz. We raise the level, our Foreign Ministers will be responsible for the process and for all negotiations under our supervision. Thank you very much.

ALEXIS TSIPRAS: Mr. Prime Minister, we must walk on this avenue of friendship.