President Stevo Pendarovski, Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani,
Minister for Foreign Affairs Nikola Dimitrov and Minister for Local
Government Goran Milevski all met President Lambertz, who said he had
chosen to visit North Macedonia to highlight that EU local and regional
leaders support the launch of EU membership talks with North Macedonia.
President Lambertz was hosted by Petre Shilegov, the Mayor of Skopje
and President of the Association of Municipalities (ZELS), and Blagoj
Bochvarski, Mayor of Shtip and co-chair of a committee created by the
CoR and local authorities of North Macedonia.
During his meetings, President Lambertz urged North Macedonia to press
ahead with their decentralisation process, arguing that effective
reform at the municipal level would improve public services, increase
citizens engagement in the EU, and could – he hoped – dispel any
uncertainty about the country's readiness for EU membership.
said: "I am full of admiration for the efforts taken by North Macedonia
to resolve its long dispute with Greece. The Prespa Agreement was a
historic breakthrough and the EU's member states should now start EU
accession talks with North Macedonia in October. The central government
is also showing support for decentralisation, an open recognition that
joining the EU requires a significant role by municipal authorities."
President Lambertz's trip comes just a few weeks before EU member
states are due to decide at a summit in mid-October, whether to open
talks with North Macedonia, as advised by the European Commission.
"The government", President Lambertz said, "should not only take the
necessary steps towards membership, but also take advantage of the
opportunities offered by the EU. The EU invests in cross-border
cooperation programmes with potential new members, so we hope North
Macedonia will continue to develop cooperation with its neighbours."
Stating his personal gratitude, Deputy Prime Minister Osmani, as chair of the
euro-integration process of the country, expressed his appreciation on
behalf of the Republic of North Macedonia for the support during this
key period. "After yesterday's call by the EU Council President Tusk to
start accession negotiations, today we are honoured that the President
of the European Committee of the Regions – representing EU local and
regional governments and their constituents – has also sent a message
from Skopje about the progress our country has made in EU integration
and giving his support for opening talks ahead of the important
decision in October"
North Macedonia and Bulgaria have had cross-border programmes in place
since 2007, and the cities in North Macedonia are part of a European
working on increasing their capacity to cope with natural disasters. Mr
Lambertz particularly advocated the use of a mechanism called the
European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation
(EGTC), which currently gives a legal basis for 74 groupings of cities
and regions to cooperate across borders. For this, North Macedonia
needs to put in place legislation to enable its cities and regions to
participate in EGTCs and to create Euroregions.
The European Committee of the Regions and the municipalities of north
Macedonia set up
a joint consultative committee
where local and regional governments share experiences in managing local
services such as waste management, and discuss the challenges and
opportunities linked to effective decentralisation of power.