North Macedonia president pays first state visit to Greece in 3 decades

The president of North Macedonia paid the country’s first state visit to Greece on Tuesday as the neighboring nations continue working to move past decades-old disputes.

President Stevo Pendarovski met in Athens with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, seeking support for his country’s stalled effort to join the European Union, reported AP.

The former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia declared independence in 1991 but only normalized relations with Greece in 2018 after agreeing to change its name to North Macedonia to address Athens’ concerns for its own northern region of Macedonia.

North Macedonia and five other western Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo – are all seeking EU membership, but existing members are divided on the timetable of the 27-nation bloc’s expansion.

The leaders of the six Balkans countries are set to join an EU summit meeting in Slovenia on Wednesday.

Sakellaropoulou reaffirmed the importance  Greece give s to the strenthening of the bilateral relations as well as to North Macedonia's European perspective. "The full, consistent and with good faith implementation of the Prespes Agreement is crucial for the implementation of both goals," she said.

"We recognise that positive steps have been made by North Macedonia, however, there are many issues still pending. The resolution of these pending matters will allow the total strengthening of our cooperation," concluded Sakellaropoulou.

On his part, President Pendarovski referred to a historic meeting as it is the first official meeting of the two countries after 30 years.

Referring to the Prespa Agreement, he quoted the legal term "Pacta sunt servanda" noting that the "agreements should be respected" and agreed with Sakellaropoulou that many steps have been taken for the implementation of the Prespa Agreement, maybe the most difficult ones."

He reassured that his country is ready to address the pending issues adding that his country is ready to fully implement the Prespa Agreement.

Finally, he said that he believes that Greece will continue to support North Macedonia's EU perspective as the Prespa Agreement is not only an agreement for the name but also an agreement of strategic cooperation, Pendarovski underlined. /