Greece wants to be “North Macedonia’s closest ally and its best friend,” Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias said on Tuesday during a meeting with his counterpart Bujar Osmani in North Macedonia.
Noting that the faithful implementation of the Prespa Agreement between the two countries would serve as a foundation for closer relations, he added during joint statements to the press, “As an immediate neighbor, Greece has every reason and interest in your country’s and your people’s stability, security and prosperity.” He also expressed Greece’s support in North Macedonia’s European prospect and in the start of accession negotiations with the European Union.
“The West Balkans must never be allowed to become the powder keg of Europe again, as we always tell our European partners,” the Greek minister said, adding that Greece is doing what it can to guarantee that stability in the region.
Dendias said that the recent defense agreement signed by North Macedonia and Turkey created some questions in Greece, but he said that he had received the necessary clarifications by Osmani.
He also thanked North Macedonia for supporting Greece’s candidacy for a seat as non-permanent member in the UN Security Council in 2025-2026 and for its statement condemning illegal Turkish actions in Varosha on Cyprus.
The two ministers discussed energy collaboration and Greek investments in North Macedonia, while Dendias noted that Greek business owners have invested over half a billion euros and created over 20,000 jobs in the country. Bilateral trade reached to nearly 800 million euros last year, despite the pandemic, he added.
Dendias welcomed the collaboration with Greece in defense, including the supervision of North Macedonia’s airspace by the Hellenic Air Force, and the cultural agreement to preserve and protect Byzantine and post-Byzantine monuments in the country. He also welcomed the latest actions of North Macedonia in changing names, according to the Prespa Agreement provisions, both in the Archaeological Museum of North Macedonia (instead of “Macedonia”) and the removal of a sign bearing the name of Philip II on the road housing the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
FM Osmani thanked Greece for its support in seeking EU membership and for the 120,000 coronavirus vaccines it sent to his country, which made a difference in protecting the public. He said the visit by the Greek minister contributed to developing the two countries’ economic relations, and noted that trade between the two countries rose by 20% in the first quarter of the year, compared to the corresponding quarter in 2020.
Dendias is accompanied on his visit by Deputy FM responsible for Economic Diplomacy Kostas Fragogiannis. This is Dendias’ second visit to Skopje as foreign minister, the first having taken place in November 2019.
On Tuesday evening, the visiting minister will meet with representatives of Greek businesses active in North Macedonia.