Below, please find an unedited transcript of the Joint Press Conference between the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, and the Prime Minister of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, that occurred today on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Click HERE for the video.
TSIPRAS: “I would like to thank Prime Minister Zaev on today’s talks where two people who belong to the same new generation, two progressive prime ministers, in a extremely difficult neighborhood, and we are fighting to bring to the forefront what brings our people together and at the same time to find solutions to what divides us. My deep conviction is that the Balkans have gone through a lot because of nationalism and tensions, so what is needed is to promote an agenda of cooperation and co-development so that the European perspective of the Western Balkans is strengthened, and the region can move forward and confront face the great challenges of 21st century, in the economy, security, and regional stability. This is the position of Greece as a force of a responsibility, stability, and cooperation in the region, and it is for this reason that we have moved ahead to important initiatives in the region, in the Balkan region, on a bilateral, as well as a trilateral, and quad lateral level. I do know that today many people are watching us from both countries, some with skepticism and concern, others with genuine hope, and I want to assure them that both of us want to solve are our actual differences with pragmatism and sense of responsibility. I am saying this because we do not only want to solve the name issue but we want to place our bilateral relations on firm foundations, on foundations of mutual respect and good neighbor relations, which means that first we must fight irredentism in all its forms with guarantees that we will not level any loop hole that will allow similar challenges to emerge in the future. Zoran has informed me that he is ready to take important initiatives immediately towards this direction, for my part I also announce that on this base I am ready to support procedures that also my government has suspended, I am referring to the candidacy of our neighboring country to the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative, and to the promotion of the ratification of the second phase of the accession agreement with the EU in the Greek Parliament. We must find a solution to all our pending issues, so that as our neighbor country wishes its European accession process and its membership to NATO can move ahead so in particular I made clear that we must find a mutually agreed solution, erga omnes, and in this framework we agreed to intensify the negotiation process that is taking place under the UN in order to reach a solution on the name. In parallel we agreed with Prime Minister that the talks on confidence building measures that started with the initiative of Greece in 2016 should be intensified, measures that are particularly important in the areas of energy, transportation, and cross-regional context, and the most important, being the opening of the Prespas crossing, a project particularly important for the region. So with this I would like once more to thank Prime Minister for the genuine discussion we had, and I would like to express my conviction that today’s meeting, which is first in seven years on prime ministerial level, opens up new prospects for the future.”
ZAEV: “Respected citizens, allow me first of all to express my satisfaction for the first meeting we had today with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. We are strongly committed to the implementation of the confidence building measures between our countries with the aim to contribute to overcome the open issue in the best interest of the citizens in the two countries. We are well aware that the entire region, and both countries, are on the right path to achieve good neighborly relations that will support our Euro-ATLANTIC perspective and that will contribute to the stability and the economic prosperity of the entire Balkan region. The majority of the citizens in both countries want to have close and friendly relations that contribute towards enhancing the mutual cooperation, we want to be equal partners in EU and loyal allies in NATO, we want to stand shoulder to shoulder to help and support each other in difficult and challenging times. We have shown in the past when both countries had serious challenges that we can work together to benefit our common interest, we as prime minister have political vision, courage, and responsibility to work to overcome the long-standing bilateral dispute, it has been lasting for over 25 years. Now it is high time to find a solution because it is crucial for our EU and NATO perspectives. The final solution has to be acceptable to both sides, we need to take care of the interest of one another, the solution has to take care of the national dignity and identity of our peoples to show practically that we are stronger committed to finding a solution, I announce that our government will change the names of the airport and highway, the highway will be called Friendship. Our actions show our good faith, this testifies to the fact that we have no irredentist aspirations towards our neighbor. On their behalf they will show their acts of good will and allow us to enhance our cooperation with European Union and other international organizations. Alexis, the Prime Minister Tsipras, already spoke about that. Respected citizens, we remain dedicated to the process that the UN appointed mediator Matthew Nimietz is facilitating. We will increase the level; the ministers of foreign affairs will be in charge of the negotiations, under our auspices. They will work with their teams; this will allow the process to become more dynamic and substantive. Thank you!”