On 17 June 2018, representatives of the then-republic of Macedonia and Greece signed the historic Prespa agreement, paving the former Yugoslav republic’s way into NATO and the EU. The agreement included a name change of the Republic of Macedonia to North Macedonia and clarification that the Southern-Slavic nation is not related to the ancient kingdom of Macedonia, with which a considerable part of Greeks identify. In exchange the Macedonian language was recognized by the United Nations and Greece stopped its veto on North Macedonia’s NATO and EU accession talks. The Prespa Forum Dialogue 2023 at lake Ohrid looked at good and improvable examples of neighbourly relations in the Western Balkans. These relations are also reflected in the region’s numerous border lakes.
I am in Struga, a town located at the Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia. The shores of this picturesque lake became the scene for several meetings of representatives from the Western Balkan region and the International Community since the Yugoslav Succession Wars.
So was the Ohrid Framework Agreement signed here in the closeby city with the same name in 2001. This agreement aimed to put an end to violent conflicts within the Former Yugoslav Republic Macedonia and to secure minority rights, especially those of the largest ethnic minority, the Albanians, in order to consolidate the sovereignity and territorial integrity of the country, although tensions continue to flare up time and again.
In March of 2023, Kosovos Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met in Ohrid to discuss the so-called European Proposal aiming for normalization of relations between both countries. Although EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrel tweeted “We have a deal” after the meeting, both parties did not sign the agreement and the implementation of respective proposal is still pending. In the last days violence is escalating in the Serb-majority North of Kosovo, making a peaceful resolution in the near future even more unlikely.
This week, the Prespa Forum Dialogue took place here in Struga. And this very day of recording the video, June 17 2023, marks five years of signing the historic Prespa Agreement between North Macedonia and Greece. In 2018, representatives of Greece and the then-republic of Macedonia met at the closeby lake Prespa on the borders of Albania, Greece and North Macedonia and signed the agreement paving the former Yugoslav republic’s way into NATO and the EU. The agreement included a name change of the Republic of Macedonia to North Macedonia and clarification that the Southern-Slavic nation is not related to the ancient kingdom of Macedonia, with which a considerable part of Greeks identify. In exchange the Macedonian language was recognized by the United Nations and Greece stopped its veto on North Macedonia’s NATO and EU accession talks. North Macedonia became a NATO member in 2020 and EU accession talks began in 2022.
I had the pleasure to speak at a panel at the 2023 Prespa Forum Dialogue about youth’s contribution to the energy transition and a sustainable future for all. In order to achieve these goals, cross-border cooperation is inevitable. Environmental protection does not stop at borders, the air, rivers and lakes do not know borders – Lake Prespa, but also Lake Ohrid are perfect examples for this. The dispute between Kosovo and Serbia is also reflected in a border lake, namely lake Gazivoda. How this conflict flows into environmental and energy issues is described in our upcoming issue of our German-language magazine Info Europa. “Kampf ums Wasser”, meaning “The fight for water” is published on 15th July as supplement to the Austrian daily Die Presse and a free-of-charge ePaper. So make sure to read this and many more interesting stories about environmental, social and also military conflicts in the region.