The country of North Macedonia took a bold step with the hard decision of changing the name of the country. Now, the country is facing another hurdle. Jasna Gabrič, Mayor of Trbovlje and co-chair of the Joint Consultative Committee that the Renew Europe Group in the European Committee of the Regions (Renew Europe CoR) set up with local authorities in North Macedonia, is concerned about the blocking of the opening of negotiations with North Macedonia.
“By not opening the accession negotiations as foreseen by the end of this year, Europe is taking a big risk. This might lead to national sentiment again to reach the surface in North Macedonia as well as in Bulgaria. We also risk making North Macedonia lose patience with the EU. We know too well that other foreign powers are interested in the region and if the EU is not there for them, others will be” said Gabrič, who is Third Vice-President of Renew Europe CoR.
“The EU must therefore reassert its leadership in the region and must urgently show to the people of the Western Balkans that the EU is there for them.”
She will now look into what more can be done to be part of the process.
“It would be beneficial to put in place more projects and peer to peer exercises between cities in the EU and cities in the Western Balkans, with EU support.”
“This has proven very useful in our cooperation with Ukrainian local authorities. This could be applied to North Macedonia. My own municipality Trbovlje in Slovenia has had a very good experience with our sister city Valandovo in North Macedonia. We started an Erasmus for young people, which has proven very successful. We are looking for good practices on both sides to share with each other. I believe it would therefore be beneficial to put in place more projects and peer to peer exercises between cities in the EU and cities in the Western Balkans with support of the EU. I would be happy to lead this process when it comes to exchanges between municipalities in the EU and North Macedonia through the Joint Consultative Committee CoR-North Macedonia.”