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PM Mitsotakis after meeting PM Zaev: Greece supports EU prospects of western Balkan countries

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated his criticism of the Prespes Agreement, during a meeting he had with Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev on the sidelines of the 4th Thessaloniki Summit on Thursday, but also stressed his commitment to the EU accession of western Balkan countries.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated his criticism of the Prespes Agreement, during a meeting he had with Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev on the sidelines of the 4th Thessaloniki Summit on Thursday, but also stressed his commitment to the EU accession of western Balkan countries.

Both leaders focused on the recent results of the European Council (October 17-18), "with the prime minister reaffirming Greece's consistent stance over the years in support of the European Enlargement Policy in the West Balkans, which will contribute to securing peace, stability and prosperity in the greater region," a statement from Mitsotakis's office said.

"Greece has played and will continue to play an active role in every direction to security this process," the statement said.

Mitsotakis said that although he disagreed with the Prespes Agreement, both countries were committed to respecting it and, as a prerequisitive for North Macedonia's accession to the EU, it should be applied in full and actions creating tension avoided. Both premiers agreed, the statement said, "that establishing good neighborly relations and regional collaboration remain key criteria at all stages of the accession process and for the strengthening of bilateral relations."

Both also expressed their wish for boosting further economic and trade relations between Greece and North Macedonia, and on implementing projects that facilitate connectivity in the region to the benefit of bilateral trade.

In separate statements to the press following the meeting, Premier Zaev expressed appreciation for the Greek premier's support during negotiations at the recent European Council decision to defer the start of accession talks for his country and for Albania. "We were awarded candidate status 15 years ago," Zaev said, referring to December 2005. "There is no alternative for us but full accession to the EU and NATO," North Macedonia's leader said, adding, "I am reiterating that we are not expecting to become full members right away, only to retain this incentive" towards membership.

He said he briefed Mitsotakis on progress in implementing the Prespes Agreement, and his counterpart also briefed him about its application by Greece.

Asked to comment on the new logo for products of the Macedonia region in northern Greece that was presented at the Thessaloniki Summit the same day, Zaev said he had not seen it yet but said there are international regulations for these issues and expressed the belief that the best solution would be found towards the protection of brands, production, history and pride, "since this is what friends do."

"We are friends and will continue to be friends," Zaev said, revealing that he had invited Mitsotakis to visit North Macedonia, hopefully soon, and that Greek ministers would be visiting Skopje by the end of 2019.

He also confirmed they spoke of bilateral trade, as Greece is the second largest trade partner of North Macedonia and the third largest investor in the country.

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