Greek Prime Ministers Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his North Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev reviewed bilateral relations and examined the opportunities for collaboration in the economic and energy sectors at a meeting in Athens on Thursday.
Zaev is in Athens to participate in the Delphi Economic Forum VI, based at Zappeion Hall.
At their meeting, which was also attended by the Foreign Affairs Minister and Deputy Minister, Athens reiterated its support for its northern neighbour to ascend into the EU.
However, this was contingent to established rules, respect of good neighbourly relations, and the faithful adherence to the obligations set out at the Prespas Agreement the two countries signed in 2018.
On his side, Zaev called Greece “our main neighbour and our strategic partner,” and said that his country “has no other option, as is true of other West Balkan countries, beyond a future in the European Union.”
He expressed his appreciation that his country is now a NATO member, and that the Hellenic Air Force patrols its air space.
At an event a month ago celebrating the one-year anniversary of North Macedonia’s membership into NATO, Greek flights over Skopje and other parts of the country “were very well received by our citizens,” Zaev said.
“Today we must reach an agreement as to how our borders will open for tourism to Greece” in terms of COVID-19 pandemic measures, Zaev said.
He said that citizens of his country were looking forward to “crossing the borders and coming to Thessaloniki for coffee and food.”
The visiting prime minister then reviewed ongoing project agreements being developed between the two countries.
North Macedonia is “in the final stages of contacts with Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) for the operation of the oil pipeline,” he said, while the hope is that a final agreement is signed by the end of May so that the pipeline may begin operations.
ELPE will also have the opportunity to supply oil to Serbia, including the breakaway region of Kosovo, and the wider Balkans area.
In terms of investing in Greece, North Macedonia is planning to sign a memorandum with the Kopelouzos Group, he noted, “our first investment in Greece, for energy projects in Alexandroupolis.”
Addressing Mitsotakis, Zaev said “I know that you are encouraging a wider participation in this regional project, as it benefits all,” adding: “Our share will be 10% of the terminal gas station and 25% of the production unit.”
“This 25% corresponds to 1/4 (a quarter) of our total energy production, something very important to us,” the visiting Prime Minister stressed.
Referring to lignite-based electricity production, Zaev said: “Following the example of EU countries, we too shall shut down our coal-based energy production units the soonest possible, as their cost is high.”
“We are also at the final stage of negotiations with Mytilineos Group for the gas-based production unit in Skopje, our capital,” he continued.
“Greece’s Public Power Corporation is one of the basic partners in this large-scale project, budgeted at 700 million euros – a hydroelectric energy project that will become a reference point in the energy mix of the wider region,” Zaev added.
Additionally, another large business will participate in the bid to construct a railroad connection on the road and rail Pan-European Corridor VIII, Zaev said, a European axis that will link Italy, Albania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey.
“This is positive for entrepreneurship in the wider area, it is the largest project, and there are opportunities for several investments,” Prime Minister Zaev told Mitsotakis.
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