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North Macedonia with Thijs Reuten

On Sunday 31 October, the FMS travelled to northern Macedonia with Thijs Reuten, MEP (PvdA), for a three-day working visit to various civil society organisations, students, our sister party, other parties and political foundations. This trip took place at a politically turbulent moment: Zoran Zaev had resigned as prime minister because his party had lost the local elections. With this working visit, we wanted, among other things, to show our solidarity and demonstrate that northern Macedonia and the rest of the Western Balkans are not alone. Indeed, Thijs Reuten is in the European Parliament dealing with the Western Balkans, asylum and migration, human rights and the rule of law and the community of values within the European Union.

Race against the clock

From 1 November to 3 November, we had a packed agenda with all kinds of interesting talks. On Day 1, we spoke early in the morning with European Affairs Minister Nikola Dimitrov about the EU's promises when it comes to EU integration. According to Dimitrov and other ministers we spoke to, the lack of progress in the start of EU accession negotiations has been one of the reasons for the loss of the local elections. Following this conversation, we had around 20 talks in two days with, among others, the Minister of Defence, Zoran Drangovski of the Young Lawyers Association, Dirk Jan Kop, the Dutch Ambassador to North Macedonia, the Roma Resource Centre and a group of students from the University of Skopje. It was a real race against time at times to get everywhere on time.

Looking back on this working visit, all talks revealed the importance of the EU starting accession negotiations with Skopje as soon as possible. Not just because that is the deal, but mainly because the necessary reforms of recent years are really visible and making a difference for the people of northern Macedonia. As the students told us on Day 1, "we want to worry about exams and dates, not corruption and the EU enlargement process." The FMS and Thijs Reuten will therefore continue to work unremittingly for the European future of the people of northern Macedonia.