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"History is not written by those who fear and balk in front of challenges. It is written by those who are bringing changes to the right side of history," said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Saturday night. Together with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, his counterpart from North-Macedonia, the two leaders were recognized for their successful diplomatic achievements with the Ewald von Kleist Award at the Munich Security Conference 2019.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, his North-Macedonian counterpart, were awarded the Ewald von Kleist Award at the 55th Munich Security Conference. Both prime ministers were honored on Saturday evening for their successful diplomatic efforts to settle the long-standing name dispute between their two countries. The two politicians emphasized in their speeches that it was important to overcome stereotypes and move towards each other: "Both Alexis and I are aware that we have placed our political careers at risk by concluding the Prespa agreement," said Zoran Zaev at the ceremony in the Munich Residence.
Greece and North Macedonia signed an agreement last year to settle the ongoing name, which has been troubling their countries’ relations for over a quarter of a century. According to the agreement, the former Yugoslav republic is called is now officially called North Macedonia. Following the agreement, Greece declared its support for North Macedonia’s accession to NATO and the EU.
"Leadership is a matter of creating opportunities for the generations to come to a prosperous future. History must not be written by those who invest in fear and division. It should be written by those who have the courage and strategic vision to rise to the occasion," stated Alexis Tsipras at the Munich Security Conference.
Northern Macedonian Prime Minister Zaev emphasized the shared value that his country shares with Greece and expressed optimism about future political cooperation in South-Eastern Europe. Both leaders agreed that the Prespa Agreement could serve as a model of how to peacefully overcome disputes of this nature.
Speaking at the award ceremony, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas praised the Prespa Agreement as a significant step towards concluding a conflict which was characterized by long-lasting mutual irritations and provocations: "They have chosen the path of compromise and respect, peace and regional stability, and essentially the European way." The German foreign minister praised the tow leaders’ achievement especially with respect to their European political commitment: "We are not losing anything by being European. The beauty of our European identity is that it unites us in our differences."
Both leaders noted that their populations would soon see the benefits of this agreement, affirming that the name compromise, in the long run, would bring more security, stability and prosperity to their countries. MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger praised the agreement as an outstanding diplomatic success. "You have set an example for reconciliation for the region, for Europe and for the rest of the world. Together, you have opened a new chapter in European history and I count on the whole region to build on this historic achievement," he stated.