Poland backs NATO and EU aspirations of North Macedonia - President Duda

Addressing a joint press conference, Duda said that Pendarovski's visit to Poland was taking place at a very important time for the Balkan country. Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Poland supports the Euro-Atlantic and EU aspirations of North Macedonia, Polish President Andrzej Duda said after meeting with President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski, who visited Warsaw on Tuesday.

Addressing a joint press conference, Duda said that Pendarovski's visit to Poland was taking place at a very important time for the Balkan country.

"This is the time when North Macedonia is already, one can say, on the verge of joining NATO, which we expect not even in the next few months, but in the coming weeks," the Polish president said. "This is also the time when North Macedonia is applying to start accession negotiations with the European Union," he added.

Duda also said that during the meeting with his guest, he had assured him of Poland's support of Skopje's aspirations.

"We believe that the door to European Union membership should remain open to countries that want to aspire to this community," he said. In Duda's opinion it is especially important in the context of Great Britain leaving the bloc.

Duda said a significant part of the talks had been devoted to bilateral ties, and particularly to economic relations. "I'd like Polish companies to invest more in North Macedonia, an attractive European market where our presence is weak," the president said.

Duda also said there was "preliminary interest" from Skopje in the Polish wheeled armoured vehicle Rosomak. The Polish president praised the vehicle and its track record on Polish military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The discussion also concerned the situation in the Western Balkans that Warsaw is particularly interested in, Duda said, recalling that Poland held a Western Balkans summit last year.

Duda also promoted the business format of the Three Seas Initiative, a project that focuses on cross-border infrastructural cooperation of countries located between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas.

Pendarovski stressed the importance of co-operation with the Visegrad Group countries, namely the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, in Skopje's EU and NATO accession process, praising the support his country had received from Poland.

Pendarovski also said he and Duda had discussed co-operation in securing his country's border with Greece to help Skopje solve the migration problem.

The president expressed hope for fruitful co-operation with Poland in the areas of economy, security and defence. "We came to the conclusion that there are no pending problems between our countries and that the development of economic co-operation is a priority." Pendarovski would also like to see more Polish tourists in North Macedonia.

Before joining NATO, Macedonia must still receive the green light from Spain as the parliaments of all the other NATO members have already agreed to the bloc's expansion. NATO sources said in December that North Macedonia could join the bloc this spring.