EU Commissioner for Enlargement
Inauguration of the new premises of the EU
During visit of Commissioner Rehn in Skopje
Skopje 7 March 2008
I would like to welcome you all and to thank you for joining us to inaugurate the new premises of the European Union Mission.
This new European house will continue to bring together under one roof the Delegation of the European Commission and the Office of the EU Special Representative.
The Delegation side of the house is taking up responsibility for financial cooperation and is thus replacing the European Agency for Reconstruction, which will be phased out by the end of this year. Thus the EU Mission will become the only EU building in Skopje.
We are thus turning a new page in relations, in which we aim to support the pre-accession process in a spirit of partnership with the country.
If we look back at the first EU Office â€" the Office of the EU Resident Envoy, which was set up in March 1998 and had approximately 15 people - we can clearly see how much the relations between the European Union and this country have progressed. By October this year, the EU Mission will number 80 people and will cover the whole range of policies that today's European Union is responsible for. All this in order to assist the accession of this country to the European Union.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank the European Agency for Reconstruction for the successful management of the CARDS programme during the past 6 years. The photographs exhibited in this room illustrate only part of the many successful projects which they have implemented in cooperation with the Macedonian authorities and beneficiaries.
The phasing out of the Agency is a result of its success, within this and the other countries of the Western Balkans, in efficiently delivering reconstruction aid in many crucial fields. On this basis we have been able to move on to the next stage of delivering pre-accession aid through the new Instrument for Pre-Accession known as "IPA". This is a considerable challenge, which both the Delegation and the Macedonian authorities are already taking up.
We have chosen a building which resembles the most recent EU buildings in Brussels, that is, a building which is modern, centrally located and functional, which also describes the functional spirit of the EUI. I understand it has received an award for best architectural design. By choosing such a centrally located building we try to raise EU visibility and to bring the EU closer to the citizens.
On the ground floor, we are opening a brand new Information Centre which will be our focal point for communication with the citizens.
The new Information Centre aims to reach out to all stakeholders in civil society. It will offer free-of-charge internet access, publications, video and promotional materials, but most importantly it will provide face-to-face information to visitors on all EU related issues. The new Information Centre includes an auditorium which will host information events and debates about the country's integration into the European Union.
My special thanks go to the staff who will be working here. Their continued dedication and commitment will serve as an inspiration for the journey ahead that we take together with the citizens of this country on the road to the EU.