Thank you, President Ivanov for welcoming me to Skopje today. I am glad we had this occasion to talk openly about the urgent challenges facing us, as well as our common future.
I am fully aware of the unprecedented migratory influx that your country is facing and the efforts you are making to help manage the flow. In fact, that is the very reason I am here today, have visited Serbia and Albania, and will go to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the coming days.
Like any country, you do not only have a right but an obligation to secure your borders. Just like European Union countries have an obligation to secure our external borders. For this crisis to be effectively managed, it is crucial that we all cooperate closely. That is why I urge all countries on the transit route to communicate with one another as much as possible. If we are to address the challenge effectively and humanely, coordination is key.
The European Union stands by you and is ready to continue supporting you, through humanitarian and technical assistance, including through EU agencies. We are ready to provide much more, once we have an assessment of your needs. I will be speaking to EU Member States about what more can be done in this regard, to make sure that our support to your country and this region matches the scale of the challenges you are facing. As I have said before: If we are serious about saving Schengen and visa-free travel, we also need to be serious about helping the countries on the frontline such as your country.
One comment about our support. We have to be aware that the biggest problem today is the root causes, so the situation in the countries of origin. Our main goal today is to reduce this wave of refugees, not only to ease the transit. This is why Europe is focused today, especially when it comes to international support to Turkey and African countries because of our intention to reduce the flow of refugees. This also means protecting our borders. Europe alone spent more than € 20 bn in Africa last year. I am absolutely sure and this is also my intention and personal assessment that it is our common obligation and responsibility to also help transit countries, like your country. We have to be aware that the biggest problems affect countries of final destination, like Germany. That is why the situation is more complex than before. But I am absolutely sure that we will find the best way to cooperate with your country, also in terms of financial support.
Finally, let me say that the European Union is your partner and continues to support your path towards integration with the rest of Europe. This is not only the formal position of our institutions but also my personal belief. Your future is in the European Union and that is our common responsibility. Thank you.