The International Conference on Peace and Sustainable Development as a global forum for the power of diplomacy and dialogue in times of crisis

From the 17th to the 18th of June, the International Conference on Peace and Sustainable Development took place in Athens, organized by the Zaev – One Society for All Foundation and the Alexis Tsipras Institute, commemorating six years of the signing of the Prespa Agreement.

The conference, seen by media reporters and attendees as a global forum addressing the current security climate, featured participation from several high-profile individuals. Among them were the former prime ministers of North Macedonia and Greece, Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras, respectively, Greece’s President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, former Presidents Prokopis Pavlopoulos of Greece and François Hollande of France, Serbia’s Prime Minister Milos Vučević, former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, and Stefan Löfven, the former Prime Minister of Sweden and current president of the Party of European Socialists (PES).

The conference agenda included participation from prominent figures such as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, four European Commissioners including Johannes Hahn, EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue Miroslav Lajčák, former EP President Martin Schulz, former Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, and the mayors of Athens and Istanbul.
The event gathered over 40 leading government representatives, current and former foreign ministers, heads of international organizations, and representatives of center-left and progressive left-wing parties.

From North Macedonia, notable participants included former Prime Minister and President of the Zaev Foundation, Zoran Zaev, former Prime Minister Vlado Bučkovski, former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Dimitrov, Venko Filipče as a representative of the Zaev Foundation, and Ilina Mangova from the International Republican Institute in North Macedonia.

Topics debated during the two-day conference included the future of Europe post-European elections, the integration process of the Western Balkans, geopolitical developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, peaceful dispute resolution, tackling the climate crisis, and European economic developments.

The Prespa Agreement held a special place at the conference, with Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras presenting the Prespa Peace Award to Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, the first recipient of this recognition, which will be awarded annually on the day the Prespa Agreement is commemorated.
During the award ceremony, a video message from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was broadcast. Guterres emphasized that “six years ago, the peoples of Greece and North Macedonia, guided by their Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev, gathered to help eliminate the longstanding obstacle to a future with peace and stable development.”

“The Prespa Agreement is a testament to the power of diplomacy, dialogue, and compromise. I must acknowledge the dedication of my personal envoy at the time, Matthew Nimetz. The agreement doesn’t just resolve the naming dispute, but it also fosters new opportunities and regional partnerships,” said Guterres.

Guterres added that everyone involved in the Prespa Agreement must find a way to respect the principles that brought us to this vital achievement by building an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding.

Ambassador Nimetz expressed gratitude for the award, acknowledging the support of those who helped him remain committed to the process, including the UN Secretaries-General and numerous diplomats and ambassadors.

“Special gratitude directed towards the peoples of both countries that accepted and ratified this agreement. The Prespa Agreement is a serious agreement for both countries, the region, and beyond it. It is a compromise. It was difficult to come to it, but all significant agreements are compromises. Imagine what life would be like without such compromises and agreements. This is why my message is: Respect the agreement, avoid living in illusions, we live in dangerous times and I am calling for all to follow and implement it fully,” voiced Matthew Nimetz at the ceremony when accepting the Prespa Peace Award handed over by Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev.

The conference featured a series of panel discussions, including one where Zaev and Tsipras addressed questions about the Prespa Agreement, framed as “Negotiations that led to the Agreement and its implementation six years later.” This was followed by a session on the accession prospects of the Western Balkans and its importance for Europe’s future.

The second day of the conference began with debates on the “Geopolitical developments and the role of international organizations in crisis management and ensuring peace” and explored a session titled “Climate Crisis and Sustainable Growth” and “Europe and the Rise of Extreme Right-Wing and Nationalist Forces: What Policies Can Help to Face Them?”

The final session at the Athens Conservatory was attended by Greece’s President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, former French President François Hollande, PES President Stefan Löfven, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz, and the architects of the Prespa Agreement, Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev.

In his concluding remarks, Zoran Zaev expressed that he is “confident that the messages from the conference would be recognized as important guidelines and recommendations during these challenging times for progressive societies and individuals. During these two days, we saw a plethora of free-thinking visionaries who sent their messages and opinions because they did not want to remain mute observers of concerning processes around us.”

Alexis Tsipras emphasized the importance of the conference, not just as an anniversary of the Prespa Agreement, but as a significant political event with a forward-looking perspective.

“This conference promoted progressive forces. With over 40 participants from all corners of the Earth, this conference was a Global forum for progressive forces ready to face the challenges that await. Concerning the Balkans, all participants reiterated that the Prespa Agreement is an agreement for the future of the region and Europe and that the EU must recognize the political processes in the Western Balkans and match them with accompanying policies to ensure we do not revert back to the situation before the Prespa Agreement when the region was “unwelcoming” for influence from third parties,” emphasized Tsipras.

The Prespa Agreement is a model for overcoming open disputes because it is built on international law and opposes nationalistic narratives, Tsipras reiterated.

The Alexis Tsipras Institute announced that, following this first collaboration with the Zaev Foundation, a series of events and initiatives would be launched to foster a broader public dialogue about the future of Greece and Europe.

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