Interview of MFA Nikola Poposki for the weekly Kapital

Katerina Sinadinovska

 

1.What will the priorities of MFA be in the following year? What will you do first?

Poposki: We have three priorities in the foreign policy: European integration, foreign investments and trade, as well as care for the Macedonian citizens and their interests abroad. A lot of energy is being spent on obstacles due to the dispute imposed by Greece. In the meantime, we are constantly working on adoption of as more European standards as possible and reforms that will certainly be a condition for EU membership. The relations with our closest neighbours are a special priority. For a small country the immediate surrounding is very important. On the Balkan, these relations require special care. The beginning of 2015 will be marked with more efficient widening of the diplomatic relations. We will appoint non-resident ambassadors in countries and regions where we have no permanent presence. These would be placed in Skopje and would travel on several occasions per year, but would be devoted to countries and regions with long-term economic potentials.

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2.What is your comment on the fact that Macedonia, once again, did not make a step forward to EU on the last December Summit?

Poposki: Totally expected. We all know whom or what we are dealing with. After years, after a long time period, these conclusions may be assessed by future European historians as inglorious. Probably an important lesson will be learned: not to allow compromising of an ingenious peace project, such as the EU, for insane bilateral blackmail. Good news is that the wise arguments for the benefit of accession talks with Macedonia were spoken by most of the member-states, loud and clear. This was not the case before. Many other countries did the same without saying. This should not be seen as picking a side. This is the voice of reason against the wall of blackmail. This approach is different and is not from Mars. It should be appreciated that there a decision-makers who take deep care of the moral integrity and long-term interests of Europe.

3.You openly say that in EU the most significant is the policy of force. What kind of an attitude is this? Is the MFA becoming a Euro-sceptic?

Poposki: Not at all. I repeat EU is an ingenious peace project! It is strategically opening best opportunities for development of Macedonia. This is the richest and best club in the world. If we do not agree what would today be a better option for us? This does not mean that we should shut our eyes or to create ideals. The best is to be real. Many interlocutors of EU comment openly: what Greece does to you is not just, principled, and least good-neighbourly… but, they are inside, and you are outside EU… moreover, they are bigger, more powerful and very inconvenient – there are no others like them in Europe. But, we would not be who we are if we did nothing. We know who we are and what we want. We wish no harm to anyone. The least to Greece. We are fighting for just and European objective. That is why we will succeed.

4.You are one of the most prominent players to the International community. How do you react to the criticism regarding the many areas that are still not reformed?

Poposki: For a real progress, among the other, criticism is always necessary. We should also be real in this regard. We want to join a club, and we have important areas that we need to reform. The fact that we are aiming for a more efficient judiciary or administration compared to this current level is not so significant for EU as it is significant for Macedonia itself. That is why, for example, we started raising the standards for efficiency and professionalism. The more focused we are on the reforms, the more absurd the obstacle becomes. Even when the EU membership will come, we will lead the main battle and we will lead it for better competitiveness of the country, institutions, staff, and finally, for our companies. The EC Reports are useful for the reforms.

5.Unlike you and the attitude that Greece and the dispute are the main culprits for the blockage of Macedonia, your colleague Besimi in his last column stated that Macedonia has a lot of homework in view of the European reforms. Is there difference in your standpoints?

Poposki: There is no dilemma about who is blocking us and why. It even does not matter what we think of the reasons. The European Commission and the conclusions adopted by the European Council say that nothing will be done if the blockade related to the Greek dispute is not removed. EC appeals to the member-states for them to undertake responsibility and to stop putting their decisions under the carpet. The same goes for NATO. It was concluded also by the International Court of Justice, and this is the reason for standing in front of the doors of the Alliance.

This does not mean that we have completed all the reforms and we are in an ideal state waiting for the Greek Prime Minister to reason. With and without them, we have a lot of work ahead of us. It is indisputable.

Since we or ICJ do not have influence over the decisions in the Council of EU, the wisest thing to do is to focus on the processes where we can make decisions. That is why every atom of energy spent on settling the domestic courtyard is very intelligently spent.

6.Is there any news in view of the naming dispute?

Poposki: A new thing this year is that the lack of interest from the main actor in the dispute is not even being hidden. We, as a second actor, need intensity and commitment to the dialogue. This is what we ask. We have interest to remove the burden of the blockades. Greece is found before its internal challenges. This is something that should make us happy, because in practice, the relations with them are the most important to us. To all those who know the dispute, it is clear that the conditions for engagement are far from good. Sooner or later, probably 2015 will again be a year of elections on the South. The focus in Athens is placed on Frankfurt, Brussels and Washington. The Troika is the deciding factor there. Skopje is beyond their radar, except if they want to find excuses to embellish the blockade before Europe.

7.How are you interpreting the speculations that exactly in 2015 we will be witnesses of a technical government, but not because Zaev wants it that way, but because of the need that will be imposed over the dispute resolution? Is there a sense to expect something like that?

Poposki: I do not think it makes sense. Honestly, it sounds more like someone’s wish to buy time and fantasies for technical governments. In this moment there are no conditions for Greek commitment. Second, even if there was something of that kind, we have a standpoint that the people need to be included in adopting any decision regarding such an important question. We have committed to a referendum and this is not accidentally. This dispute cannot be an issue for a decision adopted by the Government. It is much too serious to be reduced to a technical issue for a technical Government.

8. Belgrade was a host of the big Summit of China and the countries from Central and South-Eastern Europe, where many Chinese investments were announced. Why there are no such events in Skopje?

Poposki: This is the third Summit with Chine of this kind, after Warsaw and Bucharest. The idea is to hold it each year in another town with 16 countries-participants and in China. The main investments that were announced on this Summit refer to Macedonia. To us, it is very important where the investments will be directed, it is not important where they will be announced. It is good that we have 3-4 high roads that are ongoing and announced, and there is also a possibility for projects in the railway. This is the key.

9. Are you actually satisfied with the visits that our country is receiving from foreign statesmen?

Poposki: Today, we must admit that the number of investors visiting a certain country is very important. This is a global issue and that is why the visits and deals made by businessmen are more important that the ones of politicians. For better or for worse, this is the reality.

10. Recently, there was information that you became a head of the party committee on human resources in VMRO-DPMNE. Is your position in the party becoming stronger?

Poposki: I am a member of the Executive Committee of VMRO-DPMNE. I am trying, as much as I can, to contribute as the other members to the policy-creation that are being reviewed within the party body.

11. What will you say of the freedom of speech? The EU report was full of remarks in view of the media…

Poposki: There is place for improvement everywhere, including that area. Polarization can be found and we see that. It might be natural because it can be found in more advanced societies compared to ours. However, there is a line that we must not cross – from polarization to a self-destructive approach. With us, the line is thin. At the end of the day, we all need to have sense of national interest. We may not agree do debate, to argue, but this must not become our objective. In the moment, the biggest problem may be that very often, when there is lack of justified criticism, it devaluates the role of corrective of a certain society. It is a problem that the Government has lack of objective criticism, criticism that might be handy in the decision-making processes. Finally, it all depends on the media culture that we will promote. Here, we are all liable. We have time before us to work on improvement of the climate and to learn from the good and bad examples throughout Europe.

12. How much will the new coat of arms deteriorate the relations with Bulgaria? How would you assess the relations between Skopje and Sofia in this moment?

Poposki: To be real, I do not see a single objective motive or a reason for the coat of arms to bring bad relations with Bulgaria. If the lion is the source, then this would be the case with half of the world where the lion is part of national symbols. No one has the exclusive right to it.

On political level, I believe that we have a positive and open communication. If we compare it to 2012 when the condition for our progress to EU was imposed by Bulgaria, I think we went through many mountains and valleys. We mostly settled what was most needed and I believe that after the new Government is settled in Bulgaria we will have the possibility to put some of the problems behind us and to step into finding new solutions.