2014.06.16-1

I think that the relations have changed in positive direction. This owes to the fact that we support open dialogue with the Bulgarian side. We sat and discussed all problems, some of them disputed and some of them not, and it helped us in creating an atmosphere of bigger trust. It is true that many things are to be done, but the conditions in which Macedonia and Bulgaria develop their relations are definitely positive and I reckon it is the right direction.

Clearly, the conditions are good. What about the results? What happens with the preparation of the Memorandum for good-neighbourly relations and cooperation? That was the pre-condition which Sofia has in order to support Macedonia in the negotiations for membership to the European Union?

There is a progress in every aspect; the work on the Memorandum has been ongoing for the past three years. However, positive atmosphere in the relations can be achieved not only when responsibilities are written on paper, but also in concrete activities in which people can see real results. In the beginning of this year, my Bulgarian colleague, Kristijan Vinegin and I, sent letters to Brussels with a request for support of the construction of the transport corridor No. 8. We received positive response and financial support from the European Commission. We have already started the work on the Macedonian part of the railway line Skopje-Sofia. The branch between Kumanovo and Beljakovce is under construction and we have provided finances including the European assets.

This railway line is becoming a legend; it is being “built” with decades… In fact, on the Bulgarian side the rails have already reached Gjueshevo. When will it finally be completed?

This is a long-term project; the deadline for completion is four years. It is important that at last is under construction. Regarding the creation of atmosphere I would like to say that the several meetings between the leaders of academies of science from both countries were a serious contribution to it. Also, I would like to mention the presence of the Bulgarian and Macedonian ambassadors in Italy, on the sermons in another country, in front of the grave of St. Cyril in Rome on 24th May. Obviously, there is an obvious enhancement of the atmosphere.

Let’s go back to the Memorandum of good-neighbourly relations. What is going on regarding its preparation?

At the meetings of the working groups we achieved good dynamics, we cleared out many issues. The work halted because we had presidential and parliamentary elections in Macedonia. The work will continue immediately upon the creation of a new Government.

Still, when to you expect for the Memorandum to be executed? Don’t you have some deadlines?

We do not have deadlines. The date of execution was never the only objective. If we focus on the date, we shall lose focus from the essence of the problems. However, having in mind the dynamics of the working groups, the positive signals sent from both Prime-Ministers, I feel that we are on our way to complete this chapter in our relations.

It is in your interest to execute this document as soon as possible. Without this Memorandum you will not receive negotiations date, isn’t it so?

Yes, the issue for the Memorandum was imposed by Bulgaria when they stated that they will not give their unconditional support for the Macedonian membership in EU.

This precondition is still in force, we haven’t heard that anyone has overruled it…

We have never stepped away from the undertaken responsibilities, and at the same time, we expect that the other side will fulfil their obligations.

Some time ago your President, Gjorge Ivanov and the Bulgarian President, Rosen Plevneliev agreed that the role of a memorandum can be played by the Prime-Ministers’ Declaration dated 1999. Is this your president’s standpoint or your Government also has the same view?

Well, from what I’ve heard, your President stated that the Declaration can play the same role and that he expects a positive answer from the President of Macedonia.

Well, in fact, does it matter whose initiative that was?

Well, as much as I know, this was a concrete statement given by the Bulgarian President. However, regarding that issue there were positive signals from both Presidents.

The Declaration is important because Article 11 stipulates: “The Republic of Macedonia declares that nothing in its Constitution may or should be interpreted - now or ever - as a basis for interference in the internal affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria with the aim of protecting the status and the rights of persons who are not citizens of the Republic of Macedonia” i.e. that it shall not seek for Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. Will this text remain in the Memorandum?

Interference of Macedonia in the internal affairs of Bulgaria? This is an obligation undertaken in our agreement with Greece. We never had the intention or ambitions to interfere the internal affairs of other countries. We expect the same.

I am asking you this because, according to some analysts, the pretension to protect some “Macedonian minority” on the territory of Bulgaria, at a given point can become a presumption for territorial pretensions…

In the Bulgarian media there is obviously some feeling or fear of the possibility for Macedonia to have some territorial pretensions towards Bulgaria. I can openly tell you that this is not and will not be anyone’s wish at any time. What we want is for Macedonia to become part of the Euro-Atlantic family, as Bulgaria is. We want to remove the obstacles between the two countries and to live as part of that family. However, there are feelings of fear in Macedonia that some people in Bulgaria do not accept the fact that Macedonia and the Macedonians exist as country respectively nation.

What do you mean - Bulgaria was the first to acknowledge the independence of Macedonia…

Yes, but I am speaking of perceptions and fears. Bulgaria has people who believe that Macedonia wants to take a part of the Bulgarian territory – and this has nothing do to with the reality – and Macedonia also fears that many Bulgarians do not find Macedonia to be an independent country and they believe that Macedonia should be part of Bulgaria. We should fight these views.

Do you expect EU to provide you with a date for commencement of the negotiations? One week ago you said you are prepared.

We have been prepared since 2009 and we are becoming more and more prepared. But now, as it was then, we are facing the same problem – it is within the frames of the Council of EU and it owes to the objections of Greece. Until now, Greece has always been the problem, Bulgaria joined it only once – in December 2012, as you mentioned in the beginning of this conversation – and it stated that its support for our EU membership is not unconditional.

However, as I already said, regarding the atmosphere, due to mutual respect, we are moving in a positive direction and I hope to continue so, I hope that Bulgaria shall be our partner, and it shall not impose obstacles. And, we do not want Bulgaria to have negative feelings towards Macedonia.

2014.06.13-2

In that line, how to you view the ideas of shared celebration of historical dates and people? Ilinden, 2nd August is approaching. The Bulgarian President, as you surely know, proposed your President to have shared celebration of Ilinden, first in Bulgaria and then in Macedonia. Similar proposal was given by the President of BAN, academician Stefan Vodenicharov. What will the response be?

When it comes to the idea of shared celebrations, it is not a new one. Previously we had similar proposals in different context. Unfortunately, these proposals were always political interpreted, and unilaterally. I think that we should stop the political abuse of the past. If we free ourselves from that wish, we shall clear out all problems. In Macedonia, there is a feeling that something is always forcefully imposed to us instead of just recognizing the existence of the Macedonian entity. And that today, the reality is such and there is no way to forcefully impose something. This is what created problems in the past.

Alright, but Ilinden is a Bulgarian holiday and you also celebrate it. Then, why not do it together? Do you see a trap in it?

We were in situations when the shared celebrations were viewed as a possibility for abuse. To be precise, by imposing a shared celebration to question the uniqueness of the Macedonian nation, the existence of today’s Macedonia, etc.

In fact, you do not like the idea of shared celebration of holidays, anniversaries and people?

No, I am not against that, it is a part of the European culture. But I think that building mutual trust should come first.

Yes, but since the Bulgarian President and BAN already proposed shared celebration of Ilinden, what will the Macedonian response be like? Will this be rejected?

I would not like to speak about hypothesis, and to speculate about the proposal or who would celebrate with whom. However, we did have a concrete example in Rome where the Bulgarian Ambassador joined the Macedonian delegation in front of St. Cyril’s grave. Later, the same was made by the Macedonian Ambassador.

And why the idea of shared celebration was not realized?

Because of the difference in the level of delegations. The Macedonian delegation was led by the President whereas the Bulgarian by the Vice Prime-Minister.

You are not only a candidate for EU, but also for NATO. Recently, you had a meeting with NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. What did he promise about the membership?

Since 2008 we have fulfilled all criteria for NATO membership, we are de facto acting as a NATO member state, we take active participation in all military exercises, missions, operations, head-quarters, etc. We were illegally prevented by Greece, again due to the same reason – the name dispute. Greece simply used the right to veto as a NATO member state and illegally blocked our admission. This dispute is ongoing for the past 20 years, but unlike with Bulgaria, the process of trust-building with Greece is on the very beginning. Greece is the most carefree NATO and EU member.

When will you establish a new Government?

We should have the new Government in the course of this week.

Will you remain on your position? What should we write – Interview with the outgoing Foreign Minister of Macedonia or future Foreign Minister of Macedonia?

I cannot answer you at this moment. The Parliament shall decide. (Upon previous information from yesterday’s “Utrinski vesnik” Poposki shall remain in the position).