Interview of MFA Nikola Poposki for CNN

Date: 3 March 2016 

 Journalist: Michael Holmes



Greece is bursting at the seams with migrants and a major reason is because your nationhas tightened border crossings. What is Macedonia’s strategy?

NP: Macedonia is a transit country, we have seen several hundreds of thousands migrants crossing to Macedonia coming from Greece and reaching Germany, Austria and other Western European nations.Right now it is obvious that these countries that have been receiving many migrants in the past year have certain restrictions. There is limitation in terms of capacity to absorb more migrants. The line is that now there is a decision to stop illegal migration and to make sure that there is a registration at the exit from Greece on those that can be eligible asylum seekers. The numbers of migrants entering Macedonia is determined by the numbers of those that can be accepted in Western European nations.

The Austrian Chancellor has defended his nation’s cap on migrantsand has attacked Germany’s Angela Merkel, what he calls, her chaotic approach. Do you think there is chaotic approach in Europe at the moment to the migration question?

NP: No, I think it is very difficult balance, to be found between how many migrants can be accepted in Europe, and Germanyclearly has accepted over one million migrants in one year, and I don’t think that they can sustain the same kind of pressure during 2016. This is an obvious situation.On the other side we have to make sure that all those that are fleeing a conflict and looking for a safe haven should be provided with one in Europe. Now one thing is certain that the plans we had so far did not work, mainly because the external border of the European Union has been extremely vulnerable, and I don’t think that this is time to allocate guilt to anyone. The fact is thatGreek islands are very difficult to defend and to have a valuable registration system, and on the other side Turkey has suffered even more pressure with 2.5 million migrants on its territory for the period of over 4 years.

Тhere is an EU emergency summit on all of this, on migrants, on Monday. You know, a year on, you can’t agree on a strategy or at least one that works. In the absence of a political European consensus, then what?

NP: Well it seems that there has been a consensus on the fact that we have to limit entries and that there has to be an allocation on migrants across European member states. But this has not happened. Right now the best choice we have is to help Greece in the very difficult situation and to work with Turkey on limiting the numbers of arrivals on the European land. And unless we do that, then we would simply have another attempt that is going to fail. And none of us has an interest in that happening.

One other question. We’ve heard Donald Tusk, as we’ve just reported, calling out to economic migrants – don’t come, it’s not worth it, do not come. But why would they listen if they are fleeing worse troubles back home, why would they listen to Mr. Tusk and not come?

NP: Well, there has to be a distinctionbetween those fleeing a conflict, to whom we have to provide the safe haven and those that are simply going to Europe in order to find a better job. This is a legitimate reason too, but it has been clear over the years, that none of the European countries is capable of absorbing millions of migrants that might simply come for economic reasons. And I think that the message from the President of the European Council is clear that what has been happening during last year is not going to happen in 2016. Therefore the pressure might be decreased on Greece on its external border because we would only have those that are legitimate asylum seekers, essentially Syrians fleeing a conflict zone. This is the line of thought that pretty much everyone in Europe agrees on.

Watch the interview at the following link.