Interview of MFA Nikola Poposki for Channel 4 News

Date: 3 March 2016

Journalist: Cathy Newman

 

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Why your government is not letting more people through?

Poposki: It’s clear that decisions that countries north from Macedonia, starting from Serbia have informed us that they are not going to accept any more migrants, rather than the daily quotas. So far, none of the migrants entering Macedonian territory has been able to proceed with their road to Serbia. We have 600 or 700 Afghans that have been send back from Serbia to Macedonia. Therefore, for us, this is the determining factor. The moment we have confirmation that these people can proceed to their final destination in one of the European member states, we would be very happy to open up the process.

Nevertheless, you are now contributing, or not, to a looming humanitarian crisis, as the UN puts it. There are people in wheelchairs, children in squalid conditions there on the border. Do you not have a moral duty to ease that bottle neck and let many more through than you are currently?

Poposki: Of course we would like this to be resolved. It is clear that it is not in our interest to have a humanitarian crisis right at our border or on our territory. Our point would be that this humanitarian crisis will simply be shifted couple of kilometers further north. If we simply open up our border without having a decision from the countries that are receiving these migrants to be accepted… If countries up north like Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria do not open their gates, you are going to have the same humanitarian crisis just few kilometers up north.

Will you order your riot police to stop firing tear gas because there is a serious risk here, isn’t there, of people being injured or even people dying?

Poposki: Our police have zero interest in what so ever in intervening at the border. What we have witnessed in the last 48 hours was a crowd of some hundreds young male individuals trying forcibly to enter Macedonian territory.

Are you worried about injury?

Poposki: Definitely, definitely. We would like to avoid that. This is why we try to push Greek authorities to cooperate on that side of the border.

Do you not believe that the vast majority of people waiting there to pass are actually refugees fleeing war?

Poposki: Well, essentially, what we have seen, over a million people have used the Balkan route during last year. It’s clear that not all of them are fleeing a war. For as, the easiest thing would be to simply open the borders, invite everyone and shift them to the Serbian border and then put the pressure on Serbia. But, this is clearly what the EU doesn’t want to see. They want an organized manner, registration centers, and then people crossing the borders according to the capacities of those receiving them. And, it is clear that in several EU member-states that have received thousands of people during the last year, there is a threshold that has been reached. Austria has clearly said that, a number of other countries have clearly said that, and we should not have any illusions that there is a limitless absorption capacity in the European Union.

Everything you have said had made clear that EU has failed to deal this refugee crisis and is failing to deal with it. Do you think that EU as union is now finished?

Poposki: I don’t think so. We as a candidate country have aspiration to join the EU and this aspiration has not vanished only because EU is faced with a very serious problem that maybe hasn’t been properly handled in the last year.

Well, it’s intriguing to hear you say that because there are many in the UK who argue that they want to leave the European Union. What do you say to them?

Poposki: I think that the UK has also interest to stay in the European Union. It is one of the biggest countries in the EU, has leverage on the European Union and we as Macedonians believe also that the European Union will be better with the UK on board. I am pretty sure that the British taxpayers will benefit from that.

Watch the interview at the following link.