Deputy PM and FM Nikola Poposki’s interview for TV 21

Date: 18 July 2016

Reporter: Gabriela D. Misevska

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First and foremost let us talk about events in Turkey. It was a hot topic this weekend, and we know Macedonia has numerous connections with Turkey. Since these events continue to unfold and we’re waiting for the epilogue, what can we expect for this country and the region?
Poposki: We cannot speculate on direct developments, but what is important for us is that Macedonia immediately offered its support for the democratically-elected institutions in the Republic of Turkey. The only way to overcome any challenge is through a legitimate and democratically-elected government. We condemned the violence. Furthermore, we advised our citizens for their greater safety… to be at their disposal… I believe that was the most important thing in those most crucial moments. Now things are gradually returning to normal.

Are there records of Macedonian nationals staying there, although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement advising precaution?
Poposki: Of course there is a large number of our citizens who, for a myriad of reasons, from tourism, as visitors, business partners or any other reason are currently staying in Turkey, but none of them, according to records received this far, is in any in danger.

The epilogue of the political crisis is still veiled in uncertainty. Let us return to our country: at the moment, events, i.e., negotiations are underway at the residency of American Ambassador Jess Baily. In your opinion, what should the epilogue be, will it happen soon and will convergence be reached on all standpoints?
Poposki: It is true that all this disarray has lasted far too long, but what is important is that we have agreed on certain principles, more precisely the fact that the opposition in Macedonia enjoys a certain luxury few other opposition parties in the world have – and that is to hold elections whenever they please, so, before the elections, they need to step forward with a serious guarantee that conditions for holding elections have been met and that the scenario of simply looking for excuses to evade elections and to avoid the will of the people will not be repeated.

Considering these negotiations have received slightly harsher comments from foreign diplomats, how can we interpret their remarks and has Macedonia somehow lost its reputation in the eyes of Brussels and Washington?
Poposki: Honestly, I would not worry too much about comments from abroad. Everyone certainly has their own personal view of the situation, and both Brussels and Washington foster a wider image of stability for the region and this is where their ambitions end. What is more important for us is that the prolonged political crises has cost us dearly, both economically, by causing insecurities in the field of investments, and also politically, with the lack of a political dialogue which is then being used by others to slow down our progress on our European and Euro-Atlantic agenda.

Although it is still early and there is still time until the EU Progress Report, but, in this context, is Macedonia’s recommendation for EU membership jeopardized?
Poposki: At this time I cannot comment on the possibility of one scenario or the other. What is crucial is that this year, the report is highly specific, since it is prepared now, by the end of October, and then next year there won’t be a report, with another coming only the year after that. This means that whatever is included in the report will have a lasting effect on our destiny concerning our accession to the EU. That is why I would rather say that everything and anything we can do in-between to keep the recommendation will offer us a good basis for exiting this hostage phase we have been experiencing thus far.

Speaking of integrations, what is the situation on Macedonia’s path after the Warsaw summit?
Poposki: Warsaw as a summit was much more dedicated to NATO, rather than countries aspiring to join. What was relevant for us was the reiteration of that which was already ascertained in the past, and that is the single prerequisite set before us i.e., the dispute imposed by Greece. In relation to the other performances by Macedonia, we have long ago proved that we are acting as a NATO member state. Approximately 40’ of our armed forces have participated in NATO missions and that is about it. Everything else was an opportunity for any of the member states to add some comments that were probably intended for the internal political relations, i.e., the internal-political goals, within their own countries.

And finally, speaking of our Southern neighbour, with this political crisis we are experiencing within our borders, there is a certain feeling that negotiations for solving the name dispute have somehow been overshadowed.
Poposki: Well that is a fact. This is partly due to our own political crisis at home, but also due to the fact that Greece is suffering from a long-lasting political, financial and economic crisis so I would say that conditions in both countries have been far from ideal for overcoming this long-standing imposed dispute. On the other hand, we have used this period to promote an increased number of measures related to good neighbourly relations. I believe that with all of these confidence-building measures we have made it much more difficult for someone in the future to come and say that we are not good neighbours in context of the Balkans, and consequentially, we have also somehow relieved the pressure we have experienced in this past period as a region. The better our relations with Greece and other neighbours, the lesser the pressure on other issues that remain to be solved within the regional framework.

Can we expect the name dispute to return to the agenda soon?
Poposki: I don’t think it would happen that soon. We shouldn’t ignore reality in Greece. In the meantime, the best we can do is to work on improving the climate between the two countries. This period has probably witnessed the biggest progress than ever before, since we have agreed on numerous measures in a quite short period of time.