Poposki: Amnesia of Values is Dangerous for EU 
 
 
 
 

Nikola Poposki is one of the Macedonian high official representatives who have excellent knowledge of the European Union and the decision making processes, as well as the policy that is being implemented within its borders. This diplomat, who formed and completed his education at the prestigious College of Europe in Bruges and has MA in European Integrations, is constantly appealing for respect of principles and values that are being used by, and ultimately on which the European Union was established. Using his experience as an Ambassador of Republic of Macedonia to the European Union in Brussels (2010-2011) he knows well that not always the European rules are used as set by its founders. For now, neither he or Macedonia managed to find a way how to oppose the Greek capriciousness that not only directly violates the European postulates, but it also weakens the image for the community that is considered as one of the most successful integration processes in the history of humankind. In this interview and previously, during his two appearances in Brussels and other capitals, Poposki, despite his personal contacts, is constantly using the ace which is possessed by his country – the international law and the ICJ Judgement from the Hague, as well as the Macedonian reform portfolio thanks to which Macedonia has been receiving recommendations for commencement of negotiations with EU five years in a row.


The Greek Prime Minister directly pointed out that there is no Macedonian language and identity as the one we are building here, and he stated it in front of European representatives. How to interpret this statement in line with the naming dispute?

 

One of the interpretations could say that he is consistent with one political agenda that was seen some twenty years ago, and was in force much longer. An agenda based on rejection of diversity and preferring force over the law. Another interpretation can be clearly of an interior policy – a message home that no one is a bigger Greek than me concerning this issue. A third one, it is a conclusion that behind the naming dispute there is a bigger dispute: a dispute regarding the fact that the people have right to self-identification and a doubt for the project for peaceful and united Europe without changing borderlines. Whatever the interpretation is, it is not the luckiest one.


Nulland’s visit to Macedonia and Merkel’s message regarding the naming dispute occurred almost at the same time. Does this mean that we can expect a more serious engagement from Washington and Berlin for finding a solution to the problem imposed by Greece?


Both Washington and Berlin are well aware that without their engagement the issue cannot be settled on its own and within a reasonable deadline. Ideally, we would all like to come to a self-created Greek-Macedonian agreement and everyone would congratulate both parties and life would go on. In practice, it is not probable to come to this solution without them. Everyone is very careful since no one wants the typical emotional reactions from Athens. I think that they would engage, but they do not want this engagement to have a negative reflection on the long list of expectations on which Athens should work in the following period. There is a list of things which from the outside are perceived as more dramatic for Greece rather than the name.


How incidental is the statement of the German Chancellor that beside the name, the identity is also a problem? Does the public acknowledgement of Merkel that the Southern neighbour despite our name opposes our identity open an additional problem?

 

There is nothing new about the fact that the Southern neighbour has other problems beside the name. In fact, they managed to alternate the name in the 90’s, when for a part of the world we became Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The ambitions are deeper and this is perceived by all those who monitored the dispute. Therefore, Athens chooses to run away from the law and democratic standards in this area. And it is in our interest to safeguard the law and these democratic standards. The battle is law against the force.


Due to the firm attitude of the Greek government and lack of interest from the bigger forces to pressure Athens, it is obvious that we need to undertake some efforts in order to exit the dead-end. Is there a plan how to do this?

 

Yes. The position outside is as good as it is at home. We must work relentlessly and thorough at home, we must set standards, obey them and to reinforce the trust of the citizens and their belief that the country has rules of behaviour and that these rules are same for everyone. This is the plan. The better we are at home, the harder will be for Athens to place obstacles and search for excuses. In the end, the better we are at home, the less we will depend on someone else’s will, even if they are in the EU.


Nimetz announced a visit to the region for this summer. Are we ready to use the momentum for a bigger step ahead in the talks, although we really do not expect for Greece to withdraw from the red lines?

 

It is good that he is coming, it is not so good that no one expects for Athens to start thinking seriously for a faster solution. We are the mostly motivated ones. Our future in EU and NATO is held in custody. However, our will is not sufficient. We need the wind from bigger member-states and a return to the fundamental European values. At the moment, if something is dangerous for Europe then that is the risk of forgetting the values which founded the EU project. That is why the decision makers in Brussels are loud when saying: “we have a serious problem with the manner in which we lead the integration process with Macedonia”. Their arguments state they rejected the principles and the proved mechanisms for: dividing the problem between two countries, the EU integration and the two things hand in hand. The epilogue is a problem of the moral.


For now, it is almost evident that Macedonia will not receive a membership invitation in Cardiff. Do you believe that there is some space to change the situation and if yes, how?


No, Cardiff will not be for enlargement. Many people in NATO believe that the previous enlargements led to a confrontation on the East of the Alliance. The future of Afghanistan and the new reality on the East will be the subject for decisions of the Alliance. We certainly do not need a Summit. We need the Greek representative on ambassadorial level to nod his head affirmatively.

 

How do you assess Nuland’s decision not to meet with any representative from the opposition?


I do not know the background. But it is clear to everyone that the foreign assessment for the credibility and gravity in this surrounding is on the lowest level possible.

 

The new president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker openly stated that during his mandate the enlargement will not be a priority for EU. What does this mean for the Macedonian Euro-integrations?

 


The message is honest. In EU there is a feeling that the enlargement was very forward in the past. There is no public support to retain this trend. They do not find it so dramatic to make forward decisions again. They say that in the following 5 years there will be no decision for membership. It is much better and more concrete than making promises and not fulfil them, year by year, and to look for new excuses. This is something very familiar to us from the Greek alibi game and unjust stalling of the process made by Athens. What is the plan now? To start working at home and to reach all necessary standards and during the mandate of this Commission to reach the level of harmonization of a member-state. This depends on us only. This is how we well make the excuses more difficult for all those who strive to place obstacles on our progress.

 

How improved are the relations with Bulgaria after the joint celebration of Ss. Cyril and Methodius? How far along is the execution of the agreement for good-neighbourly relations?


In practice we achieved a lot in the relations, the infrastructural projects, the discussions between the historians, even regarding the framework for shared TV broadcasting within the neighbouring country. However, having in regard the political developments in Bulgaria, it seems to me that we will need to wait until election of a new Government in order to close the process. We are at their disposal to end the process in mutual interest.
You told both the Albanian and the Kosovo Ambassador that Macedonia will not accept interfering in the interior affairs regarding the case “Monstrum”. This was followed by a conversation with the two parties. In future, can we expect other efforts for neighbours’ interference in the domestic life?


I do not find it useful for any country, especially in a surrounding as the Balkan one, to nurture a culture of interventions beyond their borders. We must adjust to the institutional activities within the frames of the state. I think that the intentions of Tirana and Prishtina were not in line of adding fuel to the fire. However, knowingly or not, this can be the practical consequence. It more looks that the interference within a neighbouring country is a reflection of inter-political climate and a competition for who is the bigger protector of the cross-border national cause. Unwittingly, the situation serves those the proponents of divisions and different borders and regulations.


The most important to us is that I believe that in Albania and Kosovo we have friends and partners with whom we want a European future. Sometimes, even the friends can misunderstand. It is our obligation to talk openly and work jointly for stronger and more open cooperation. We will do this because also the success is shared.


Albania threatens with a new veto for Albania due to the sea border between these two countries containing oil and gas reserves. After the veto on Macedonia, is there a possibility for a new veto coming from Greece for EU on the Balkan?


I would not want this for anyone. I do not even think that this would help anyone. God help us to withdraw our veto instead of imposing another one for our neighbour.


Few days ago you became a father. What future do you expect for your child in Macedonia and when do you expect for it to use the benefits as a citizen of the European Union?


With all due respect for the youngest, I wish for our generation also to use the benefits as citizens of EU. I think that it is viable for the whole region to be in the joint structures towards the end of this decade. These structures will be different compared to the present ones. EU today will not be like the one in 2020, even less NATO. However, these two are the best opportunity for use. The sooner – the better. The Macedonian membership will drastically decrease the space for disputes and imposing double standards, as it is being done today without anyone caring about that. Being a small country in the middle of the Balkan, outside these structures, one remains a subject of unprincipled blackmails. Although we are not in delusion that EU and NATO are ideal, they are, however, the best model that really offers significantly brighter future in Macedonia.