Interviews and Speeches

Distinguished Chairman of the Committee,
Distinguished MPs,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to address this important legislative body and to exchange opinions and standpoints on our annual activities in the field of foreign policy.

At the very outset, I would like to emphasise that the activities and projects of the Macedonian diplomacy undertaken in 2015 were in concordance with the strategic foreign policy goals and priorities of the Republic of Macedonia.

This year our energy and resources continued to follow the established foreign policy course. We continue to work on our European and Euro-Atlantic integration, advancing relations with our partners from Europe and beyond, neighbourly relations and regional cooperation, economic and multilateral diplomacy, as well as advancing and protecting the country’s and the interests of Macedonian nationals abroad.

2015 was a year of great challenges. We faced challenges within our country but the Balkans as well as the world encountered challenges too. Having the current geopolitical (and security) context in mind, some of our activities were aimed at regional and global challenges. Being of a different profile and character, these challenges called into question not only both global and national security of many countries but also challenged human safety and security.

The on-going migrant and refugee crisis represents a phenomenon unprecedented in recent world history. Given its complexity and numerous implications, it transcends national borders and necessitates a global coordinated engagement in addressing its humanitarian, security and broader geopolitical aspects.

The Republic of Macedonia is seriously affected by the everyday influx of refugees and migrants. The implications of the crisis are serious and multifold and we have adequately and responsibly responded towards handling the crisis. Among other things, we attach utmost importance to our partnership with the EU and our cooperation with all countries affected along the Balkan Route. We continue taking all necessary measures to ensure a humane treatment and safe transit for all individuals in need of international protection along the European corridor through the Republic of Macedonia. Having a unique European response for the crisis is essential, and the Republic of Macedonia will continue to contribute and cooperate with its European partners. We remain hopeful that the cooperation with Greece will be further strengthened and we count on the positive role of Frontex in this respect. And above all, we are aware that for a durable and sustainable solution to this crisis, it is necessary to address its root causes. Achieving peace in Syria and wider in the Middle East is essential to this end.

The threats of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalism appear as global ill.
The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Tunisia, Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, Egypt and Bamako are an attack against the whole of humanity, as well as against the peace, liberty and the principles and values that we all live by and uphold. Maintaining cooperation and pursuing a joint comprehensive approach in combating terrorism is the most appropriate way of overcoming these challenges. The Republic of Macedonia is an active partner to the international anti-terrorist coalition and will continue contributing to both international efforts aimed at eliminating terrorism, violent extremism and radicalism, and the ones aimed at tackling all other global threats and challenges.

Distinguished MPs,

I would now like to bring your attention to our activities aimed at realising the priorities and goals of Macedonian diplomacy – EU and NATO integration. At the same time, I will underscore the role of the Republic of Macedonia as an active contributor in the multilateral arena. Part of today’s address will be dedicated to the activities carried out within the regional framework, focusing on this year’s CEI Presidency. I will also inform of the status of relations with countries from the neighbourhood and beyond, the activities from the field of economic diplomacy and other relevant aspects from the competencies of the Ministry.

Concerning the main priorities of Macedonian foreign policy:
EU membership remains a principal priority to which we strive and work for. This year the Euro-integration process was in light of the political crisis which was surmounted with the contribution given by EU Commissioner Hahn and three other MEPs. We have successfully closed the 13th cycle of the institutional dialogue with EU under SAA. Meetings were held with the Council, the Committee and their working bodies, and with the return of the opposition at the Assembly we now have the conditions to continue the dialogue at parliamentary level. As you are well aware, the 13th meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee was held recently in Skopje. The meeting of the High Level Accession Dialogue with the EU Commissioner Hahn took place on 18 September. We are maintaining a continuous dialogue which is important for the sustainability of the process.

This year, the European Commission recommended to the Council, for the seventh consecutive time, the opening of accession with the Republic of Macedonia which keeps the momentum and focus on the reform process. We have a joint obligation to implement the remaining obligations from the political agreement, the reform process and the elections in April 2016. We have to deliver results and deprive all those who question our readiness to start accession negotiations of excuses. We believe that opening accession negotiations in spring 2016 is of mutual interest and will provide an additional boost to the enlargement policy.

NATO membership is another priority in Macedonian foreign policy. The continuous political and broad consensus for the membership of Macedonia in the Alliance continues to act as a driving force behind our Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The Judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) remains a strong legal argument, which reflects the actual state of play and justifies the entry of Macedonia to NATO. The importance of the partnership and the involvement of Macedonia in the operational activities of the Alliance as well as its dedication towards fulfilling the common goal – full-fledged NATO membership, were confirmed at the meetings between the state leadership and the Secretary General of NATO. Numerous activities in terms of Euro-Atlantic integration were implemented throughout the year. The Republic of Macedonia was represented, at various levels, during all relevant meetings with the Alliance. The Annual National Programme for Membership of Macedonia in NATO 2015-2016 as part of the 17th cycle of the MAP was introduced during the last regular annual meeting between the Republic of Macedonia and the Deputies Committee’s permanent representatives of NATO member states held this December in Brussels.

Distinguished MPs,

As part of our commitments to actively contribute to the processes within the multilateral arena, we decided to nominate our own candidate for the post of the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. In addition we have been an active member of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as one of the most prestigious bodies within the UN system and we also continued our active engagement as a member of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and the Executive Board of UNESCO. We continue to participate actively within this world organisation with a focus on promoting our national interests.

The Republic of Macedonia also continues its active participation within OSCE. The cooperation with OSCE relevant institutions and structures remains at a high level. This June I delivered my address before the OSCE Permanent Committee in Vienna. We emphasised the long and successful cooperation with OSCE in support of the reform process in the Republic of Macedonia, simultaneously highlighting our expectations that OSCE will continue to support the agreed activities, primarily those related to the election process. As said – “OSCE has the expertise that can be useful for increasing confidence and holding fair and democratic elections”. Furthermore we extended an invitation to OSCE/ODIHR to observe the April 2016 early general elections. The invitation was accepted and according to the initial announcements the elections will be observed by at least 300 international election observers.

As you well aware, this year the Republic of Macedonia will host the autumn session of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (October 2016) which is an excellent opportunity to promote Macedonia as a hosting country of an important multilateral event. This event is particularly relevant for your portfolio and the activities within the Assembly since it is related to the OSCE parliamentary dimension.

In regard to the multilateral sphere, I would like to bring your attention to our active participation within the Council of Europe and our cooperation with the specialised bodies. On 4 November we have officially marked the 20th anniversary of Macedonia’s accession to the Council of Europe, when I met with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland and the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Guido Raimondi. The Republic of Macedonia will continue to fulfil its obligations arising from its membership in the Council of Europe and other CE Conventions.

Within our abilities and potentials we remain active in all relevant multilateral organisations.

Distinguished,

This past year we continued to work towards strengthening the good-neighbourly relations and cooperation with all countries from our immediate and wider neighbourhood, across various spheres of interest through, inter alia, advancing the contractual framework for sectorial cooperation. We held numerous high-level meetings where we tackled topics primarily related to bilateral political relations, the economy, infrastructure, Euro-Atlantic integration, regional cooperation etc. Depending on the status of bilateral relations and different priorities we also discussed topics of separate national interest.

As far as relations with Greece go, for some time now we have been committed towards advancing the dialogue and cooperation through building a climate of mutual trust even though we have not always encountered much enthusiasm from the other side. It can be said that relations are following a certain positive trend. We have realised bilateral visits to Skopje and Athens. A total of 11 measures for practical cooperation were agreed upon in areas of mutual interest. Furthermore, the two ministries of foreign affairs formed a joint working group in charge of overseeing the implementation of these measures which has already held two meetings, aside from the first political consultations.

It is not realistic to create expectations that this imposed dispute that has lasted for over two decades can be solved over night with this positive trend of cooperation and communication. We will make efforts to overcome it guided by Macedonia’s well-known positions and interests based on European values on non-discrimination and observance of democratic standards as well as international law. Whatever the case may be, we will work on our cooperation with the Southern neighbour because this is also our strategic interest.

We remain dedicated to further advancing our relations with Bulgaria with whom we enjoy an all-round cooperation through taking the final steps towards concluding the Agreement for friendship, good-neighbourly relations and cooperation. It is our belief that the established open and constructive dialogue, both on expert and political level, for achieving a balanced approach in resolving some of the unsettled issues between the two countries, will not only help Macedonia and Bulgaria, but also the European agenda of our region.

The relations with our other neighbouring countries, Serbia, Albania and Kosovo continued to follow a positive trend in 2015 based on sharing European values and integration efforts. The governments of Macedonia and Serbia held a second joint session in Skopje and laid down the main direction of future cooperation. Several high-level visits and meetings were carried out with Albania and the open dialogue and cooperation with Kosovo continues to gain in quality.

A significant portion of our energy and resources was dedicated to the processes for promoting regional cooperation and strengthening regional initiatives as yet another part of our strategic priorities. At the same time we continued to participate in the regional organisations. The Republic of Macedonia continued its active involvement as a member in the activities of regional and sub-regional organisations and initiatives (RCC, SEECP, MARRI, RESPA, SELEC, cooperation within the WB6 format, Brdo-Brioni process etc.).

In this context, I would like to underscore the successful Presidency of the Central-European Initiative, which was above all focused on the progress of transport and energy infrastructure and business relations in the CEI Region. With this year’s chairmanship of the oldest organisation in the Region committed to supporting European integration, we have successfully achieved additional visibility at regional level.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued its activities aimed at strengthening the position of the Republic of Macedonia within the international community through developing and deepening bilateral relations with European countries across numerous areas of mutual interest. A large number of official and working visits and political consultations were carried out and we have enlarged the contractual framework at bilateral level. Continuity was achieved in the intensive cooperation at bilateral, regional and multilateral level with all countries from Western, Central and Northern Europe. In terms of European and Euro-Atlantic integration there is no lack of support or actual cooperation. Based on the dynamics of mutual interactions within the European regional framework, I would like to single out the Visegrad group.

Comparable attention was paid in 2015 to promoting relations and cooperation with non-European countries. We have adequately marked the 20th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations with some of these countries. This tradition will continue in 2016 with a new group of non-European countries.

We continue to foster our strategic partnership with the United States. We exchanged opinions and viewpoints in relation to issues of national and common interest. We have worked on realising new business opportunities for direct American investments as well as promoting cooperation across other areas (particularly defence cooperation and cooperation within the Global Coalition for fight against terrorism, educational/university as well as medical cooperation).

Relations with the Russian Federation are traditionally good. Economic cooperation is being intensified, and efforts are made to increase trade and to attract direct Russian investments.

Relations with the People’s Republic of China and Japan have been advanced. The Republic of Macedonia continued its active participation in the 16+1 Process initiated by the People’s Republic of China. The benefits of our involvement in this process are reflected in the field of economy through the increase of our export to the People’s Republic of China and the national road infrastructure. Friendly relations with the People’s Republic of China will continue to be advanced through numerous economic initiatives and activities;

Concerning our relations with Japan, we have established a solid basis for intensifying economic relations within the wider bilateral cooperation. We have established contacts with the heads of the Japanese External Trade Organization, Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the largest Chamber of Commerce in Japan – KEIDANREN.

This October I paid a visit to Japan where I met my colleague Kishida, along with the parliamentary Deputy MFA and several members of the Japanese Diet. During this visit we officially opened the Embassy of the Republic of Macedonia in Tokyo.

In this context we are dedicated to further enlarging the diplomatic network. In some other meridians we are also working towards further advancing and developing relations with the more relevant countries from Latin America, and this will be greatly aided with our plans to open a Macedonian Embassy in Brasilia, sometime next year. Previously we opened Embassies in Abu Dhabi and Astana.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Economic diplomacy has been and continues to be one of the main priorities of the Ministry through activities aimed at presenting Macedonia as an attractive destination for foreign investors, but also as an attractive tourist destination. Our diplomats were involved in promotional campaigns, activities in support of realising Road Shows, business forums and various fair manifestations.

The MFA has intensively participated in the preparations for the Paris Climate Conference which was attended by the President of the Republic of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov along with 150 other world leaders. The Republic of Macedonia affirmed its political will for global actions aimed at reducing the negative effects of climate changes. The summit reminded us to take joint actions in the efforts to achieve a global agreement. In that sense, I would like to welcome the “Paris Agreement,” described as the first genuinely global climate agreement in the history of mankind aiming at saving the entire planet - as all countries pledged to reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and limiting global warming.

Distinguished,

The MFA continually supports the project initiatives of the Macedonian national communities in the neighbourhood and the Macedonia diaspora in the world. These are aimed at: opening cultural corners, holding courses and lessons of Macedonian language, promoting Macedonian culture and folklore, encouraging print and electronic media in Macedonian language for the target group and in general, promoting the cultural identity and tradition of the Macedonian people. We are actively working on a new internship project within the public institutions for students of Macedonian background from the Diaspora. Several other projects of equal importance are currently being implemented.

In the field of consular affairs, the focus in 2015 was placed on protecting the interests of Macedonian nationals. Aside from regular consular services, the 2015 Action Plan of the Government was also successfully implemented whereby applications can be received and passports can be issued through the diplomatic missions and consular offices of the Republic of Macedonia in the United States, Canada, Australia and several European countries. The general view is that the Action Plan was realised within the foreseen framework. A new Action Plan was adopted for 2016. We continually undertake legislative and regulatory measures in this consular sphere, and we work on improving the consular services through specific projects.

When it comes to concluding, ratifying and implementing international agreements, the MFA participated again this year in the harmonisation procedures with international agreements, initiated a ratification procedure for the concluded bilateral agreements, took part in the negotiations and activities related to the accession or ratification of multifold agreements, and implemented other activities in terms of international law.

Pursuant to our records, 15 bilateral agreements have been concluded and are subject to ratification as well as 40 bilateral agreements that are not being ratified. A ratification process has been carried out by the Assembly on 12 bilateral and 8 multilateral agreements. The Government has adopted 22 decisions to implement the restrictive measures introduced through a joint stance with the Council of Europe as well as other restrictive measures.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Within the other relevant aspects from the competences of the Ministry I would like to mention the Institute for Geostrategic Research and Foreign Policy which has, in relatively short time, developed into a serious research and operational body within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and became internationally renowned. During 2015, the Institute organised a series of forums, lectures as well as two international conferences on current topics – migration and European macro regional cooperation.

The Diplomatic Academy successfully realised all its planned activities and achieved its established goals, above all: preparing, organising and carrying out diplomatic and counselling exams, preparing ambassadors, diplomats and economic promoters before assuming their office at the diplomatic missions and consular offices of Macedonia abroad. Furthermore, the Diplomatic Academy has carried out a series of key-theme lectures held by foreign high diplomats.

Strengthening the capacities and involvement in the sphere of public and cultural diplomacy is particularly important for promoting the foreign policy goals before the foreign public. Public diplomacy remains a significant tool in the efforts to mobilise the public, the academic institutions and think-tanks relevant for promoting the general image of our country and its goals. For this purpose we make use of different means and methods, but mostly digital presentation. It should be noted that in November this year we have published the 100th jubilee edition of the Macedonian Diplomatic Bulletin, issued by the Macedonian Information Centre.

Last but not least, we should underline our involvement in the implementation of the concept of collocation. The first collocation with the diplomatic missions and consular offices with Montenegro is being implemented in Paris since April this year, at the premises owned by the Republic of Macedonia (based on property succession from former SFRY). This activity proves that the concept of collocation is both realistic and possible. New collocations are continually being negotiated with Montenegro and Serbia, and there is an on-going procedure for an agreement on collocation with Bosnia and Herzegovina which is expected to be signed by early next year.

As yet another in the series of practical projects, I would like to inform you that as of July 2015, the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs includes an application called Info – centre 24/7 where anyone interested can fill out the electronic form and obtain, within a 24-hour period, useful information from the competences of the Ministry.

Distinguished MPs,

Before I wish you both personal and professional success in the upcoming 2016 I would like to ensure you that next year as well, all our potential and resources will be highly invested towards achieving the foreign policy goals and priorities of the country. In this sense, I welcome and highly value and appreciate the role of the parliamentary dimension in the fulfilment of our foreign policy objectives.

Thank you for your attention.