Interviews and Speeches

FM Nikola Poposki’s interview with “Die Presse”

Date: 25 February 2016

Journalist: Wieland Schneider

 

NETHERLANDS EU COUNCIL FOREIGN MINISTERS EUROPE TURKEY MIGRATION 1456335390398143

Why are Afghan refugees being refused passage at the Greek-Macedonian border for several days now?

NP: In the beginning Macedonian authorities allowed persons from Afghanistan in. They went through the registration process and were allowed to continue their journey. But now there is movement in the opposite direction: currently there are 700 Afghans on our territory who passed through, but were sent back to Macedonia from Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia.

But why Afghans only? There is war in Afghanistan too.

NP: We have done nothing beyond the decisions of the EU Council. This means that persons from conflict zones, including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan should be allowed through. But apparently EU Member States to the north are affected by these measures and send the Afghans back. These countries obviously have a new definition of conflict zones. The logic behind this is that persons who have stayed in a safe country for an extended period of time should no longer be treated as refugees.

Is Macedonia going to continue to refuse entry to Afghan refugees from Greece?

NP: Yes, because we need to clarify the status of these persons in countries found to the north of Macedonia, on the route to Central Europe. Serbia returned 700 Afghans saying they were sent back from Croatia. There is a chain reaction here. Our question is: How would you like us to proceed in these people’s case? That is why the standstill will continue until we solve this situation.

Are there concerns on your part that the refugees returned to Macedonia will not be absorbed by Greece?

NP: If the registration process is carried out correctly, then EU Member States found to the north should absorb these persons as asylum seekers. Or the first EU country they have entered – which is Greece – should take them back. In our opinion these are the only two options.

Athens threats to veto the EU accession of those Balkan countries that along with Macedonia have closed their borders to Greece.

NP: You cannot kill a dead man. Macedonia’s path to the EU has been blocked by Greece for many years. That began long before the refugee crisis. But as far as refugees are concerned: We share mutual interests with Greece. Macedonia would consider itself the luckiest country in the world if the registration and refugee centers functioned on Greek territory. But according to the perception of EU Member States they don’t.

Regarding the migrant issue, do you feel caught between the interests of Austria, Greece and Germany? Macedonia – a non-EU state – is stuck right in the middle.

NP: We do not participate in the decision-making, but we do feel the consequences. It is not a very rewarding position. If the European integration of Macedonia were supported, we would now be in a different position and we could contribute to resolving this challenge. A common European stance would also be in our interest. Our border is the only one where people exit an EU Member State in order to reach a non-EU country. Macedonia, a non-EU country, is expected to solve a problem that has not been solved on EU territory.

Germany should have asked Macedonia to close its border with Greece, but the request was withdrawn.

NP: Officially, we have never received instruction in one direction or the other. What we have done or will do is to implement the decisions of the Council of EU. It would be a lot easier for us if EU Member States were clear and unanimous about what is expected of us. At the moment this is not readily apparent.

 

You can read the original version HERE.