Interviews and Speeches

FM Nikola Poposki’s interview for “Sitel”

Date: 15 March 2016

Journalist: Valentin Nikolovski

nikola popovski

Mr. Poposki, what is your assessment of yesterday’s situation when thousands of migrants illegally and forcefully crossed over into Macedonian territory, a situation where the Greek police did practically nothing to stop the crossing of these migrants from one country, a Schengen member state, to another?

Poposki: This is, in a way, a matter of precedence, since for the first time we have several thousands of people who, in an organised manner, are using illegal border crossing points in an effort to cross over from one country to another. It is obvious that there are NGOs and migrant smugglers who want to profit from such a situation. Nevertheless, the authorities from any country found on this migrant route must not remain passive observers of such a phenomenon. We have intensified our communication with our partners in the EU and with the Greek authorities, because we share a common goal where it is not about throwing blame but rather about avoiding the serious risk of starting a new phase in the migrant crisis which will create competition on how many migrants can be smuggled from one border to the next. The response must be established on a European level. Whatever this decision is, we will be part of the solution, we will cooperate with our European partners, but we mustn’t allow this channel of illegal border crossing organised by NGOs and smugglers to become a tolerated practice. In this line, I believe that we will receive adequate support from our European partners, and in any case we will also maintain our close communication with Greek authorities so that they can help avoid this type of incidents in the future.

The Greek Prime Minister Tsipras already announced an investigation to trace individuals responsible for organising migrants to take this route. Do you believe that steps can be taken to prevent similar incidents and that migrants will listen to Tsipras’ who urged them to pull back from Idomeni to the reception centres in Greece?

Poposki: The best sign which can be sent at the moment is to abandon the practice of bringing additional migrants and accommodating them in tents on the borderline itself. This only increases the market for NGOs who work on smuggling across the border and for smugglers who view this phenomenon as a business opportunity. The only solution for avoiding these risks is transferring migrants to centres that have been adequately created with the EU on the territory of the first country of entry into the Schengen zone or the EU i.e. Greece. If this happens it will certainly reduce the likelihood of such incidents being repeated in the future.

 

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FM Nikola Poposki’s interview for Sitel

Date: 8 March 2016

Journalist: Valentin Nikolovski

 

Mister Poposki, the EU-Turkey Summit is over. Ten more days were given to further define the new agreement with Turkey for handling the migrant crisis, however, what mostly concerns us is the Western Balkan route which was re-formulated from a closed route to a route where illegal migrant flows have ended. Interpretations vary. From now on, how will Macedonia act towards migrants coming from the Middle East, from war-torn countries?

Poposki: It is too early to conclude that as of today there’ll be no pressure of illegal migrant crossings from one border to the other along the so-called Balkan route. On the other hand, there are positive signals that countries located on this route, aside from Macedonia, will undertake positive efforts to curb these attempts, which means that the pressure exerted on the Greek-Macedonian border will be reduced in the medium term which is the most delicate issue for us at the moment. In terms of our policy and our stance, we will continue with our priority to provide humane treatment for all refugees, to ensure safe passage through Macedonian territory from one EU member state to another EU member state. These efforts will be made in coordination with our partners, including Greece.

Does this mean that primary asylum seekers, above all the inhabitants of Syria and Iraq will be let through the territory of Macedonia in numbers in which they’ll be allowed to pass through the neighbouring countries, predominantly Serbia, Croatia, and further north Slovenia, Austria and Germany?

Poposki: That’s correct. The number of crossings is not determined by the Republic of Macedonia but is rather the result of the absorbing capacity of countries considered as their final destination. If there is a larger capacity in Germany and other EU member states, Macedonia will be able to provide humane and safe passage through its territory for a larger number of refugees. If limitations exist and if a direct link is established, which is probably the best solution at the moment; in that case we will be part of that solution and we will collaborate with Greek authorities to implement that policy.

Greek authorities, with almost no resistance, allowed all the refugees to camp at Idomeni at the Macedonian-Greek border. Do you now expect a more definitive cooperation from them, i.e. for this camp to be cleared up and for these refugees, in line with the agreement with Turkey, to be returned to Turkey or placed in larger refugee camps located throughout the territory of Greece?

Poposki: It was obvious that by accommodating migrants at several hundred meters from the Macedonian-Greek border, the pressure on Macedonia will increase and that this would again lead to a turbulent situation in relation to crossings at the Macedonian-Greek border. Our message was clear that anyone concerned with the humane treatment of refugees, must provide points of admission and locations closer to the location that will allow them to return to their country or that will shelter them in some other manner or that will ensure treatment for a longer period of time. Putting people in tents next to the Macedonian border as a means of exerting pressure for the return of the illegal flow we had in the past is definitely not a solution and I believe it is not in Greece’s interest.