Interviews and Speeches

Interview of MFA Nikola Poposki for Anadolu Agency

Date: 1 July 2016 

Journalist: Admir Fazlagic

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„European integration is our main foreign priority because of the possibility to raise living standards in the Republic of Macedonia, because it’s a signal of stability and an opportunity to attract foreign investments, but also because the European integration process is the strongest cohesive factor in the Republic of Macedoniawhich unites all political structures and I believe that if credibility is returned to this process it would greatly alleviate the internal political processes which are considered as a prerequisite for further development and for securing a better future for all citizens of the Republic of Macedonia”, says Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki in an interview with Anadolu Agency (AA).

Speaking of the political crisis in the country and the agreement for overcoming the crisis which was signed last year among the largest political parties in the country, Poposkisays that last summer with this agreement they agreed upon an exit from this crisis.

“If we look at what was included in this plan, then the majority of items listed, or I’drather say all of them have been implemented, with the exception of one, and that one refers to elections which should have been held in April and then in June. Elections were part of the demands set forth by the largest opposition party and the ruling coalition and opposition parties agreed to hold them”, says Poposki, who believes the exit from this crisis should again be sought through elections, although in his opinion a large part of the obligations assumed last summer have been fulfilled.

“We were surprised by the fact that a large portion of extremely difficult obligations were fulfilled in the previous period”, says Minister Poposki. He believes the only way this country can overcome the crisis is by using its own domestic resources, i.e., through dialogue among the political parties.

“I don’t think anyone from the outside, regardless of where they’re coming from, can solve the problems that exist in the Republic of Macedonia at a political level if we can’t do it ourselves. It is a good thing that we see our European partners and the US show a certain interest, since a large part of these problems probably wouldn’t exist in the first place, or at least they wouldn’t happen in this manner if we had a credible path towards our integration into the European Union and NATO”, underlines Minister Poposki.

He emphasizes that he doesn’t believe the reason behind this lies in certain confrontations, since according to him, political confrontations exist in numerous countries that are part of the EU, but these are surpassed in a much more elegant manner if you are part of the community.

“There are much greater problems in front of you if you face these political confrontations as a result ofseveral blockades that Macedonia has faced on her road to the EU and NATO, if you haven’t got a credible process all citizens can believe in”, says Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The results achieved from implementinglast year’s political agreement and the postponement of the early general elections on two separate occasions, first on 24 April, and then on 5 June, are seen by Poposki as the opposition’s lack of belief in the usefulness of holding elections.

“What we’ve seen thus far is the postponement of elections on two separate occasions due to the opposition’s lack of belief in the usefulness of having elections at this moment. This cannot be solved in any other way other than by having them decide when to hold elections. In each of these combinations we need to dedicate ourselves to organising elections, creating conditions of trust in all political subjects and finally to let the citizens decide on how we should act and which political majority should make the decisions and take on the responsibility”, states Minister Poposki.

Foreign ambassadors shouldn’t decide on elections in Macedonia

Referring to comments of foreign diplomats in the country, especially the US and EU ambassadors, who have expressed their belief on several occasions that conditions for holding credible elections are still lacking, Poposki says that foreign diplomats are not the ones who should decide whether conditions for holding elections in the country exist or not.

“I don’t think any ambassador should decide whether these conditions exist or not in Macedonia. I agree with the fact that we shouldn’t have elections without the participation of the largest political party since it would add a negative undertone to the election process itself. Actually the idea of having elections is something that was requested by the largest opposition party. The ruling coalition’s position was to have elections regularly, i.e. in 2018. Nonetheless, three factors were accentuated, the electoral roll, conditions in the media and securing mechanisms in order to separate the political party influence, state influence and to ensure citizens that they can voteindependently”, says the head of Macedonian diplomacy in his interview with AA.

We’re building a climate of trust and confidence with neighbouring countries and countries from the region

“It’s highly important for us to work harder and harder in our region on creating a climate of trust and confidence, both within bilateral relations as well as within the regional initiatives for the integration of the Balkans”, says Poposki, speaking of relations with neighbouring countries and countries from the region. The head of Macedonian diplomacy separates these relations into three levels, and in his opinion, the best relations are those with countries not sharing a common border.

“I would separate relations into three levels. First, the best relations exist between countries without a shared border; this as a rule is true for South East Europe, so from Macedonia’s aspect it is much easier to manage our relations with Slovenia, Croatia and BiH, unlike relations with those countries we share a real border with. The second category includes countries we do share a border with, and yet this countries are not part of the EU. Albania, Kosovo and Serbia are countries we easily work with within bilateral relations”, says Poposki. The most complex relations exist with countries that share their border with us, but where one country is an EU member-state and the other is not, addsPoposki.

“In our case the greatest portion of our efforts and energy should be directed towards Greece and Bulgaria as EU member states whose support is crucial for our goal of becoming a part of that family and in conditionswhere such relations have always been dependent, at least in the Balkans, on fulfilling certain expectations imposed by the other side. We know what we’re faced with in terms of the name dispute which is our main obstacle for European integration, but we believe that the general improvement of mutual relations in the region and our efforts to ease the relations and reduce tensions in this type of problematic issues such as the name dispute where we feel an extremely high level of unfair contradiction. In time they must achieve the image of more relaxed relations. The business community, tourism andrelations between people are the ones that should overcome all those political fears that exist in our region.

EU-Turkey agreement in relation to refugees is the best possible agreement at this moment

“The EU-Turkey agreement may not be ideal in several aspects, and there are certain challenges both sides need to face. This agreement is the best possible one we could reach at this moment. I believe the agreement shouldn’t be dismissed so easily, andbothparties should instead invest their best efforts to implement it. Regardless of how hard that may seem at the moment, especially considering the fact that some of the aspects for its implementation are seriously overdue”, says Poposki, commenting on the EU-Turkey agreement for solving the refugee crisis.

“For example, only several hundred refugees or migrants were subject to this readmission agreement that has been implemented thus far, a few of them have been relocated from admission countries above all from Greece to other EU member states, and there is a long line of other problems, but I believe this is the best agreement for both Turkey and the EU and all other countries the refugees are transiting through, including the Republic of Macedonia”, adds Poposki, explaining his stance.

“No country can solve this on their own, and this is true for Turkey, and Greece and Germany and all the countries that are considered as a final destination and that is precisely why we need this agreement. Macedonia is better prepared now than it was back in 2015 for facing the large wave of migrants. I don’t believe Macedonia is in the position to overcome this challenge on its own, but I do think the level of communication has improved both between Turkey and Greece and between Greece and Macedonia and probably between other countries found up north on this route”, says Poposki and added that daily communication has now been established with Greek authorities in order to avoid the scenarios of last summer, when thousands of migrants wanted to cross from one border to the other.

“This cooperation should be redirected towards relocating all those people in tents and transferring them to the reception centers for which the EU has transferred funds so they can receive humane and secure treatment”, believes Minister Poposki.

Turkey: One of the key partners of the Republic of Macedonia

Turkey is one of the key partners of the Republic of Macedonia in both regional and global aspects, says Poposki talking about relations between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Turkey.

“Furthermore, another important factor is that Turkey as a NATO member state is one of the stronger supporters of NATO across the Balkan area and for the membership of Macedonia in NATO. The security aspect is not relevant here, and this is true because I don’t believe that large security threats exist inthe context of the Balkans, but it is a great symbol of stability, for easing certain tensions that have existed in the past. I think that Turkey plays a role here as a great supporter for Macedonia and other Balkan countries’ membership in the NATO Alliance. We have excellent relations in the field of tourism, economy and investments. All of this is reflected in the high level of communication and meetings we’ve held at the highest level. I would say this is part of a standard that has been set by Macedonian-Turkish relations over these past decades and it can only be upgraded in the future”, underlined Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki in his interview for AA.