Interviews and Speeches

Poposki at informal meeting on Western Balkans in Rome

By Cristiana Missori

24 May, 19:39

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(ANSA) - ROME – “No one can say whether Macedonia is really clear of the political crisis.” Although we have PM-designate, Zoran Zaev, the leader of the Social Democrats, “the public opinion remains highly critical and there is great lack of trust”. Changes in the parliamentary majority do not mean that the “worst is over”. What is certain is that “the stability of Macedonia depends on the stability of its neighbours”. At ANSA’s invitation we have the Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki who is staying in Rome to participate with his counterparts from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia in the informal meeting with Minister Alfano at Villa Madama prior to the Western Balkans summit to be held on 12 July in Trieste.

Five months without a government, constant protests which have brought around 200.000 people out onto the streets and culminated on 27 April with several protesters storming the Parliament and stirring up fear that the Balkan clock could be turned back. “Politically and geographically speaking”, says Poposki, “Macedonia is in the center of the Balkans. Thе interdependence among the countries is also existent in the sphere of security. Whatever happens in our country, might affect them as well”.

The only way to protect ourselves from this insecurity is to “become an EU member”.

He underlines that the country “needs a clear signal from Brussels”. And tomorrow, the EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini will meet heads of governments of Western Balkan countries. Skopje, asserts Poposki, is ready for the big leap. “The reform process started long ago, back in 2001 with the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement. In 2005 we were granted “candidate status” but since 2009 “the EU accession process was blocked with Greece’s veto because of the name of our country.”

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Today, he says, relations between Skopje and Athens are greatly improved. It seems clear that border changes are being discussed, along with “Great Albania” and other issues that lead to nowhere”, warns Poposki. “Although some politicians have been toying with this idea, I believe that nothing good can come from border changes for the people of the Western Balkans”. The only improvement to “our standard of living can be achieved through becoming part of Europe”. Today President Ivanov is in Russia where he will meet with Putin. “Although we have good relations with Moscow, our focus remains on the EU. It is precisely with EU countries and our neighbours that we have the greatest economic exchange.”

A clear perspective is needed, says Poposki, for the Balkans and its future towards the EU. Here the capitals of the Berlin Process (Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia etc.) can give a strong impetus. Relations with Italy are excellent. “Rome is our sixth largest trading partner but there is still low presence of Italian companies”. The sectors open for investments are food, energy, environment, electronics and pharmaceuticals. (ANSA).