Interviews and Speeches

Interviewed by Marija Jovicevic

PODGORICA – In the Balkan region there have been, there still are and there will be radical structures. 



The supporters of these ideas have always been playing with the emotions and some projects that foresee changes in the borders. But we need to be real. Today, the citizens are more interested in the economic standard, and this will not be changed by changing the borders, but by improving the infrastructure and investments. There will be no changes to the borders of the Balkan, but we need to build roads and to enhance the economy. This is our priority – says MFA Nikola Poposki in the interview for the newspaper “Pobjeda”. He underlines that the political relations between Montenegro and Macedonia are excellent, and that we need to work on the economic relations, mostly by constructing roads and by connecting Skopje and Podgorica. He is convinced that in ten years the region will be economically united and that then the European Union will be much better than today.

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POBJEDA: Are you optimistic that Montenegro and Macedonia will participate as NATO member-states at the Summit in Warsaw?
MFA Poposki: The experience taught us that we can not foresee because there is always someone who can obstruct these projections. I can assess that Montenegro has few more objectives to fulfil and in reality, it should become a member-state by the end of 2015. Macedonia does not have criteria to fulfil and should agree with Greece on the naming of the country in order to receive an invitation for NATO. The situation with us is very much unpredictable. As you can see, Macedonia is blocked on its way towards NATO with an illegal blockage, so it is very hard for us, being stopped by Greece on our way to the Alliance, to say what will happen on the following NATO Summit. Our example shows that any country can block another country on the road to NATO and that the respect of the international law and the obligations very often depend on the manner in which they are being interpreted. We are very realistic when it comes to this. This situation taught us that it is important to devote our energy to the issues that depend on us, not related to NATO, because we fulfilled the reforms in 2008. Macedonia is not strong enough to influence NATO’s decisions.

POBJEDA: How do you assess the co-operation in the region? Do you believe that the economic co-operation is satisfactory?
MFA Poposki: If one compares the region as it is now and as it was fifteen years ago, the progress is enormous and this is a fact. The problem is that our starting position was very bad and the co-operation could have just improved. I believe that we went through the phase where we have co-operation only for the sake of co-operation, and now we are in a phase when the interests lead to progress. The advantage is that all the countries in the region are small and it is important for each country to have a rich and prosperous surrounding. This is something that connects us and this is the topic that I discussed mostly with the Montenegrin officials.

POBJEDA: How do you see the relations between Montenegro and Macedonia?
MFA Poposki: We have an excellent political co-operation, and what worries us is that the economic co-operation is on a very low level and we should devote more energy to it. I believe that we have a much bigger potential than what we are showing in this moment, and that is why we agreed to have Joint Commission that will connect the business elite of the two countries. We have certain co-operation in tourism, a very good cultural co-operation, but there are many areas that should be improved. The biggest problem is that we do not have a good infrastructural connection. Skopje and Podgorica are on five hour ride, and yet, there are only 200 in aerial distance. Due to the bad infrastructure our cities are the two most distanced cities in Europe.
Our two countries have also intensive co-operation on the road to EU and can learn one from another. We have been a candidate country for the past ten years, and Montenegro is already in the negotiation process. This can be a very valuable experience for us.

POBJEDA: How do you explain the fact that the political relations of the region are better than the economic ones, and all countries are very close one to another?
MFA Poposki: This is the true example. Macedonia has best economic relations with Greece, and yet, they have the most complicated political relations. This is an example for two well connected countries and this is a precondition for an economic connection. On the other hand, we have countries with which we have excellent political relations, and no infrastructure or roads. One of these countries is Montenegro.

POBJEDA: Are the Macedonian investors interested in investing in Montenegro?
MFA Poposki: As I already said, the infrastructure is a problem. Two corridors are important, one of them via Kosovo, and the other via Albania, and then we should talk about them on trilateral level. This is the base for improvement of the economic co-operation between the two countries. If we commit to it and include Europe, the progress is inevitable. Another problem is that each of our countries separately is a very small market. We need to unite in order to be visible, and that is why we need the regional co-operation. This is the main objective, to appear jointly in order to win bigger markets. If we do not connect and we do not build roads, there will be no progress.

POBJEDA: How much do the new security threats, the situation in Ukraine and the strengthening of the Islamic State can deteriorate the stability on the Balkan? Is the Balkan stable enough to remain such in future?
MFA Poposki: The positive thing for us is that we are no longer the main problem of the international community, meaning that we are not being paid so much attention and that there are bigger problems than us. However, these crises influence the Balkan. Europe today is concerned both economically and politically, and mostly regarding the security. The biggest problem is that each country in Europe has at least one hundred of its own citizens who fight in the conflicts that are like timed bombs. A big risk is the participation of our citizens in the wars of the Islamic State and when USA is so concerned about it and seeks for reinforcement of the regional co-operation in order to avoid these security threats, and then we must seriously commit ourselves to this issue. As a whole, the region made a great progress in the last 15 years, but is not immune to crisis.

POBJEDA: What is security threat in Macedonia?
MFA Poposki: All our neighbours are part of NATO, except Serbia because they did not express such wish, and Kosovo that is not a NATO member-state, but the NATO forces are present there. When we assess the security we can say that none of these countries plans invasion over Macedonia, and Macedonia does not plan invasion to any of these countries. I would say that the situation is relatively stable.

POBJEDA: Can this region, helped by the European integrations, reunite and achieve economic progress in the following ten years?
MFA Poposki: I believe that it is completely real and it will not depend on our will or what we do regarding this issue. It is inevitable, because the economic logic poses the terms for market increase and this will happen in the region. It is a fact that each of the countries in the region is a member-state of the European Union or will become a member-state. This is the key for progress.

POBJEDA: How will the European Union look like in ten years?
MFA Poposki: We will join the European Union for sure and that union will differ today’s. That is why we need to adjust our step towards the new EU and to prepare for the fact that we will not join EU as it is now, and that it will be very different. This means that should not strive towards what we are seeing now, but to follow the trends and to adjust the new state. I am convinced that the new EU will be better than this one.

POBJEDA: The region has always had nationalistic currents that cause changes in the borders. Do you believe that this can endanger the multiethnic stability in the region?
MFA Poposki: In the Balkan region there have been, there still are and there will be radical structures. The supporters of these ideas have always been playing with the emotions and some projects that foresee changes in the borders. But we need to be real. Today, the citizens are more interested in the economic standard, and this will not be changed by changing the borders, but by improving the infrastructure and investments. There will be no changes to the borders of the Balkan, but we need to build roads and to enhance the economy. This is our priority.

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We Have No Illusion Regarding NATO and EU

POBJEDA: When can we expect solution to the naming dispute of Macedonia?
MFA Poposki: This problem is ongoing for 20 years, and now we are in a situation of different interests. This is a priority question for Macedonia because it is the only obstacle for NATO invitation, but now, Greece has other priorities, such as the economic and political reforms. The naming dispute is not important to the Greeks, and that is why there is no progress. It is a fact that this problem will be resolved someday, but Macedonia cannot just sit and wait. We must continue the reforms and investments. Macedonia does not have any illusions when it comes to the European Union or NATO. We are a country that is blocked from another one on its way towards development and in this moment, we do not see that the European Union has the will to engage all powers and to change this situation. Without their interest, it is hard that the one who are blocking us will change their approach.
We understand that we are a small country and that we cannot influence certain world events and we accepted the situation. However, we committed our energy to those things that depend on us, such as the domestic reforms. We have been doing this, in relation to EU, for the past 10 years, since we became a candidate country.
Macedonia finds the entrance into NATO a very important issue, not only for security reasons, but also for investments, because a NATO member-state simply has better foreign economic reputation. Until now we had 15 MAPs, we are in the group of first five contributors to the ISAF Mission in Afghanistan and if anyone has proved to be a serious partner to the Alliance, then that is Macedonia. No matter all our efforts, this is not sufficient. The Greek blockade is stronger. There is one thing that is more important in the integrations. If one has political support from the member-states of EU, then the things are much easier. However, if you lack the support, then you can face serious problems, such as the ones Macedonia is facing right now.