Interviews and Speeches

-It is, indeed, a good opportunity. Moreover, I believe it would be useful for Athens to take greater care of its neighbor's EU accession. This has been a challenge over the last years. Macedonia's EU integration process is increasingly suffering due to Greece’s rhetoric, bad economy and the rising fascist influence. It is about time we turn these trends around. We stand ready to work on building confidence. More meetings and projects are needed for a change. Nothing more symbolic than the EU Presidency for all this to happen.

In your opinion, why is Greece refusing EU’s involvement in settling the name row?

-It seems that Athens’ privileged approach is whichever offers the least opportunities for progress in both, EU and the name dispute. This means no engagements and meetings on this topic - and if any, then it’s better if they are inconclusive. On the other hand, the behavior demonstrated by Athens lately hits the very foundations of the European project. This is difficult for democracy-inspired and rule of law-minded Europeans to digest.

Still, there is one side in this story that is fully motivated to find a solution. The one that has its NATO membership and EU talks obstructed for a while.

Finally, if the approach of the uninterested party does not change, who mediates is not a game-changing factor on its own.

Is this going to be another year of status quo in European integration, since, on one hand, presidential elections will be held in the country, but there will also be elections in the EU and a new European Commission?

-2014 may not be a lost year for Macedonia’s EU integration, as plenty of reform-driven processes are happening as we speak. The train is set on track and moves forward with increasing speed, while more substance is being loaded.

As to EU decision-making, elections can be perceived as a good excuse. In essence, if there is will for compromises, then they can be found now or after the voting takes place. Without motivation, there will always be a good excuse not to do anything.

German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, ahead of his visit to Athens, said he would raise the name issue before the Greek state leadership. Do you expect greater interest with Steinmeier, who has prior knowledge of this issue from his previous ministerial mandate?

-The German interest is very important in making a move. Even though Greece has a long term interest to allow Macedonia’s EU accession, on the short run it is more important not to deal with other issues apart from the fundamental ones. This includes bailout funds, reforms and risks of mismanagement. This is where the German focus currently is for objective reasons.

The European Commission Spokesman said that when the implementation of the March Agreement continues, the Commission will be ready to support the reform dialogue through the HLAD. Were you personally informed by Brussels that the implementation of the March Agreement is a prerequisite for the high-level dialogue?

-The political agreement from last March was crucial in restoring trust in open domestic dialogue. It worked, as we brought back the political competition only within the institutional channels. Now, efforts are focused on EU reforms again. We will continue the dialogue with the EC anyways. The form is not critical. However, HLAD cannot substitute accession talks. And the latter is needed for a membership.

Is there a high-level dialogue between Skopje and Brussels at the moment?

-Yes. We deliver commitments from the HLAD chapters on a daily basis. Whether we propose new administrative laws or we improve media-related EU legislation through the Parliament and dialogue with stakeholders, we fulfill the obligations of the HLAD. This is its added-value.

Following the last statement of the head of Bulgarian diplomacy, Kristian Vigenin, that there is progress in the negotiations on good neighborly relations, there is an impression in the public that Skopje and Sofia are about to sign an Agreement on Good Neighborly Relations but this issue is kept silent. Is this true?

-No, we have not agreed on anything related to an agreement. But, more importantly, we have a clear understanding about what needs to be done. Frequent dialogue and more projects, better understanding of each other’s sensitivities and positive attitude are indispensable. We work together on this and I believe both sides would benefit from it.

Do you expect that the coming European elections will negatively affect the enlargement policy, given that it is expected this to be a confirmation of the Euro-skeptical parties' popularity?

-Perhaps, slightly more than now. It became popular in the times of crisis to consider enlargement unpopular. Mainly because it is not easy to explain its benefits to the insiders. Also, because it is always suitable to have someone outside to blame. Whether it is Brussels, the immigrants, new members or financial institutions. There are political opportunists who, while surfing on a wave of popular sentiment, can end-up in the EP. As Europeans by conviction and Macedonians by nationality, we have to deal with it and we will do it.