Athens, October 29, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Alexia Tasouli
Darko Angelov is the head of the FYROM liaison office in Athens. He gave an exclusive interview in the Independent Balkan News Agency, about the confidence-building measures, the negotiations of the name issue and of the SYRIZA government.
Do you think that the confidence-building measures can contribute significantly in resolving the name dispute?
The confidence building measures are not related per-se to the name issue difference, however, as the ultimate byproduct of having intensified meetings and cooperation, we hope that the necessary interpersonal relationships, trust if you want, between officials of the two countries will be established, which may create a favourable climate towards overcoming the name difference. With these measures, we are actually trying to compensate for many lost years that we should have spent on building the legal and practical foundations for our bilateral cooperation in all areas of importance to our citizens and businesses, irrespective of the name issue, which should have been dealt separately without affecting these most basic of aspects of the relationship between two neighboring countries. My government strongly supports such an approach and actually this was our standpoint and proposals from the very first years of our independence in 1991. May I remind that one of the main purposes of the Interim Accord signed in 1995, which remains a cornerstone of our bilateral relations, was to provide a legal framework for normalizing mutual relations and cooperation irrespective of the existing difference over the name. It is little known in Greece that our two countries don’t have a single bilateral treaty signed and in effect that would have eased our economic cooperation. The same goes for other areas as well, such as security and defense, culture, education, etc.
Will the negotiations enter a new phase after the early elections that will take place in April?
Irrespective of having elections in the Republic of Macedonia or in Greece, now or later, my government is always ready to be engaged in the name issue discussions, be it within the UN format talks or in direct meetings with senior Greek officials. On the latter, it’s never too much to emphasize that we hope to have our two prime ministers meet as soon as possible, as well as to have a first ever meeting of the two presidents, which in the history of our twenty years long diplomatic relations have never met, despite our continued initiatives. The necessity for such meetings is not only driven by our bilateral difference, but also by the current challenges overwhelming both of our countries, namely the refugee/migrant crisis that necessitates we have a much better coordinated cooperation in security and border-management.
How do you estimate the co-operation with the Syriza government and with Alexis Tsipras?
When it comes to relations with the Greek Foreign Ministry, the intensity of interaction and cooperation is improving and getting stronger by the day. We hope that now this will also be passed onto other ministries and government agencies, as well as the president of the republic and the parliament. What would also be helpful is a clear message to all stakeholders in Greek society that it is normal and desirable to cooperate with your northern neighbor.
The minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias has discussed with all the political parties in FYROM. What is the impact these talks have in the negotiations?
As is the case with most official visits of senior foreign officials, during his visit to the Republic of Macedonia in June, Minister Kotzias met representatives of all major political parties, in addition to being received by the state leadership. To this I will just add that the wider and more frequent our interactions are, the better it will be for the overall relationship and in that sense we’d achieve an improved context to deal with the name issue difference.