IBNA Interview/Deputy PM for European Integration: The new government wants to solve pending issues with neighbors

IBNA Interview/Deputy PM for European Integration: The new government wants to solve pending issues with neighbors

Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration in Skopje, Bujar Osmani says in an exclusive interview for IBNA that the new government has the will to solve pending issues with the neighbors and to implement reforms which would give way to the integration of the country in Euro-Atlantic structures. According to him, these objectives are delivered through an inclusive and transparent process. He also talks about the name dispute with Greece and the so called “3-6-9” government plan of reforms.

Interviewed by Naser Pajaziti

The new government in Skopje has come up with the so called “3-6-9” plan of reforms which aims at unblocking the process of Euro-Atlantic integration. Does this agenda differ from the agendas of previous governments which aim at helping the country in its integration path?

The government’s plan has two aspects. The first aspect relates to the homework that we must do to prepare the country for EU integration and the second aspect relates to the agreement with Bulgaria, the law on the Albanian language and the agreement for the solution of the name contest with Greece. “3-6-9” plan has been coded according to the monthly deadlines that we need to deliver to prepare the country for EU integration. What is the difference between previous governments and this one? The difference is that we accept all the recommendations issued by the European Commission, OSCE and other international institutions. The difference is that previous governments have never had the will to implement good laws. We have the will to implement all aspects. We want the process to be inclusive and transparent. This means that in this process, we’re collaborating with NGO’s opposition and other institutions. Let us find consensus for the sake of the EU integration. We have the example of Croatia, where there has been consensus between all sides. This means that we want consensus between all ethnic groups, between majority and opposition and all other sides. This is the idea and this is the only way we can give way to this process.

What are the key points of this plan which must be delivered in time and for which no time should be wasted?

Osmani: As part of the plan in question, the local government elections are the first government test. The plan includes reforms in all domains. In the first three months, we have planned major changes in the domain of elections, Parliament, judiciary, Ohrid Agreement, intelligent services, media, etc. We want to be transparent in this process. In the first three months, we will pass the bill concerning the Albanian language. As far as the election reform is concerned, we will consolidate the central election commission and update the voters list. As far parliament is concerned, it will once again have its role of overseeing the government. As far as the judiciary is concerned, we will restore the role of the judicial council in the election and disciplinary measures against judges.

There’s also the name dispute. In spite of the positive signals that Athens and Skopje have issued, do you think that this is the right moment to put an end to this contest?

There are positive signals. The UN negotiator, Mathew Nimetz stayed several days here after the formation of the government. Then there were the meetings in Athens and the Greek Foreign minister, Kotzias, will arrive in Skopje. We must solve pending issues with the neighbors, in order to have more energy to focus on the name dispute. There must be political courage. Governments are elected not to act upon emotions, but to have priorities in solving problems. Politicians must not think about the next elections, but the next generations. This contest must be solved in order to unblock the process. Albanians are involved in this process.

Can you give us some details on any possible proposal that is on the table?

In the recent meetings, the talks were not focused on concrete proposals, but on the creation of the necessary conditions to find a solution. Albanian government officials have been the ones to preserve communication between Skopje and Athens and not allow for the gaps between the two countries to become even wider. There must be more faith and fewer prejudices to create the necessary conditions.

The neighboring agreement with Bulgaria is one of your priorities. Will this agreement finalize any contest with this neighboring country, given the reactions of VMRO-DPMNE?

I am optimistic that this agreement will be signed on 2 August. It will be an important symbol that this government is committed to solving problems. The differences have consisted on the joint history of the Balkan nations. We think that history is connected and here we have Albanians and Macedonians, where they share history together. And the same thing also applies to Macedonians and Bulgarians and this is an opportunity to bring the two nations closer. We must not see obstacles in this aspect and this issue must be finalized.

Lastly, we also have a regional incentive for a joint economic market. To what extent can this be achieved?

This is an incentive was suggested by the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn and it is part of the Berlin process for the creation of a zone of economic cooperation. It is true that the countries of Western Balkans are too small to face market challenges and political challenges, but if they collaborate on a regional level, it may be easier to create the necessary conditions to come closer to the EU. The idea is to facilitate exchanges of goods, people, digital connections and infrastructural connections, because they may be an added value in preparing the accession of Balkans in the EU.

Being a representative of BDI in the government, has the government planned on addressing issues that concern Albanians as the second largest community in the country? Do you think that issues that have been pending for many years have reflected fragility in cross-ethnic relations?

As far as ethnic issues are concerned, the first one relates to the Albanian language. It is a priority and there’s a political agreement to finalize this issue. This is a contest that exists since the day the Ohrid Agreement. We have finalized this issue and we’re hoping to approve it soon. The second priority is the consensual decision making in all levels of the state. This has to do with equal economic development. These are the main pillars.