In an interview for IBNA, former ambassador of FYROM in the NATO talks about the process of finding a solution on the name dispute, the country’s European Atlantic integration and the political course of the current government. He says that there’s optimism in Skopje and Athens, but also between prime ministers Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras with the aim of finding compromise. Ruzin, who is currently university professor and a leading diplomat, also talks about the weekend’s protests in Skopje and Thessaloniki.
Interviewed by Naser Pajaziti
We’re in a key phase as far as the solution of the name dispute is concerned. Do you think that it will soon be solved?
I hope and expect a happy ending in the talks being held on the name issue. The most important reason for this is that this is the first time that the sides are so relaxed and so willing to find compromise. This compromise decides the European Atlantic future of the country. I also need to stress that Brussels and Washington are also interested on finding a solution. If the solution is delayed, then there will be consequences. I think that we may see a solution until the end of next month.
There have been reactions against finding compromise through the recent protests in Thessaloniki and Skopje. Do you think that they will intensify?
It’s well known that compromise always leads to discontent. The protests that were held in Skopje and Thessaloniki were addressed against the respective governments. In Skopje, people protested against compromise, but there were also elements protesting against the law on languages, the agreement for good neighboring relations with Bulgaria, for the release of the opposition activists who were arrested for the violent events of April 27, 2017 in Parliament. So, it was a revolt against the policies of the current government.
On the other hand, in Thessaloniki, many political parties and social categories protested against a compromise on the issue of the name. There were many people who were fed up of Tsipras policies, because there were also structures of extreme right. What’s important is that governments of both countries are engaged for compromise, putting at risk even their power. This has been clearly signal by Tsipras and Zaev.
Depending on the process for the solution of the name issue, are you expecting the country to become NATO member in the July summit and a clearer EU perspective?
During his visit to Skopje, Stoltenberg was very clear. The European Union has also been clear that the name issue is the biggest obstacle in the path of integration. There are no obstacles in the aspect of reforms or problems with democracy, lack of freedom and freedom of press, which, during the previous government, they were serious. Therefore, the sooner a solution is found, the sooner there will be an invitation from NATO. This is an important event for our country, but also for NATO, especially in terms of regional stability and development. The next station after this will be EU accession.
Is the government heading on the right direction as far as the reforms and the improvement of living standards are concerned?
Big reforms are always difficult to be made, because the government loses support. This is always the case in a poor society. This government is doing everything it can to undertake big reforms, facing with big institutional and political obstacles and also a high degree of nationalism. The best example for this is president George Ivanov’s nationalism. He decided not to decree the law on languages due to his pro Russian mentality. The reforms have started, but they are slow. But, we should be patient, because there will also be progress in this aspect.
There are rumors saying that the country will head to early elections if there is no solution on the issues mentioned above.
It’s hard to have fresh elections this year. Besides the cost, the elections will also block the reforms and the reformatory course of this government. Those who care about the country, are not interested on such scenarios. Big issues should be addressed first. The government and PM Zaev, as one of the most popular prime ministers the country has ever seen for relaxing relations with neighboring countries and injecting a climate of trust between ethnicities, are doing everything they can. The country needs a new economic era to move in the right direction. /balkaneu.com/