IBNA/Exclusive Interview- Poposki: Border changes in the Balkans are not the way forward

IBNA/Exclusive Interview- Poposki: Border changes in the Balkans are not the way forward

In the third and final interview (click here for all interviews) taken on the margins of the 127th European Council of Foreign Ministers’ Meetings former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Foreign Minster, Nikola Poposki, spoke to IBNA about instability in the Balkans, elections in former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Greece – former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia “name issue”

This is what he told us

What is the political situation now in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia after the instability in your country? What do you think you should do after the new government and about the relationship with Greece?

Well, first of all I think that in the internal political dimension things will be going towards the local elections and this is the time we will all be able to check what the public opinion is thinking about different views and different strategies of opponents. The perception of VMRO DPMNE is that we are on the side of protecting democratic principles and not changing them regardless of the situation. The major test will be at the moment when we have the local elections, which should happen as soon as possible.

Regarding the relations with Greece, I think that we have managed in the past period to considerably improve the bilateral relations, by sending positive messages from both countries. We are still far away on one single issue, the name issue. I think on that one, the voices are pretty constant on both sides of the border, about how we feel for one thing or another.

Has the MoU helped to have a good relationship between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia?

I think that both views are converging from the perspective of the confidence building measures. I don’t think there is much of a difference between how things are seen in Greece and in Macedonia regarding the MoU. I think that both countries agree that in essence it is something good for the citizens, good for the economy, good for stakeholders in the countries, but it is not something that will automatically resolve the difference that we have. However, if we look backwards it is much better to have that kind of relationship than being on the different sides of the story on every single issues that one might raise.

You mentioned that the local election will show what the public opinion is. That means that you don’t accept the win of the socialist party in the election?

No, not at all, as they have not won the elections, but stand to form a Government. I think that we were very clear about it. VMRO DPMNE has won the largest popular support from contending parties. Social democrats are forming a governing coalition in the Parliament.

But after one or two months how can the opinion of the people change?

I think that quite a lot of things have happened in the meantime. Regarding the elections in December everybody has accepted the result and no one has any doubt about it. We admit that the Parliament is the one that should make the decisions on further steps. Including the step on when we can, or whether we can have anticipated parliamentary elections.

What I said regarding the local elections is that many things have happened since the elections in December. We had an extremely polarized political atmosphere. From VMRO-DPMNE’s perspective there was a serious concern about the fact that new elements have been introduced that were not presented to the citizens during the electoral cycle. Decisions as they have been made in the Parliament have definitely affected public opinion afterwards. I am not pre-judging what will happen. But I simply say that local elections will be the next stop where we will be able to measure the effects of one or the other side’s decisions on the public opinion. Without pre-judging what that outcome will be. VMRO-DPMNE’s view on this is that the best way to do, would be to perhaps merge local and parliamentary elections in the same shot and that a chance is given to the citizens to say what they think about the platforms and programs of the parties. But realistically this is a decision that can only be made by the majority in the Parliament.

Do you think that the issue of the name, Macedonia, has pushed the people towards nationalism?

First of all I cannot imagine a scenario in which someone will be neutral to that kind of an issue that is extremely important for any nation. I cannot think of other examples of countries asked to change their name and other parameters that are defining their identity, the way it was done to us. It simply goes against all legal and democratic principles. Now, the way to overcome it, in my view, is only by respecting some of the basic principles that we all agreed on, at the international level. It certainly means that we should be careful about the Greek feelings on the issue, but it is definitely primordial to respect these basic principles also in the case of Macedonia. Our national feelings have been violated by requesting things that have not been asked to any other nation. It is normal that such a situation has a huge impact on all of us. It is unavoidable.

Are you afraid about the imperialism of Albania, the Great Albania?

I don’t think that this is the way forward because I am convinced that border changes in the Balkans, through past attempts, have only brought us bad things, innocent victims and terrible consequences. I think the only way forward will be that countries within the existing borders all join the EU and tensions are diffused by focusing on real matters: jobs and economic development. I am convinced about it.

Would you like to send a message to the Greek citizens?

I think that one thing should be certain, that they should in no way feel a threat from us because I think that most of our long-term objectives are converging. On the other hand the burden that was created in the past, making let’s say the difference over the name a defining point of our bilateral relations, should evolve. Because Greece is part of NATO, part of the EU, no threats can happen against its territorial integrity or the sovereignty of Greece, but I think it will be in a greek interest too, to respect the same principles towards the neighbor. Our right to decide on our country and our identity cannot and should not be denied if we agree that we want to live in democratic societies. At the end of the story, if or when we both belong to NATO and the EU none of this would be relevant because then the future will be able to be determined by citizens in both countries in an independent manner. I think that is the best way to deal with it./ΙΒΝΑ