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IA-Forum Interview (II): His Excellency Kiro Gligorov, frmr President of the Republic of Macedonia

His Excellency Kiro Gligorov, the former President of the Republic of Macedonia, Part II. 12/20/2004. By Violeta Dzoleva and Jasen Zubcevik Special thanks to Dr. Julie Mertus who contributed to this interview.

President Gligorov led the newly independent state for two presidential terms (1991 – 1999) during the brutal conflicts in the Balkans and the NATO intervention in Kosovo. Before becoming the President of Macedonia, Mr. Gligorov was one of the main political figures in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He served as the Assistant General Secretary in the Government, the Vice President of the Federal Executive Council, and the President of the Parliament. President Gligorov survived an assassination attempt in 1995.

International Affairs Forum: Mr. President, in 1995 you survived an assassination attempt. The initial investigation failed to bring the perpetrators to justice. Do you have any new information about who may be responsible for this terrorist act?

President Gligorov: There is still no real progress in the investigation, only speculations in the press. Before the assassination attempt, I was insisting on less guard protection. I often traveled with minimal security. It was my fault, in a way. I should have been better protected. When the interior minister gave a speech about the progress of the investigation, he had no facts to present. He said that one multinational organization operating from a neighboring country might have been involved. Another speculation was that the Serbian ultranationalist Zeljko Raznjatovic (Arkan) was involved. Our Interior Ministry was presenting only speculations, but speculations are not facts. The interior minister should have resigned at that time. You can not prosecute anybody based on speculations. Ten years have passed since the assassination attempt and there is still no progress.

IA-Forum: Did the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) or other foreign intelligence agencies help with the investigation?

President Gligorov: During one of my meeting with the (former) CIA Director George Tenet, I decided to ask him if the CIA has any new information regarding the assassination. He told me that he had no information but said: "I will call you and let you know about any new information we may have". He never called me. He resigned recently over Iraq. The European intelligence agencies were also not helpful.

IA-Forum: Mr. President, right after the re-election of President George W. Bush, the U.S. decided to recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name. In your opinion, what were the reasons for this decision?

President Gligorov: The U.S. decided to recognize us under the constitutional name primarily for two reasons. First, we are one of the countries in the "coalition of the willing". Second, we complied with the U.S. request to sign a bilateral agreement that exempts them from the International Criminal Court. Nowadays, our politicians follow and comply with almost everything the Americans request. I don’t think this is good, despite the fact that we are a small country.

IA-Forum: The U.S. decision to recognize Macedonia under its constitutional name brought a sharp complaint from the Greek government. The Greek Government viewed the U.S. move as a "stab in the back". What is your position on this?

President Gligorov: As a response to the Greek complaint, President Bush told Greece that the US will accept the final outcome of the U.N.-led talks on the name dispute. The U.N. led negotiations between Macedonia and Greece however, can last forever. Meanwhile, for the U.S., we will be "The Republic of Macedonia". This is how it should be.

IA-Forum: How do you view the current political situation in Macedonia?

President Gligorov: The current political situation in Macedonia is better than before. Good multiethnic relations are very important for our internal stability. The Ohrid agreement contributed to this. Our constitution now guarantees more minority rights than the constitutions of many other democratic countries. Our government is strongly committed to the implementation of the Ohrid agreement. Despite the Ohrid agreement and the constitutional changes in favor of minority rights, many ethnic Albanians still show no loyalty to Macedonia. This creates obstacles for the complete implementation of the Ohrid agreement. If you constantly hope for separation, no matter how many rights you get, these rights will never be enough for you.

The bad economic conditions have a negative impact on the political situation as well. The high unemployment rate and poverty contribute to social tensions. I believe that the reforms in the country will create conditions for more foreign investment. Our aspirations to become a member of the EU and NATO will speed up the reform process in the country.

IA-Forum: Do you have anything to add for our readers?

President Gligorov: I am a big optimist. I have lived my life as an optimist and always acted like one. I still remember the words of my grandfather: “listen son, don’t let anyone lie to you. We are not Bulgarians, Serbs or Greeks; we are a Macedonian nation with more history than any one of them.”

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