International Affairs Forum: The Republic of Macedonia did not become a member of NATO at the summit in Bucharest. Members of NATO believe the obstacle, a dispute about Macedonia’s name with Greece, should be solved by the two countries. Is there a solution to the name dispute with Greece?
President Branko Crvenkovski: Yes, there is a solution to the dispute. However, the compromise that Macedonia would have to make is incomparably more difficult than the one that Greece would have to make. The solution has to unconditionally protect our ethnic, lingual and cultural identity. On the contrary, the compromise would have a very high price for the Macedonian people and we would have to suffer the consequences.
IA-Forum: The administration of President Bush believes that the Republic of Macedonia should get an invitation and become a member of NATO. Do you expect the new U.S. administration to follow this policy?
President Crvenkovski: It is a fact that during the last few years, the U.S. focus has shifted from the Balkans to other regions of the world, and many believe that this shift will not change in the near future. But countries with global power and influence do not change their foreign policy and basic principles overnight; therefore, I do not expect that the new U.S. administration will significantly change its policy in the region.
IA-Forum: One quarter of the population of Macedonia is ethnic Albanian. Are they stronger supporters of Macedonian NATO membership (especially after the acceptance of the Republic of Albania in the Alliance) and, if yes, how may this influence the name compromise with Greece?
President Crvenkovski: I would like to point out one thing that we don’t debate publicly very often. While the negotiations over the name issue with Greece last, the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia are acting correctly and constructively, understanding that this dispute is about the struggle that the Macedonian nation leads for its wider, international legitimacy.
Concerning the public support for the integration in NATO, it has been higher than 85%, which means that the huge majority of ethnic Macedonians support this strategic goal. Therefore, the entrance into the NATO Alliance is an objective with uncontroversial and integrative potential for the country as a whole.
IA-Forum: How close or far is Macedonia to joining the European Union?
President Crvenkovski: From a statutory aspect, we are an EU candidate, and this by definition means that we are a few years behind our NATO candidacy status, whereas we fulfilled all membership criteria. The things that concern me the most at the moment are the three negative reports from the European Commission, which show that the political and institutional reforms in the Republic of Macedonia since 2006 are not satisfactory.
The name dispute with Greece is not officially formulated as an obstacle for Macedonia joining the EU. Therefore, the delay of our Euro integration is caused by domestic reasons. There is no doubt that Greece could try to take advantage of its position as an EU member and pose some conditions on us, but till then, we need to fulfill all of the EU criteria, which is not to be underestimated.
IA-Forum: How do you see the role of the Macedonian Diaspora? Have you coordinated activities with organizations from the Macedonian Diaspora, including the Macedonian Patriotic Organization, the United Macedonian Diaspora, Macedonia 2025 and the Macedonian American Friendship Association?
President Crvenkovski: I am pleased by the fact that in the past few years, the Macedonian Diaspora worldwide, especially in the U.S. and Canada, started to act in a more organized and effective way. It is outstanding that the younger generations of Macedonians are overcoming factional disagreements which caused so much harm in the past.
In the last few years, the number of Macedonians that have established themselves as successful and important people in the Diaspora has increased. They are the force that we should rely on when promoting Macedonia internationally. Regarding the investments of Macedonian businessmen in the Republic of Macedonia, my stand has always been that patriotism and business should not go along. When a country takes measures to make itself more attractive to foreign investors, it does that for all businessmen. Macedonian businessmen from the Diaspora should strictly follow their business logic according to which they would invest anywhere in the world. They should not invest their money only due to their Macedonian ancestry. Regarding contacts with Diaspora organizations, I’ve had meetings with them during my visits to the U.S. and Canada, and I also take every chance to exchange views with them during their visits to Macedonia.
IA-Forum: Is there a possibility of a partition of Kosovo along ethnic lines, which, according to the Macedonian political elites, is an unfavorable outcome?
President Crvenkovski: Since the declaration of Kosovo’s independence, it was clear that the formal determination of its new status will not be the hardest part of the job, but the stabilization of the situation and institutional capacity building. The so called “soft” separation in the north of Kosovo has been a reality for years, thus, the six point plan of the Secretary General of the U.N. only underlined this reality.
In the long run, for the Republic of Macedonia, any normative or factual separation of Kosovo along ethnic lines is unfavorable, because this could lead to frustrations and encourage radical elements to make attempts to annex territories from neighboring countries including Macedonia. In this contest, the Republic of Macedonia should engage on two levels: first, manage the stability of ethnic relations in the country and second, explain the regional context to the key players in the international community to keep a closer look on the region.
IA-Forum: What are your views about the direction that southeast Europe will take in near future on organizational, political and integrative level, especially while taking into consideration the political conditions in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Macedonia?
President Crvenkovski: Regardless of some unfavorable tendencies in parts of the region, such as Kosovo and on a smaller level in Bosnia and Herzegovina; I believe that this region has put major conflicts behind it. All of the countries in the region have democratically elected governments and all of them work on the process of becoming part of the Euro – Atlantic community. After a whole decade of bloody wars and conflicts, it was not possible to expect a total pacification and political stabilization of the Balkans in a short period of time.
The international community should continue its engagement in monitoring regional progress. I cannot exclude the possibility that some problems will transform into so called “frozen” conflicts (such as the ones on the northern part of Kosovo), but according to my beliefs, the process of democratization of the region is definitely moving in a positive direction.
Mr. Branko Crvenkovski is currently President of the Republic of Macedonia. He has also served as President of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia, and Member of the Macedonian Assembly.
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