Over-emphasis of weaknesses to have opposite effect, NATO and EU remain priorities, Gruevski tells MIA
Skopje, 17 October 2011 (MIA) - The new tactic by certain individuals or a section of the international community to exert pressure on Macedonia over the name issue by claiming we are not doing many reforms and by over-emphasizing weaknesses is wrong, will not yield results and provide an opposite effect. This issue is not settled by force and by putting the entire pressure on one side only. However, we remain on the same priorities of NATO and EU accession and the reform path, which represent our strategic interest. Even if reforms do not give the expected results pertaining to our NATO and EU approximation, they are good for the country and improvement of the citizens' lives, says Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in an interview with MIA.
Following is the first part of the interview, with the second one to be released on Tuesday.
Are you satisfied from the EC Progress Report for Macedonia?
Macedonia implemented numerous reforms and achieved great progress in the past year. We worked hard and with commitment. As a result, the country deservedly obtained a positive EU report, along with a confirmation of the recommendation for start of accession talks. We have received a positive report and a recommendation for three years now, which represents a great success for the citizens, institutions and all political parties. Another benefit is that noted remarks and weaknesses will produce ideas for new reforms and improvements, thus moving the country forward.
However, it seems that statements by Commissioner Stefan Fule were unusually harsh for the Government, something to which you also reacted with sharp rhetoric. Why has this happened?
It is owing to the new tactic by certain individuals or a section of the international community to exert pressure on Macedonia over the name issue. They believe that if the Government or I accept some of the Greek variants for the name settlement, then the name problem will be resolved, meaning our support will result in a successful referendum. This is a big mistake and by claiming we are not doing much reforms and over-emphasizing weaknesses, we are supposed to be put into an unpleasant situation.
We are to be devalued before the public, to which this Government, but also future ones, should respond by accepting a solution at any price. I was aware of this tactic; it is not important who thought of it, whether individuals in Brussels or beyond, but we are seeing its implementation. Although I personally believe this tactic will provide an opposite effect. After a year or two, when we see the fiasco of this tactic, the two countries will be farther from a solution than now. This issue is not settled by force and by putting the entire pressure on one side only, while the other is almost pressure-free.
Therefore, we should expect such over-emphasis of weaknesses from a number of sides in the future?
Yes, from many sides. International NGOs, associations, institutions, politicians, experts, certain media. The methods are well-known and no one will be surprised. The objective is clear - pressure for settlement of the name row at any price.
Are you saying that Macedonia has no shortcomings in the judiciary, public administration, freedom of media, corruption etc?
No, on the contrary, of course there are weaknesses and need for improvements and fresh reforms, whereas each suggestion in this direction is always welcome. We do not see through pink sunglasses. There are problems; there are old problems and practices. However, it is a fact that we are working hard to improve them and we will continue to do this.
In this case there is over-emphasizing of those weaknesses, which is done on purpose. This can be seen through the fact that during the meetings we have had with certain international representatives, 90 percent of the time is spent on debates over the name issue, while 10 on other topics, including the aforementioned reforms. And when they emerge at a press conference or when a press release is issued, the situation is quite different - it seems as if we have mentioned the name issue by chance, but we had talked about the public administration, the judiciary etc for 90 percent of the time.
Maybe this can serve as motivation for the Government to work harder?
The feeling of injustice cannot serve as a motivating factor with anyone. It can only create frustrations, which redirect energy. I will try to keep this energy on the right track, the one of reforms, but it will not be easy. Frustrations resulting from the feeling of injustice will surely produce certain effects that are hard to foresee. If I ask my associates to work together with me for 15 hours a day, and if this work produces results, while someone from the outside, who is supposed to give a real and fair assessment, tells you that you do not work and have no results, it hurts.
Still, you remain on the same priorities of joining EU and NATO and the path of reforms, or is there a change in this regard?
Yes. We remain on the same priorities to join EU and NATO, as well as the path of reforms, which are in the country's strategic interest. Even if reforms do not give the expected results pertaining to our NATO and E approximation, they are good for the country and improvement of the citizens' lives.
You say these developments will only cause frustration rather than motivation. If this is so, won't this have a discouraging effect?
Of course it will, but we will fight. We are working for the citizens, for those who gave us their trust and all others. This is the strength that holds us together, the thing that gives us motives to keep going. I am aware there is no justice in international politics, even less ideal justice, and we are not a bit naive or romantic in our expectations. But it is a fact that Macedonia has coped with injustice for the past 20 years
. This is a historic burden, but we are obliged to change this, to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and when we believe in true principles and values to stand firm say loud and clear 'we believe in this', and not to be silent and to wait timidly for someone to tell us what to do and how to act. Sometimes I have the feeling that certain centers of power, in whose values we believe, see our country as a child that was not planned, but came to be. Therefore, they do not feel completely obligated towards it as they should for a planned and wanted child. In time, when generations change, this will disappear. This was even more emphasized in the 1990s. These children are usually forced to fight on their own and life makes them mature earlier. Each pain produces certain benefit for the one who does the right thing.
Would you comment in the same spirit the public perception that many things that Macedonia has successfully completed are either not included in the final report or are changed into a negative form.
It is obvious that the intention was for Macedonia to get a lower grade, so that it is highly criticized and told that the recommendation would be retracted next year.
Still, Commissioner Fule did not say this will happen, but referred to its possibility.
Commissioner Fule is an experienced diplomat and he will never say this directly. However, we have also learned to read messages told by the language of diplomacy.
Are you saying that the threat will be realized and Macedonia will receive a negative report next year, regardless of its accomplishments?
If the name problem is resolved, this is highly certain, regardless of the reforms we implement. This is the message we need to understand. And we have.
Why would they do this to us?
It is easier to punish and show muscles to the weak one. They toady up to Greece, European governments fall because of Greece, and when they cannot force Greece, certain factors show us how powerful they are.
I would not like to be misunderstood, that someone should have a political benefit from the crisis effects, but at least fairness and balanced approach should not be forgotten. Ultimately, we all have our own dignity and we all believe in the ideals of freedom, justice and equality.
Why are you saying they are toadying up to Greece?
There are several reasons. One of them is the fact that Greece is an EU member. Internal EU relations are regulated in a way that each country can complicate the situation for any other state. The right of veto, i.e. the consensus system enables this for many decisions. Greece has demonstrated it knows how to create problems if motivated for this.
No one wants to criticize an EU member, even if it sees there is serious injustice and lack of principles towards an outside member. One ambassador of an older EU member-state depicted the EU internal relations with the phrase 'Turkish market', where everyone negotiates and one depends from the other. The second reason is that Greece, being an older and more powerful country, has a much stronger lobby.
But Greece has never been in a more sorry state than now. It kneels before its Union partners waiting for salvation.
I would say that as much as Greece is interested in saving from the crisis, the other member-states are interested too, if not more, since the financial failure of Greece will bring other Union members in the same situation. This might result in the end of the Euro and many powerful banks in the most powerful countries. This is why the international community is pretty careful with Greece regarding the name issue and the resulting blockade. They do not want to exert additional pressure to the already boiling situation in Greece, which can lead to toppling of the government, something that no one in the EU wants.
Has Alexandra Cas Granje - director for accession candidates at the European Commission's Enlargement Directorate General - provided you with some kind of explanation involving the statement by EU Commissioner Fule while handing over the report.
She told me that she didn't listen to the statement, but that she was assuming the statement was given as a sign of frustration that the name issue cannot be solved for a long time. This was a proof for me that the issue of over-emphasising criticisms surrounding the reforms implemented in several areas is in fact due to the lack of a name row settlement. There were at least ten people in the room when she said it. Before her, many others have told me the same in informal or semi-formal meetings.
Are you condemning this?
I understand them up to a point. The European Commission is tackling an unpleasant situation. In 2009, the Commission, regardless of everything, in an honest manner recommended a start for negotiations, despite expecting problems. But, three years in a row its recommendation is ignored by the Council of EU in a bid to avoid a scandal involving a veto by Greece. This creates an unpleasant situation in the European Commission. Its officials want to find a solution. One of the solutions is to pinpoint us as being incapable and to revoke the recommendation in order to improve their own comfort. To achieve this, this year they need to lower Macedonia's assessment - despite being positive - and to pave the way for next year. They are able to do this, even though it is unfair, lacking basic principles and will only yield an unfavourable effect and bad message. In addition to this, it also somehow ruins the picture presented amongst citizens about the EU, about its principles, objectivity and fairness.
On the other hand, we - the politicians - should explain to the citizens that we are moving towards a just community.
They are facing another problem - now they need to promote new countries with which negotiations should be launched and this is a good step. However, they should explain why accession talks are not being launched with Macedonia.
Their justification should not be solely related to a lack of name solution, because if the name issue is the only obstacle, then the EC is in an unpleasant situation in many regards.
Probably all of this is helping the opposition?
Yes, however the opposition cannot be saved by this circumstance. Opposition members hope that with the old insincere strategy and team, old leadership, their victory will be secured by someone else. This will not happen. The opposition must understand that this is an issue of national interest. It is high time to rise above daily bickering over political affairs.