Greece has been avoiding meetings for months, and the ones that were held are insubstantial. The economic crisis even created a much better position at the international community for them. They realized that Greece is a ticking bomb in the hands of the EU, which when under pressure, explodes. This is why nobody touches or presses them for the name dispute. Sitting in this comfortable situation, Athens has no interest to solve the issue with a reasonable compromise. Athens will continue to sell the story of how much they are making efforts, that we are close to a solution, and they will increase their pressure on us, which in terms will depart us even further from our goal.
This, among other things, was stated by the President of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia Nikola Gruevski, in the second part of his interview for MIA, where he discusses the lawsuit of the Republic of Macedonia against Greece in Hague, the possible referendum on the name, the criticisms from the EC…
...... Right, let us focus on the key apparent problem, the name. What is happening in this respect, there is little information in the public.
- For a time, the meetings became more frequent, the atmosphere was improved and it seems that conditions were created for conversations and finding a solution. There were different ideas too, and perhaps, our neighbour showed even willingness. Now, the conditions have changed, and two factors contributed to this. Greece has been avoiding meetings for months, and the ones that were held are insubstantial. These meetings were held only for the sake of being held, as was the recent meeting between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the both countries the objective of which was for Greece to show its partners in the international community that it was not sitting still and that it was making efforts.
In fact, Greece is not making any effort. The first factor for this behaviour is the economic crisis in Greece, which really defocuses them, but it has created a much better position in the view of the international community. They realized that Greece is a ticking bomb in the hands of the EU, which when pressed hard, will explode; it will cause immense damage, burns, victims… And they realized that this is why nobody can touch or press them on the name issue. Second, they note that the pressure is completely on our side, and they are awaiting the outcome of this situation. They hope that we accept their terms under pressure, or that different times with different politicians will come, politicians who clearly promised to expressly solve the problem. “Expressly” implies by itself to whose benefit will the solution be, and therefore they are comfortable. Why would Greece hurry to find a solution in such a situation?
I hope that somebody will arguably refute me on this, including Greece itself.
Aren’t they concerned with the outcome from the lawsuit in Hague?
- They are, but not too much, because, if they lose the dispute, they do not plan to respect the court’s decision. They reckon that the present situation they find themselves in will provide that.
Recently, in the press, some analyses emerged regarding what Macedonia will do with any outcome, i.e. if it wins, if it loses, or if the decision is palliative…
- I saw them. These are vague analyses derived from some briefer, who, wanting to prove himself, like he understand a lot and what not, or that he is well informed, only causes damage to us as a state.
The notion that we are the guilty side prevails in the international community, such is the impression.
- Yes, it is our fault because we do not want to accept proposals which are sure to fail on a referendum.
But, still, if the Government and the opposition stand for the same proposal, don’t you think that it will pass on a referendum?
- Nobody, that cares for this and this issue has some significance to them, trusts in the opposition, they completely lost their credibility with their past actions. The citizens partially still trust us, because we are careful, but, realizing under what pressure we find ourselves in, they will certainly hold some hesitation for any commitment for a solution in the future.
However, if there is a referendum, will you state your position?
Yes, we will state it clearly.
Do you think that the people will not follow you?
It depends on what we will offer. If there are enough arguments, they will follow us, if we do not provide enough arguments, they will not. Obviously, according to all the polls, and there were a lot of them, the membership in NATO and the start of the accession negotiations with the EU are not a very strong argument for the majority of citizens. In the past 20 years, the people learned a lot about this issue, and this is one of those issues where politicians can do little to influence the outcome. This is what many people of the international community cannot understand.
In general, if you think about it, it is logical for the people not to trust in the politicians regarding this issue, especially not the government, any government, because the government is under constant pressure and could make a wrong decision, whether knowingly or not. Given the fact that the people do not consider the opposition even as a part of the equation, perhaps mostly because of their calculative approach and the perception that they would accept anything, just to appeal to foreigners, thus leaving the citizens to rely mostly on their own brains, reasoning, and understanding of things. The media or a large portion of them, have been an evidence for a long time that they have utterly limited impact on the majority of citizens regarding this issue.
I basically believe that the citizens are doing the right thing by not following the politicians, not even the government, because politicians are transient and changeable, one day they will be gone, yet wrong decisions will remain and each and every one of us will have to live with that. This is why everybody should listen to all politicians, every media, the representatives of the international community… all of them, hear all arguments, both in favor of and against, and in the end reason with their own head and decide how should they vote.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic that the name issue will be solved soon?
- If these unbalanced pressure tactics of some individuals from the international community continues, I would rather say that I’m pessimistic. In such a comfortable position, Greece has no interest to solve the issue with a reasonable compromise. Greece will continue to serve stories to the international community of how much they are making efforts, of how close to a solution we are and the international community will increase their pressure upon us, which will deter us from our goal, as I previously stated.
How much harm would we sustain if we lose the recommendation?
- We will sustain damage, although the main benefit from the recommendation is the start of the accession negotiations and becoming a member of the EU. This is not the case due to all I said so far.
When do you expect to meet with the Greek Prime Minister?
- I don’t know, I am willing to meet at any time, yet it doesn’t matter at all as long as the other side uses them to show to the members of the Union and the USA that it is making efforts and that it needs a little more time to solve this, and of course, as long as they buy this story, believing it, or acting as if they believe it, regardless.
We heard a lot of negative reactions to your response on the press conference to Commissioner Füle. How do you perceive them?
- I am not so sure that there are a lot of negative reactions to my response. But, I got used to the fact that there are political and media structures in Macedonia that regard every opinion that differs from the opinion of any part of the international community as a “heresy”, be it even a marginal foreign NGO, and structures that bear the notion that this opinion should be accepted without any objections, and if we could attribute the guilt to ourselves, then we should, just to appeal to them.
I believe that this is wrong. We should openly state our reasoning and our positions. This is in accordance with the spirit of democracy, which is a key priority of the European Union. If debates and different opinions for different issues regarding all types of policies can be a routine within the EU, if there are different opinions and arguments on any matter, how would we be perceived, and what do we think we can achieve if our only response for every matter is “yes, that’s right”, even if we are convinced differently for certain problems. Any open dialogue is much more useful compared to silence, failure to mention certain facts and building up the frustration on our side. Sometimes this will not help, but sometimes it helps. It is important that we remain sincere before ourselves and before God. We worked our fingers to the bone. The results are there, although we are aware that more work awaits us, but given the period behind us, we did the maximum. We know that they know this. For a lot of them admit this to us in informal talks. Even a high representative of the EU informally said that they hoped the name dispute would be promptly solved, because they did not know what else they could think of for us to do without starting the negotiations and the screening, from which new reforms should derive. This is honest. But it is improper for some of his superiors to state the opposite. Other representatives of the EC said the same to Minister Ivo Ivanovski, just a few weeks ago, and other government members also heard such comments. This is why I say that if you are true before yourself and before God, the truth and justice are bound to come.
You reacted also for the omission of the adjective “Macedonian”. For this, however, you received support from everyone…
- The situation with the avoidance of writing the name of the language, from the EU itself, of course under pressure from Greece, is the best example and response for everyone that are publicly trying to convince us that this dispute did not concern the identity, only the name. With this gesture, the European Commission directly interfered in the dispute, i.e. in the part for which they themselves state that is not a part of the dispute, language and nationality, thereby legitimizing Greece’s actions.
We witnessed a lot of reactions for the question asked by the journalist Borjan Jovanovski too. How do you feel about it?
- I would not comment the question of the former journalist, for whom everyone is wondering how he managed to find himself in the press conference hall of the Commission, and how did he have the exclusive right to ask questions, but not the other journalists from Macedonia present in the hall, This speaks for the topic of transparency and media freedom, but also for the standards which we should achieve. Still, if it was not him, it would have probably been another one interested to make use of the EU funds for projects related to media. Given the fact that the aforementioned person is well known to the Macedonian public and has been involved in a number of scandals and affairs, I would refrain myself from commenting. Obviously, the question which was previously ordered, was meant to prepare the field for next year’s withdrawal of the recommendation, if by then the name dispute is not solved.
Why do they need this right now?
- EU has been speaking openly and publicly for two years in a row that the main and only hindrance for starting the negotiations is the unsolved name issue, and nothing else. Now they are facing the problem of how to press us with allegations, stating that we are not making enough reforms, when it was previously stated that the country has reached the level needed to start the negotiations, and that only the name issue remained. It would be awkward for them to stand behind the crime in a “spider web”, so phrases are used such as “we are concerned with the media freedom”; and flaws are sought beyond this case, flaws that are not easy to pinpoint, that are supposed to be big and crucial, or not overstated, or that most of the EU member states don’t have. We also heard phrases that some of the reform processes have been retrograded, yet we did not hear particular examples.
I believe that if they do not want us to join the Union, it would be more honest to say: “We don’t want you” or “Solve the dispute with Greece then call us back”. As much as this is not principled, everyone would respect it more for its sincerity, rather than this kind of obvious injustice by fabricating problems or their overstatement, and to say to people who work until the moon becomes the sun that they work half heartedly. That is utterly unfair.