Gruevski: Putting Pressure by Overstating the Weaknesses will have an Opposite Effect; we Remain on the Same Priorities for Membership in NATO and EU

The newly applied tactics of certain individuals or a part of the international community to put pressure on Macedonia for the name issue by stating that we do not conduct enough reforms and by overstating the weaknesses is wrong and will not achieve results, but have an opposite effect. This issue cannot be solved by force, by putting the entire pressure on one side only. Still, we remain committed to our same priorities for membership in NATO and EU and we remain on our reform path and it is our strategic interest at the moment. Even if the reforms do not yield the expected results regarding our path to NATO and EU, they are good for the country, for improving the quality of life for the citizens.

This, among other things, was stated by the President of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia Nikola Gruevski, in his interview for MIA, where he discusses the EC Report, the differences with Greece about our constitutional name, the implementation of the reforms…

Are you satisfied with the EU Report for the Republic of Macedonia?

- Last year, Macedonia implemented a lot of reforms and achieved great progress. We were working hard and devotedly. And, as a result, Macedonia deservedly received a positive Report from the EU, based on which Macedonia received the recommendation to start negotiations. We are receiving a positive Report and a recommendation to start negotiations for the third year in a row, something that is certainly a great success for all citizens of our country, for all institutions and political parties. Moreover, the stated remarks and weaknesses in this Report will result in ideas for new reforms and improvements, which, of course mean progress for the country.

But, it seems that the statements of Commissioner Stefan Füle were unusually harsh for the Government, and you responded with an unusually harsh rhetoric too.  What accounts for this?

- This is due to the newly applied tactics of certain individuals or a part of the international community regarding the pressure put on Macedonia for finding a solution to the name issue. They believe that if the Government and I accept one of the proposed Greek variants, then the name issue will be solved, or, in a nutshell, our support will imply a successful referendum. This is a big mistake and as a result of this false belief, their tactics is to put pressure on the Government and on me as the Prime Minister, in a direction that we do not conduct enough reforms and overstating the weaknesses, simply to put us in an uncomfortable situation. This implies our undermining in the public, where they expect us as politicians and our Government, but also any other future Government, to accept a solution at any cost, in order for them to stop these criticisms. This tactic was sometimes direct, sometimes implied, and it does not matter who came up with it, whether some individuals in Brussels or even beyond, still, the results are tangible, this tactic is underway. Although I personally believe that this is a tactic that would backfire, given the fact that it is already happening, I have no choice but to face it. After a year or two, when we face the fiasco of this tactic, both countries will be much further away from a solution, than they are now. This issue cannot be solved by force, especially not in this manner, where the entire pressure is being put on one side, and the pressure on the other side is next to none.

 So we should expect such overemphasizing of the weaknesses from several parties in the future?

- Yes, from numerous parties. Various international NGOs, associations, institutions, politicians, experts… they will probably receive support from some media too. Their methods are already well known and nobody will be surprised, or as Balashevich states in an old song of his… the principle is the same, everything else is shades of color. The goal is clear: put pressure on the name issue at any cost.

Are you stating that Macedonia has no weaknesses in the judiciary, the public administration, the freedom of the media, corruption…

- No, on the contrary, of course there are weaknesses and a need for improvement, for new reforms, measures and any suggestion towards that end is welcomed. We do not sleep still believing that everything is perfect in Macedonia. We have problems, there are accumulated issues and practices that have not started with us, nor will they end with us, as is the case throughout the world. Reforms in these spheres and beyond are needed everywhere, in the region too, but also beyond, still the fact remains that we are working hard and we have done a lot to improve them. And we will continue doing so. But, in this case we will face the overstatement of these weaknesses, a severe overstatement which is deliberate, and this is supported by the fact that at the meetings that we hold with certain representatives of the international community, the name issue is discussed in 90 percent of the discussions, and 10 percent of the time, other topics are discussed, among which are the aforementioned reforms.  And, when we come out on a press conference after the meeting, or when they do a press release, the situation looks quite the opposite: as we mentioned the name issue incidentally, and 90 percent of the time we talked about the public administration, the judiciary etc. This speaks volumes for the priorities, but also for everything else that I talked about.

Perhaps all this will motivate the Government to accomplish more?

- The creation of a feeling of injustice cannot motivate. It can only create frustrations, and frustrations divert the energy. I will try to keep that energy on the right track, on the reform, but it will not be easy. The frustrations deriving from the feeling of injustice will most certainly produce effects which are hard to foresee. You know, if I ask the officials to work for 15 hours a day together with me, and there are tangible fruits from our labor and such results have not been made in the past, and yet, somebody from outside, from whom you anticipate a fair and equitable assessment and valorization says that you are not working at all and you have no results, it is hurtful, and this pain, regardless what the aim is, will be reflected somewhere. We will see where.

Still you remain committed to the same priorities: membership in EU and NATO and the path of reforms, or have you made any changes?

- Yes. We remain committed to the same priorities for membership in NATO and EU and the path of reform, and this is our strategic interest at the moment. Even if the reforms do not yield the expected result regarding our movement towards NATO and EU, these reforms are good for the country, for improving the quality of life of the citizens.

You say that this will not motivate you to accomplish more, but rather create frustration. If this is so, wouldn’t all this discourage you?

- Of course it will, and it already does, but we will fight. We, above all, work for the citizens for those who gave us their trust and for all citizens in general. This is the strength that holds us together, that urges us to endure the challenges. A long time ago I realized that there is no justice in international political relations, much less ideal justice, and we are not naive at all, nor are we romantic about the expectations from these relations. But, the fact is that Macedonia has been constantly facing injustices for 20 years. And this too is a historical burden, but it is our obligation to change this, to stop self-pitying ourselves, and when we believe that all this is for the right principles and values, to oppose and loudly state that we believe in this, rather than keeping silent in waiting for someone to come and tell us what we should do and how should we behave ourselves. Sometimes I get the feeling that some powerful centers in whose values we trust a lot, view us, our country as a child that they did not plan, yet it was born, and now they do not feel the obligation that they would feel for a planned and wanted child, and somehow, this child bothers them. Give it time, with a change of generations, it will vanish. This was especially emphasized during the nineties. Such children are usually forced to fight for themselves, and life urges them to mature quickly. You know, a benefit derives from every trouble for he who acts righteously.

Would you comment in that spirit the comments in the public, from which it can be seen that many things that Macedonian completed successfully and correctly are either not present in the final report or are altered in a negative form, or it is written that Brussels has not been informed thereof, and there is evidence that it is otherwise.

- It is obvious that the intention was for Macedonia not to receive a B or A, but rather, some lower grade, so that it could be criticized stronger, and to be announced that the next year the recommendation might be withdrawn.

However, Commissioner Fule did not say directly that it would happen, but rather that there was such a possibility…

- Commissioner Fule is an experienced diplomat and he will never say it directly;  especially when the year has not started yet, he would not confirm openly a negative report. However, we have also learned to read messages expressed with the language of the diplomacy.

Do you want to say that the threat will become true and the next year Macedonian will receive a negative report regardless of what has been done?

- If the name issue is not solved, it is quite certain, regardless of the reforms that we would implement. That is the message that we were supposed to understand. And we have understood it.

Why would they do that to us?

- It is much easier to punish the weaker one and to show teeth. They toady up to Greece, many governments throughout Europe are collapsing because of Greece, and of course, many factors are showing to us how powerful they are, when they can’t show it to Greece. That’s it. Still, I absolutely don’t want to be wrongly understood here, that somebody should take advantage of the political capital at the expense of the effects of the crisis, and to abuse some conditions in any function, but at least not to forget the equity or balance of the approach, because at the end we all have our dignity and we all believe in the ideals of the freedom, justice and equality.

Why do you say that they toady up to Greece?

- There are several reasons. One of them is the fact that Greece is an European Union  member state. The internal relations in the European Union are arranged in such a way that any state may complicate the things for any other state or any European Union  functionary. The right to veto, that is, the system of consensus for many types of decisions, enable that. Greece has shown up to date that it knows how to create a problem if it is motivated for that. Nobody wants to find fault with an EU member state, although if one sees that with respect to some external side there is a serious injustice and unprincipled attitude. An Ambassador of an older EU member state, described to me the internal relations in the EU in a picturesque manner with the phrase “Turkish bazaar”  where everyone is negotiating with everyone and things depend on everyone. The seconds reason is that Greece as an older and more powerful country has a much stronger lobby…

However, Mr. Gruevski, Greece has never been in a more unenviable role than now. It kneels before its partners in the Union, from which it waits for salvation. 

- I would say that as mush as Greece is interested in being saved form the crisis, at least that much, and perhaps, even more, the other member states are interested, too, because the financial, uncontrolled failure of Greece, will bring into a new situation other members of the Union as well, and it may finally mean a failure of the Euro and of many large banks in the most powerful countries. Therefore, precisely now, regarding this issue, the problem with the name and blockage by Greece, the international community is rather cautious towards Greece. They do not want to make an additional pressure on the already turbulent internal situation in Greece, that can lead to a collapse of the Government, that nobody in the EU wishes.

Did Ms. Alexandra Kas Granje provide any explanation for Mr. Fule’s statement when she delivered the Reports?

- She said that she didn’t hear the statement, but she supposed that it had been a result of the frustration they had felt because the name issue could not be solved for a long period of time. It only confirmed to me that the problem with overemphasizing the criticism regarding the reforms in several areas is in fact not having a solution to the name issue. At least 10 persons were present in the room when she said that. However, many others before her, at informal and semi-formal meetings, told me the same.

So, you condemn this?

- I understand them, to a point. The European Commission finds itself in an awkward situation. It came out clearly and sincerely and, despite all, it proposed starting the negotiations in 2009, although it expected problems. But for three years in a row, the recommendation is being ignored by the European Council, in order to avoid a scandal with a classic veto by Greece. This is what makes it uncomfortable for the people in the Commission. They are looking for a way out. One of the ways out is to deem us incapable and withdraw the recommendation and improve their own convenience. For such an act they need to decrease the assessment, although positive this year, in order to prepare the field for next year. They can do this, although dishonest, unprincipled and will cast a bad effect and a bad message. Moreover, this somehow ruins the image that the citizens of the EU perceive for the principles, the equity and objectivity. On the other hand, we, politicians should explain to the citizens that we are going towards a just community.

There is another issue: they need to rush new countries with which they need to start negotiations, which is a good step forward, and they need to justify why are we missing, yet this justification cannot be the name only, for if this justification is the name only then they would find themselves in an awkward situation, from many aspects.

All this probably works well for the opposition?

- Yes, but this cannot save them. They hope that by old tactics and team, with the old leadership and the idealess and insincere approach, someone else will work out their victory. This will not happen. Yet, even the opposition needs to understand that this is a problem of national interest and through internal sabotage they only harm the country. We as the Government, are the least important. It is time to outgrow the daily political skirmishes.