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Macedonia Doesn’t Give in to Blackmail

Reading Time: 8 minutes

By Mariann Őry.
Article originally published on Magyar Hírlap.

“We protect Europe from an EU member-state, which failed to control the refugee crisis”

The President of the Republic of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov thanked Hungary and the Visegrad Group for the support they gave his country to cope with the migration crisis. The President discussed the country’s internal crisis too, which is further deepened by the social democrats, the political activities of the NGOs and the Albanian interference.

How do you see the possible outcome, solutions of the current political situation in Macedonia?

The Republic of Macedonia is in a deep political crisis for already two and a half years. The early parliamentary elections held on December 11, 2016, were to be the beginning of the way out of the political crisis.

According to the Constitution and established practice, I confided the mandate for constitution of the government to the political party VMRO-DPMNE which won the highest number of MPs. Following the expiry of the foreseen deadline of 20 days, a parliamentary majority was not formed, which meant that Article 90 of the Constitution was exhausted.

In such a situation, taking into account the practice established in 1992 by former President Kiro Gligorov, I invited the leaders of all parliamentary parties to consultations. At the consultations, I told them that the mandate to constitute a new government will be given to the party or coalition that will inform me and prove it has secured a majority in the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia within 10 days as set forth in the Constitution.

Unfortunately, at the request of the ethnic Albanian parties in Macedonia, as a matter of discussions and deals between the parliamentary parties to secure a majority, a platform was imposed. The platform was agreed in Tirana, Albania, with the mediation of the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. This platform brings the Republic of Macedonia in a position of subordination and it threatens its sovereignty and independence. It is a post-election platform, for which the citizens had not an opportunity to express their opinion at the early parliamentary elections, and which calls into question the fundamental national interests of the Republic of Macedonia and its citizens.

The leader of the second party according to the number of mandates won, SDSM, instead within 10 days, informed me after 27 days that he has provided a majority in the Parliament with the support of all ethnic Albanian parties but one. I asked him to publicly and clearly reject and condemn the platform. I reminded him that the Macedonian citizens at the election voted for reform, not for post-election platform of a foreign state.

Such public condemnation, unfortunately, never came. Therefore, as President of the Republic of Macedonia, I said that I will not give the mandate to anyone who negotiates platforms of other countries that blackmail the Macedonian people, endanger the integrity of the state, its sovereignty and independence.

The parties should seek a solution through responsible behavior and in line with the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia. No solution may undermine the unitary character of the state, and it must be aimed at protecting the national interests of the Republic of Macedonia. Certainly, a possible solution to overcome the situation is new early parliamentary elections in which the citizens will express their opinion on the topics raised in the post-election period.

How do you evaluate the threat which the Albanian efforts mean?

Some of the requirements of the parties of the Albanian political bloc are in conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia and do not correspond with the real situation in the Republic of Macedonia.

The Republic of Macedonia, on December 11, conducted fair and democratic elections, which were unanimously praised by the international community. But instead of getting out of the crisis, it further deepened. The main reason is precisely the Tirana Platform, which has become a condition for forming a government.

As previously stated, the platform is a post-election document adopted in a foreign country under the mediation of a prime minister of a foreign country, which endangers the sovereignty and independence of the state. The platform violates the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which regulates the relations between the ethnic communities in the Republic of Macedonia. The platform is discriminatory towards the other ethnic communities, because it prioritizes only one community – the Albanian.

I also want to point out that some of the requirements contained in this platform depend on statistics and on the reality on the ground; however, census has not been conducted in the Republic of Macedonia for 14 years. Without new census, rights that depend on statistics cannot be demanded.

Following the publication of the Tirana Platform, we witnessed radical rhetoric and statements by senior state officials of Albania and Kosovo, which do not correspond to the present and the 21st century, but with the rhetoric of the past.

For these reasons, I several times called on the international community to publicly condemn the Tirana Platform, as this platform destabilizes the political situation and increases the ethnic tensions in the country. I sent a letter to all members of the European Council, NATO Secretary General and to our strategic partners – the USA and Turkey, with a request to condemn the platform and send a message of inviolability of the borders in the Balkans. I pointed out that such interference in the internal affairs of the Republic of Macedonia is an incentive for realization of the great nationalist ideas and is a negative example and precedent, not only in the Balkans, but also beyond.

As President, I cannot and will not allow trading with the Constitution and national interests of Macedonia and playing with the feelings of the citizens.

I take this opportunity to express public gratitude to the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, who was among the first to raise an initiative requesting the Council of the EU to reject the Tirana Platform and condemn the interference of a foreign prime minister in the internal affairs of Macedonia.

The Republic of Macedonia has always invested in the promotion of good neighborly relations. Albania and Kosovo are our friends and therefore specific and common steps in promoting mutual trust are needed.

As a multiethnic democracy with a distinctive model of integration without assimilation, the Republic of Macedonia has always been and will be an example in Europe of a high level of coexistence and respect for all ethnic communities, with all their linguistic, religious and cultural differences. There were attempts previously in the Republic of Macedonia to cause inter-ethnic tensions, but the citizens are able to recognize what is manipulation and what is their interest.

Given the multi-ethnic structure of the countries of the Balkan region and the events of the recent past, it is necessary the political leaders to be careful of the rhetoric they use. We all in the Balkans should know that the solutions and overcoming of the differences on certain issues can be sought only through dialogue and discussions and not through blackmail and threats. Our region needs peace, coexistence, confidence and integration in NATO and the EU. Only in this way we will contribute to the prosperity of all our citizens.

The efforts in Macedonia and Hungary to push back the influence and political activities of Soros NGOs is quite the same. Which steps is Macedonia making and how can we cooperate?

There must not be single-mindedness in the civil sector and abuse of NGOs must not be allowed.

As professor at the Law Faculty, I devoted many years of my life to the civil society, with personal initiatives for establishing foundations, institutes, non-governmental organizations in order to help the society mature. Unfortunately, with decent exceptions, today this sector is dominated by party interests and citizens’ interests are at the bottom of the priorities of these organizations. There is no minimum public decency. We are witnessing not only politicized, but also ethnicized NGOs, thanks to the practice established by some foreign foundations for financing the non-governmental sector on ethnic grounds.

I condemn any attempt to politicize and partisan the non-governmental sector. It is unacceptable the NGOs, financed with foreign funds, to work the agenda for political purposes and to initiate activities that involve direct foreign influence on the internal politics of a sovereign state.

The civil society should demonstrate progress and encourage positive change in the country. Instead, we are dealing with organizations which, with various actions and without any dose of self-criticism, act destructively in terms of the national interests and the interests of citizens.

Increased control of the work and transparency in the financing of NGOs is therefore necessary. To dismiss any doubts and make a distinction which NGO acts in the interests of citizens and which is hiding behind the cloak of citizens’ interests.

Macedonia plays a crucial part in stopping illegal mass migration. Is this one of the reasons why Macedonia’s stability is being attacked?

All countries on the Balkan route, including the Republic of Macedonia, and all the countries that are part of the European Union and are final destination, are facing increased security risks, threats of illegal migration and terrorist threats.

The competent institutions in the Republic of Macedonia and the crisis management entities monitor daily the situation related to the migrant crisis, the developments regarding the agreement between the EU and Turkey, as well as the situation in the neighboring countries. Information is provided on a daily basis in order to prevent a possible second wave of migration.

The migrant crisis multiplies the security risks and threatens the good neighborly relations. Free movement of migrants and contacts with the local population must not be allowed in areas where there is presence of religious radicalism and returnees from the conflict areas.

The intent of migrants to come to the territories in Europe where there is the largest percentage of religious radicalization and foreign terrorist fighters and to move freely throughout the Schengen area has been assessed as a high risk.

For a long while I warn that the migrant and refugee crisis in Europe, as well as the situation in the Middle East and North Africa are issues and challenges that will preoccupy not only us, but also the future generations in the coming years and decades.

Even prior the crisis, at all international events and meetings I stress it is necessary the security services to begin to exchange data. It is essential to strengthen the institutions in all Western Balkans countries through programs for de-radicalization and counter-radicalization. This is the only way for early prevention and development of programs and plans for response.

Our country will continue with the humane treatment of migrants, registration and prevention of illegal migration. The Republic of Macedonia acts in line with the European policies and principles and wants to be part of the European family.

The Republic of Macedonia is the first country which is not a member of the European Union and NATO, which has triggered the crisis management and declared a crisis situation over the threat of illegal migration. Amid deep internal – political crisis, we deal with the migrant and refugee crisis more successfully than many European countries which were surprised and did not cope well.

We are faced with a paradox – Macedonia, which is not a member of the European Union, protects Europe from the European Union. The Republic of Macedonia is in Europe, but is not an EU member-state. We are not a member of NATO and the Schengen zone, but we protect Europe from an EU member-state, which failed to control the refugee crisis and simply redirected the refugees.

How do you evaluate the help you receive from the EU and the V4 to cope with mass migration?

I have said it many times and I will repeat that the European Union failed seriously in terms of the migrant crisis. Regarding the assistance, the truth is that Macedonia did not receive any financial assistance from the EU to tackle the crisis, while the insignificant equipment received was largely inappropriate and inadequate for the actual needs. State institutions did not receive anything. The only donations as funds were allocated to international organizations and NGOs for the humanitarian aspect of the crisis. The state has no insight in the money. For the deployment of the army and police only we spend over EUR 1.5 million a month. So far, the Republic of Macedonia has spent about EUR 30 million of budgetary means. The reallocation of EUR 10 million from the IPA funds for 2016, 2017 and 2018 (necessary for European reform of Macedonia) to deal with the migrant crisis speaks of the hypocrisy of Brussels. It is misleading the public that the Union has met our requirements.

The Visegrad Group countries – Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, showed much more attention and readiness for cooperation with Macedonia. First, by sending police officers, who assisted the Macedonian border police. Second, our security authorities had excellent cooperation in the daily management of the crisis and exchange of data that are essential for preventing and dealing with the security risks posed by the crisis. Third, we received bilateral donations from some Visegrad Group countries. I was invited at the Visegrad Group extraordinary summit held in Prague, where the Republic of Macedonia was equally consulted and participated in finding a negotiated solution to the crisis.

Hungary played a constructive role in this crisis and gave a positive example of successful regional partnership and cooperation and therefore I want to express my gratitude.