It is high time that we all exercise wisdom on the Balkans
22 July, 2017
Good neighbourly relations have been among the Republic of Macedonia’s main priorities since 1991, when we declared independence following the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. This mainly refers to good relations with neighbouring countries and the European Union. The Macedonian parliament has only proven our commitment to integration within Europe and NATO with the adoption of several resolutions. We also pushed through a resolution on good neighbourly relations in the UN. We are pursuing a clear vision for fostering “clean-slate” relations, irrespective of the past and any unresolved issues between the two countries, both dating back to former Yugoslavia and further back in time.
Of course, there are some dark moments but that is how history works, the facts are there and no one can argue or diminish them. In my view, the latest steps taken by the government of Zoran Zaev are in the right direction. I saw a very positive response in Bulgaria from Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, from Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva.
I think that the EU has had enough of the drama on the Balkans. We have wasted plenty of time. For a long period now, we have been discussing dates, timetables, when talks will be opened, when the country will join the EU and yet we are not talking about what we need to do to set our house in order. This mostly concerns countries outside of the EU that need to continue to build their good relations with their neighbours, their domestic policy, the rule of law.
Contracts are all well and good, with annexes detailing different projects, etc., but they remain only on paper if they are not translated into actions. I will give you an example – we signed a Temporary Agreement between Macedonia and Greece, which the latter broke, blocking our membership in the EU and NATO. This occurred despite the clear language of the terms in the agreement, stating that Greece should not impede our membership in those two organisations in any way. We can sign the best contract there is but if it is not honoured, adhered to and applied by all institutions, there is no point in it.
Problems are manufactured by politicians and often intended for domestic consumption, to boost approval ratings, especially ahead of elections. We do not need this and we should make sure that it does not happen in the future.
A government may be criticised for the state of the economy, for projects, for what it has done or failed to do. But to accuse someone of treason, selling out national interests, it is a complete anachronism. Both countries should learn to look to the future. At some point, it will become crucial that the respective leaders – premiers or presidents, come out and say that everything that is in the past happened under previous regimes. These moments, such as Srebrenica, have the potential to divide and generate mistrust for eternity and it should not be allowed. We must exercise wisdom. Denmark and Sweden have a bloody common past too and yet they are partners today and have been ones since way before the EU. They have Scandinavian Airlines, etc. France and Germany also warred against each other but look at their partnership now. These are the examples we should follow on the Balkans.
The author is a career diplomat. He was the first ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia to Athens. He has also served as ambassador to Israel, Romania and Moldova. The article was originally published by BGNES Agency.