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Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Celebrates New Foreign Policy Journal

December 15, 2006

By Christopher Deliso

In a special ceremony held last evening in Skopje, the Macedonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs unveiled the government’s newest intellectual medium- Crossroads: the Macedonian Foreign Policy Journal. The new quarterly publication devoted to Macedonian foreign policy and relations with other regions and countries, is the first of its kind and brings Macedonia on par with the many other European countries which boast similar forums for informed comment and discussion on key policy issues.

The arrival of the new journal was especially welcome in light of the enhanced need to articulate Macedonia’s foreign policy and desired relations with the outside world at a time when the country has assumed official EU candidate status and several other important regional issues, such as Kosovo final status and NATO expansion are going on.

Considering the near-constant existential threats of various kinds from the country’s neighbors since 1991 — on issues ranging from the Macedonian name, religious institutions, territorial integrity and even linguistic and ethnic identity — it could be argued that the existence of such an ideas-based vehicle is long overdue. However, these very crises, as well as a certain sluggishness on the part of previous governments, were probably to blame for the hold-up.

Crossroads, which will be published four times a year in print runs of 1,000, is a glossy soft-covered magazine of good length (issue no. one is 152 pages), published in English; select articles are translated as well in other European languages, such as German, Italian and French. Since the magazine is explicitly aimed at the diplomatic and non-governmental community in Skopje, it is not expected to be available for pay or to outside subscribers, though officials involved with it state that the articles will be accessible to the outside world on the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s website.

The editorial team, led by Editor-in-Chief Pajo Avirovik and Deputy Editor Ivica Bocevski, did a formidable job of creating the first issue, devoted to Macedonia after 15 years as an independent state, while enlisting many notable figures to contribute “blind’ to a publication which did not yet exist- as any editor can attest, a remarkable feat.

Among those who contributed to the first issue of Crossroads were former Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Kljusev, the current US Ambassador to Macedonia, Gillian Milovanovic, German EU parliamentarian Doris Pack and Alain Le Roy, former EU Special Representative in Macedonia. Along with several longer essays by Macedonian and other European authors, including the Macedonian Ambassador to the EU, Blerim Reka and OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, the issue is rounded off impressively with an engaging interview with longtime former Turkish Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel.

These prominent contributors by and large expressed optimism and enthusiasm regarding Macedonia’s future. According to the former Turkish Prime Minister, Macedonia is “a net contributor to regional stability which will eventually “take its well-deserved place in the Euro-Atlantic institutions.”

Le Roy, who wrote about the post-war transition period accomplishments from October 2001 to November 2002, spoke glowingly of his experiences in Macedonia and attested that the country “is completely deserving” of EU membership.

For her part, US Ambassador Milovanovic commended the current government’s prioritization of inter-ethnic relations and implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, adding that the “undeniable successes” of Macedonian political and business leaders, in the face of great adversity, make the country “a testament to the spirit of human will and endeavour.”

The evening inaugural event, held at the Parliamentarians’ Club in Skopje, attracted a large diplomatic audience and officials from international institutions, as well as local media. Macedonian officials, led by Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, were clearly in high spirits over the strong attendance and overwhelmingly positive comments from the guests. In his opening speech, Editor-in-Chief Avirovik revealed that the impetus for the new journal began on the foreign minister’s very first day in government this past summer.

Conceding that it “was not an easy task” to create a “stable and relevant” foreign policy journal, especially given the short time frame, Avirovik nevertheless revealed some of the editorial team’s enthusiasm for the future and ambition by disclosing that issue four may just be devoted to Macedonia’s relations with Asia- no doubt welcome words for the Asian diplomats in the room.

Issue 2, due out in March, will logically enough concentrate on Macedonian-European relations. In his own address to the assembled audience of diplomats and other officials, Foreign Minister Milososki pointed out that that issue will “symbolically coincide with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome,” and expressed his wish that this will indicate Macedonia’s solidarity with and relevance to Europe today.

The new journal is being regarded as a useful tool not only by Macedonians, however. In special additional comments for Balkanalysis.com today, US Ambassador Milovanovic describes Crossroads as “a very positive development,” adding that this intellectual initiative from Skopje can play a productive role in the expression of Macedonia’s strategic goals: “by bringing leading foreign affairs practitioners and scholars together to analyze and discuss key issues related to Macedonia’s role in the region and beyond,” states the ambassador, “Crossroads is contributing to the public dialogue on Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”

For the new, reformist VMRO-DPMNE-led government, which has stressed the need for winning foreign investment and better communications and public relations, the journal is a natural extension of these overarching commitments. Led mostly by young and relatively idealistic ministers, the government has in just over its first 100 days announced healthy strides in these directions, despite various hassles from certain quarters.

One of these young reformers, and a former scholar, Foreign Minister Milososki has sought to shake up old ways of doing things and to revitalize Macedonia’s foreign relations capacities. He has highlighted national self-promotion as crucial for this little country often overlooked in the wider world. The new journal is the first step towards enhancing Macedonia’s stature; the second, revealed Milososki in his address, is the imminent creation of a Public Diplomacy Sector operating within the ministry from the first of January, 2007.

US Ambassador Milovanovic agrees that initiatives such as the Macedonian foreign policy journal have good potential for enhancing Macedonia’s diplomatic stature, and especially for providing quality information about the country and the region. In her additional comments today, the ambassador states further her belief that “by providing an array of domestic and foreign perspectives on foreign policy issues affecting Macedonian national interests, the journal can become a valuable tool for academicians, diplomats and other decision-makers following current developments in this region.”

Although time will tell to just what extent Crossroads will succeed in this regard, on initial inspection the periodical passes all the tests: nice layout, good editing and grammar, appropriate length and distinguished contributors, making it as good or better than regional competitors.

That said, it might be added that the cultural sensitivity acquired by the locals due to Macedonia’s complex historical legacy and difficult recent experience have, at the same time, meant the probably permanent exclusion of the occasional pedantic arrogance that characterizes certain other regional policy publications which represent national foreign policies traditionally more brittle, myopic and self-centered. However, to explicitly name such offenders would, of course, be un-diplomatic.

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