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Balkanalysis.com Briefing with Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki, February 2012

Strasbourg, France— On February 15, 2012, within the European Parliament’s fora on Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Poposki defended Macedonia’s case during the debate on the country’s EU membership prospects. Balkanalysis.com contributor Maria-Antoaneta Neag was present and captured the essence of this discussion in the following briefing.

Minister Poposki referenced the December 2011 ICJ ruling, which agreed with the Macedonian legal case (that Greece had violated the 1995 interim agreement by blocking Macedonian NATO accession in 2008). In addition, Minister Poposki expressed Macedonians’ expectations of getting a negotiations date, noting the three consecutive recommendations from the Commission to start EU accession negotiations.

Minister Popovski stated that he was pleased that the European Parliament welcomed the Commission’s conclusions in its resolution. Regarding the remaining open issues with Greece, he pointed out that the Interim Agreement was a costly achievement. The Republic of Macedonia had even agreed to change its constitution and flag in its efforts to settle the problems with Greece in the early 1990s. While ihe agreement’s main asset was seen as giving the country the right to engage with and enter international organizations (under the provisional name ‘Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’), this right was not properly applied due to Greece’s firm position.

In addition, the arguments presented by Minister Poposki supporting Macedonia’s right to commence accession negotiations included the country’s efforts for conforming to the EU aquis, the ECJ ruling, its favorable ranking in providing business opportunities for foreign investors, the progress achieved in the fight against corruption as shown also in the corruption perception index, and the fact that accession negotiations will create an environment conducive to solving remaining bilateral issues (as has been proven in the case of Slovenia and Croatia).

Apart from the visa regime, the foreign minister said, Greece consistently blocked Macedonia’s negotiations process. Blocking Macedonia can become a regional risk, as stated in a UNSC resolution, it was added. Minister Poposki mentioned that on the ground and in the business environment, the situation is not conflictual and real political dialogue has to start, either under UN auspices or other negotiation fora. By not doing so, ethnic conflicts could run the risk of escalating and lead to further problems, and maybe even to the dissolution of the country. Having regards to its potential, enhanced even more by the country’s EU perspective, this would be an unfortunate situation.

Concluding his address to the Members of the European Parliament, Minister Poposki stated that Greece blocking Macedonia at the conclusion of the negotiations might be an understandable option, but that blocking the country before the EU talks actually start is an unacceptable choice. Furthermore, he explained that political dialogue is needed and that the focus on substance and maintaining credibility are important assets in the negotiation process.

Nikola Poposki is a Macedonian diplomat originally from Skopje. He was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in July 2011, following several diplomatic assignments. He acquired experience within the European Commission while working as team leader at the Joint Research Centre, after having graduated from the Montesquieu Promotion (2004-2005) of the European Economic Studies College of Europe in Bruges.

Balkanalysis.com is an American research and analysis firm that provides dedicated coverage of the Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean regions, in areas ranging from politics and security to economics and culture. It draws on the expertise of its broad network of field analysts and reporters representing a number of various countries and professional backgrounds.

Balkanalysis Briefings is a regular series in which correspondents of Balkanalysis.com, sometimes in affiliation with partner organizations, engage with representatives of companies, governmental institutions, non-governmental groups and other organizations professionally involved with the Balkan and Mediterranean regions in order to gain insight into issues, trends and other factors affecting present and future developments in the area. This process contributes to better analytical and prognostic research, allowing Balkanalysis.com to better serve its readers, while also providing Briefings partners an opportunity to make their products, services and goals better and more clearly known among those most actively involved with the region.

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