admin1 – December 31, 2005 – 2:22pm

FM Mitreva

Interview with Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva for "Utrinski vesnik" about Macedonia's  candidate status and her expectations in 2006.

- You and your Government are to be credited for the great success of winning Macedonia's candidate status. The public agrees with that. Nevertheless this hasn't changed the general mood concerning SDSM, the rating of which lags behind that of VMRO-DPMNE. What is the reason for this, according to you?

- When you are committed to one issue on which the country's future depends, which concerns all the citizens as well as the coming generations, there is no room for party calculations. We accepted both the risk and the non-popularity of the reforms. The reforms are the indispensable investment in European Macedonia. The candidate status is a great success for both the Government and all the citizens. Of course it takes time to feel genuine results and benefits. Macedonia has installed itself in the European structures and that is a fact. It is high time we started looking, thinking, and what's most important acting further from the parameters set by one election cycle.

How did you measure the "general mood"? Certain past ratings of the parties were made before the EU decision granting Macedonia the candidate status. Certain ratings will be revealed afterwards. But lasting truth is the European 'yes' of over 90 percent of the Macedonian citizens. This is the general mood for us.

- Considering the atmosphere in the EU, the new budget frame, as well as the reforms in Macedonia, when do you expect we can be given the date for starting accession talks with the Union?

- Again you expect from me to give daring statements and forecasts and provide entertainment for the perpetual pessimists who criticized me when I heralded in 2003 the application, when I claimed in 2004 that Macedonia would be given a positive opinion from the EU, and even when I said we would receive the candidate status at the end of this year. I think that this time, faced with the undisputable fact that Macedonia will become an EU member state, the forecasts about the exact timing are irrelevant. What's very important is that we keep the mobilizing spirit and that we all without any exceptions roll up our sleeves and keep on conducting reforms at a faster pace. The successful parliamentary elections too will be very important. If 35 percent of our citizens believe that we're going to become an EU member state in five years, if 70 percent of them say our country is on the right road and if 93 percent support our path to the EU, then we have the coordinates by which the Government and the nation should move.

- Why is France turning its back to Macedonia? What do you expect from the announcement for reconsidering the enlargement of the EU in Austria in March?

- Fast and emotional reactions in the foreign policy are not a good ally. France is not turning its back to Macedonia. France has never been against Macedonia's European integration. This is very evident in the greetings that French President Chirac and my colleague Douste-Blazy sent to Macedonia. I trust that France's restraint concerning the budget frame for the functioning of the Union in the period to come should not be related to Macedonia's candidate status for EU membership. There is also the crisis with the Constitution of the EU. However, let's not forget that France is one of the creators of the idea for United Europe and I'm convinced it will remain committed to its vision.

Our expectations from Austria's chairing of the EU are confirmed by the statement of Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik that the expansion of the EU is unification of Europe. I'm convinced that the EU will not put in question the process of its unification, which is incomplete without the Balkans. We should erase from our consciousness the traditional skepticism and mistrust toward ourselves and our capabilities.

- How do you comment on the Resolution of the US Congress about admitting Croatia to NATO right after the issue was tabled? Has Washington forgotten Macedonia and is there rivalry between the three countries of the Adriatic Charter?

- The Resolution of the US Congress is to be saluted. Every encouragement coming from the major political centers for a country of our region is welcome. To think that the support for one country implies lack of support for another with identical commitments is a reduced perception of the way international relations work. The stand of official Washington regarding the next round of NATO enlargement is known. Macedonia has full US support for both the European and the Euro-Atlantic integration. There is no room for doubts here!

- You are considered to be a minister that travels a lot and that according to unofficial estimates spent two thirds of her term abroad. Together with Prime Minister Buckovski you have traveled abroad more than Condolleeza Rice, George Bush and Donald Rumsfed and Macedonia is not a super power. Is Macedonia that dependent on the world?

- How can our voice be otherwise heard? How can we convey our story? By sitting at home, expecting the whole world to come to us? If we had been a super power, I would have probably traveled less. It's more comfortable for me to conduct foreign policy from my office on the street Dame Gruev. But I'm afraid that then many doors that are now open to Macedonia would then have stayed closed. I don't like to remember what Macedonia's position was on the international stage before the elections in 2002.  It took great effort, great wok by the Government, and you're right, I had to spent two thirds of my term traveling abroad to create Macedonia's new image. Macedonia is today a successful example of a functional democracy in a multi-ethnic society, an active factor of stability in the region, a partner of trust and an ally of the international community. In short, a country deserving of respect and credibility. Let people who say I travel a lot recall Tony Blair's words: "We want to see Europe united again in all its aspects and apparently Macedonia is important part of that vision".

- You put the foreign affairs law in a procedure, but the procedure seems endless. Will this draft live the same fate as all the others before and to what extent are you ready to respond to the president's remarks?

- I heralded two stages in the adoption of this very important and delicate segment of our legislation - the law on foreign affairs, which is anticipated for 14 years. The concept we made in the Ministry based on the needs and characteristics of Macedonia, uses the experience of the European practice too.  It won the support of the Government and the previous ministers of foreign affairs. In the first stage it was verified by the Parliament too. I expect the law to be passed early next year. It's important that the law is of good quality and within the frame of the constitutional principles.

- The state auditor set out a series of accusations concerning wrongdoings in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to which you reacted with neither a denial nor defense. Does this mean that the accusations of unsettled accounts, unaccounted for costs for representations, and for dubious operations of the representative offices abroad are founded?

- I have to correct you this instant. The state auditor did not set out accusations concerning any wrongdoing in the Ministry. He singled out no costs of the Ministry that are not covered with a legal instrument. The report points to certain faults in the accounting and legal affairs. The audit gave recommendations about them, and most of them have already been implemented. Not only the state auditor, but also our internal audit determined faults in the financial operations of certain of our diplomatic and consular offices. Measures are being taken. I would like to stress that most of our appeals have been accepted by the State Audit Institute. In fact the answers and explanations of the Ministry are public and transparent and available on the website of the State Audit Institute and so there is no need to either deny or take a defensive approach.

- Are you bothered by the fact that the prime minister took over your department? The impression is that he tailors your foreign policy and leaves to you only technical matters.

- I don't know what this impression is due to, but it's completely wrong. This is like you being asked if you are bothered for having an editor-in-chief. The prime minister and I are in communicating constantly about the foreign policy, in coordination with the Government and the head of state. I know the prime minister well and I can reassure you he has no ambition to be foreign minister. But doubtlessly he has ambitions to be promoter of a team work, which is rarely found in the Macedonian policy. This gives results.

- Why is it that despite your busy schedule you spent almost no time on Pristina, Sofia and Belgrade? Is it true that the US advised you and the prime minister to stay away from the talks over Kosovo?

- I'm surprised that even the journalists of your class easily forget facts. I paid an official visit to Belgrade. I was also in Pristina. The foreign ministers of Serbia-Montenegro and Bulgaria visited Macedonia. My response visits are planned for next year. You know, in diplomacy there is order. It's good to take a look at the overall statistics of the bilateral meetings with the colleagues from the neighborhood, and at the numerous multilateral and regional meetings.  If we consider also the numerous phone calls being a usual part of the diplomatic work of the minister, we get the picture of an intensive communication. As for the cooperation, it's no coincidence that over the past three years Ohrid has grown into a symbol of the new spirit of friendship, solidarity and cooperation, which Macedonia promoted in the region.

As for the second part of your question, let me remind you that the talks over Kosovo's final status have their own institutional form and agenda with known actors. We are Kosovo's immediate neighbor and it's natural to be interested in the course of the talks and their outcome.

- A long period has passed, enough to summarize the results of the work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Personally what do you consider to be your achievement and what a failure? Do you think that the criticism that you turned the foreign policy into a state secret and that you politicized diplomacy fully is founded?

- With a justified dosage of complacency I may say that Macedonia today is where I imagined it would be when I accepted this duty. But let others talks about the success. Perhaps they will deny the old truth that there are more people in the field when reaping than when sowing.

We have experts on duty to make a list of failures. I will only say I regret that because of the financial capacities of the state we did not buy more buildings for our embassies and consulates, did not open more embassies, did not refresh the personnel potential of the Ministry... And now I will tell you a "state secret". A total of five people have been employed in the Ministry since 2002 and as far as I know none of them is a member of a political party. You must agree that this is an original contribution to a partisan foreign policy.

- When will you appoint ambassadors to the US, EU and NATO? If BDI is to choose the ambassador to the EU, whose choice will the other two offices be?

- The ambassador's offices in the EU, US and NATO are not vacant. The regular replacement is set for the first half of 2006. All the ambassadors are a choice of the Republic of Macedonia.

- Where does Ilinka Mitreva see herself after this hot minister's office?

- In an even hotter position!