Poposki: There are changes in relations with Greece

In the past year we introduced confidence building measures with Greece and we have completely new quality in bilateral relations, Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki said in the interview with the Austrian Die Presse daily.

Poposki also underlined that since Macedonia’s independence there has never been a period of such intensified cooperation with Greece.

Asked whether he expects Greece to lift the blockade in the EU against Macedonia, Poposki said he would be too optimistic to say when it would exactly happen. However the atmosphere is changed and it is a good prerequisite for something to happen in this direction, Poposki said.

He said that European Council made mistake in 2009 because it did not accept the recommendation of the European Commission for opening accession negotiations with Macedonia.

Now we have received the eighth EC recommendation to open accession negotiations. We received the first EC recommendation in 2009. European Council then made big mistake by not accepting the recommendation. And Greece sought postponement of the start of accession negotiations. Impression was created in the European Council that negotiations will be only be briefly postponed and that the name dispute will be resolved as soon as possible, Poposki said.

Related to the criticism for corruption and interference in the judiciary in the latest EC Progress Report on Macedonia, Poposki said that there are several critical points that note problems in all countries in the region, regardless whether they are EU or non-EU members. The rule of law or efficiency of administration are points where we must show progress. This applies to Macedonia as well as to Serbia, Montenegro and Albania. Still the greatest progress was achieved during the negotiations for EU membership. Therefore, the biggest mistake was postponement of the start of accession negotiations with Macedonia for 8 years, Poposki said.

Referring to the EU-Turkey relations and whether refugee deal between EU and Ankara could fail, Poposki said he did not believe it would happen.

We have not reached the point where deal can fail. Turkey needs allies and not the EU – and especially Germany needs deal aimed at preventing last year’s situation. No politician cannot allow the entry of so many refugees and especially not Germany, where elections in 2017 will be held. I do not think that anyone want to jeopardize the EU-Turkey deal.

In regard to the wave of migrants and how Macedonia is dealing with it, Poposki said that 20 to 50 illegal entrances are registered every day i.e. since the beginning of the year, more than 30.000 people tried to illegally cross the border which is far less compared to the last year when 40.000 people crossed the border every day.

But it should be clear that the crisis has not been surpassed. I would not rule out situation when again more people would use the Balkan route. Poposki said that if the situation remains as it is now, then there will be no need for additional Austrian officers who help the Macedonian army and police on the southern border.

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