MOD Shekerinska: We are sending the message that the Region can only be better and safer with Macedonia as part of NATO – an interview for TOP TEMA NA VASHA STRANA, TV TELMA 12 June 2017 (Brussels visit)

Journalist: Bobi Hristov

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TV Telma: Mrs. Shekerinska, if we try to summarize this entire day and all the different aspects, especially in the European Union and NATO, we could sum up everything in a single sentence. If you deliver, we will respond. However, what does “we will respond” mean, particularly with respect to the EU, it is different from previous years when we were used only to postponements and postponements.

MOD Shekerinska: I believe that what was happening in Macedonia in the past few months, even years, has led to a situation in which we are getting a second chance. Why? The reason is that the European Union also saw for itself that when there is no politics, when there are no instruments, when there are no decisions, the vacuum tends to get filled up with very unfavourable things.

What is clear is that Macedonia has a new Government and the strong message that we sent today is that this Government does not want only to act implementing reforms; on the contrary, this Government wants to deliver the reforms primarily for the sake of its citizens, but also as a message to the EU and NATO. I don’t think that the Union and NATO have changed, but we came to Brussels to demonstrate that our will is political, that our political word will stand its ground and that our words will be accompanied by action.

TV Telma: What will that action specifically mean, because all messages evidently imply that Brussels, at least, will not give your Government 100 days for adjustment, the results will have to be delivered starting tomorrow, by Priebe’s visit, next Hahn’s visit, the action report that Priebe is to prepare by 10 July. What is the meaning of the context that the delivery will have to start as of tomorrow?

MOD Shekerinska: We already stated in our pre-election campaign last year that we will not be entitled to having 100 days, because Macedonia does not have 100 days to lose. This whole process with the election of the Government, the parliamentary procedures, has additionally shortened our maneuver space and Macedonia will have to make some kind of a miracle to demonstrate by the end of the year that the reforms are not only on a piece of paper, but that they are becoming a political reality.

I agree that sometimes it is not fair, we are expected in three months to do the job that had not been done in several years, but I think that the Macedonian citizens have the same expectation. Why? Because they are tired and they have lost many opportunities because of this waiting. Our goal will be to focus on those areas in which we will be able to deliver something within the upcoming three to six months.

TV Telma: Where to start from? Priebe’s report is large and the urgent priorities are based on it. It is clear that when Priebe comes to Macedonia this week, he will not find almost anything solved, with the exception of a draft report on the reform of the Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence. What will be the starting point and what is it that you have brought here today to get that message: “Deliver, and we will respond“.

MOD Shekerinska: I believe that we do not have the right to push forward only one reform that will eventually continue into another one. We must initiate several major reform packages that require immediate attention and should have already been started. One of them is the reform of the judiciary, for which they are well aware that will require more time. The goal is not to state the deadline, but to start increasing the competitiveness in the judiciary by increasing their responsibility to those that elect them.

The second area is, of course, the media. The question is not whether only the Law will be amended. The important thing is to be able to see that the Macedonian Government will not continue to corrupt the media as it was the case in the past. It is important to stop using the instrument called lawsuit for defamation to put pressure on the journalists. These are the things that we can deliver within a relatively short period of time.

The third important part is creating democratic institutions that will control the Government. We undertook obligations in this respect. We showed them in the Macedonian Assembly, the Assembly should really be the centre of the political developments. The Government should really be held accountable to the elected representatives of the citizens.

The fourth area that we mentioned, and which affects everyone, is the fight against corruption through increased transparency. We want to show to the citizens of Macedonia, but also to the EU and NATO how the money is spent, how the institutions are functioning and who is accountable for what is done and what is not.

TV Telma: Even of you make the best European laws, you are facing the harsh reality, the fact that it is necessary to have a consensus or two-thirds majority for most of the laws, and particularly for the judicial reforms. How can that be ensured in a policy of obstinacy that was the practice in Macedonia to date?

MOD Shekerinska:  I should first say that our impression is that the practice which the former Government had introduced to solve everything with a new law is actually a bad practice. We will try in many of these areas – you mentioned a few of them, the media, the Ombudsman and others, to solve the problems by applying the laws that are not bad. The problem was actually their implementation. However, I agree with you that we will need 2/3 majority for some laws. We already made the first steps of demonstrating a different style of politics. The opposition got to chair important commissions and in some Commissions it even represents the majority. It is a political benefit for VMRO – DPMNE, but also a political responsibility. We believe that in an inclusive process in which we will invite the opposition, the civil organizations and the expert public, to discuss the judicial reforms, we will shift Macedonia, slowly but steadily toward a situation that will enable 2/3 support for a specific reform package. The fact that Priebe will be coming and that part of his team will focus on these reforms, the fact that we have the recommendations of the Venice Commission regarding the judicial reforms may make this a bit easier. If some choose to continue their obstinacy and blockages, it will be their choice. I believe that the pressure by the public and the EU and NATO will be enormous. Macedonia needs solutions and everyone can contribute. The Government bears the greatest responsibility, but we offered our hand to the opposition. It is their responsibility whether to take it or not.

TV Telma: Now we have come to those two questions that unite your two functions – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. With respect to the EU, the goal is opening Chapters 23 and 24, that is, the start of the negotiations for NATO membership. The name issue is hovering over both. Are any creative, new solutions possible, especially with regard to the EU, that may enable a start of the negotiations and, in a later stage, resolution of the name issue. Is there any such atmosphere in the EU?

MOD Shekerinska: We should not wait for any atmosphere to come along, we should create it. The goal of our visit to Brussels today, the visits that Prime Minister Zaev will have to Bulgaria, the MFA visit to Greece, will be to demonstrate a new type of policy. Policy of openness, good neighbourly relations, non – politicizing our bilateral relations. The goal is to send the message that the region can only be better and safer if Macedonia ensures its NATO membership and negotiations with the EU. There was a period of time when the security of the Western Balkans stopped to be an issue. Maybe it was in 2008, 2010, 2011. During the past few years, all our neighbours, the EU and NATO saw what happens when small Macedonia is moving towards instability.

TV Telma: We heard Mr. Hahn today stating that Europe needs to deliver and have in mind the mistakes it made in the case of Macedonia. A new approach is needed. We heard Mr. Stoltenberg at the press conference with the Prime Minister. He said the security of the Western Balkans, stability is key for NATO. However, it all ends up with the well known mutually acceptable solution. How much is this Government ready to work on opening those doors, even under the provisional reference?

MOD Shekerinska: As a Government, we have demonstrated that we intend to develop good neighbourly relations. I think it will be visible and that it is already being appreciated. This issue has cost Macedonia a lot and it is hard to expect that it will be easy to solve. If it were easy, it would have been solved when we got our independence. Nevertheless, we want to provide back the standard that was in place in 2007 – yes, we want to solve the issue, but let us not make the issue block all our mutual relations. Will it be difficult to achieve – absolutely yes. Nevertheless, it is our task to commit to its resolution. I think that both in the EU and NATO the politicians and the structures were loud in saying – let us not repeat the mistake. The message that we received from the EU is that if Macedonia delivers, the EU will have to deliver too. Not as an obligation, but as a smart decision. We will work on that principle too – creating a new climate in the relations with our neighbours, to be able to open the door, stabilize the country and approach these issues in a much more constructive and positive way.

TV Telma: In closing, are we going to see the recommendation unfreeze in December?

MOD Shekerinska:  I am convinced that if everyone does their job, unfreezing the recommendation will become a reality.