Tuesday, 7 December 2021 | News today: 0

FM Poposki: The Macedonian-Serbian relations are stable

The political crisis has no influence on Macedonia’s economic priorities, which are long-standing, stable ones, Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki says in an interview with Serbian magazine ‘Srpska Ekonomija’.

Naturally, a solid economic development also requires a favorable business climate, he says.

For the last two years Macedonia has achieved solid economic growth, Poposki says, expressing believe that better one will follow after ending the political crisis in the country.

Here’s the interview in full.

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The Macedonian-Serbian relations are stable!

– The regional cooperation has great potential. The World Bank ‘Doing Business’ 2016 report ranked Macedonia as sixth best in Europe and 12th best worldwide, which is a result of the country’s intensive economic growth. Furthermore, Macedonia tops the job creation list of the IBM Institute for Business Value. The results speak for themselves about (the country’s) commitment to establishing a stable, predictable business climate.

What are the effects of the political crisis on Macedonia’s economic priorities?

– The political crisis has no influence on Macedonia’s economic priorities, which are long-standing, stable ones. Naturally, a solid economic development also requires a favorable business climate. Last year Macedonia recorded good results in terms of economic growth, as it was the case in the year before, but I believe that putting an end to the political crisis will yield even grater progress. Safety and security ensure favorable investments.

To what extent the migration crisis complicated a free flow of goods between the Western Balkan and EU countries?

‘It was a problem when we hosted 10,000-12,000 refugees on daily basis, which led to blocking the rail and road traffic. I would say that at the moment this situation is surpassed, but I would not exclude a possibility for that scenario to become a reality again, considering the fact that over one million people traveled along the Balkan route for one year only. Some unfavorable consequences as result of this situation are unavoidable.

Could the obstacles Macedonia has been facing on its Euro-Atlantic path put its economic sustainability at risk?

‘The EU-integration process is in close relation with the economic growth, which has been the case with the Central and East European countries when they joined the EU in 2004-2013. They recorded the highest growth one year before and after the accession. Macedonia, as well as all other Balkan countries, should not be an exception in this regard. However, considering the unpredictability of our region, we cannot exclusively rely on these projections. We ought to commit to reforms and improvement of the business climate, to develop them before, during and after the EU accession.

During the 1990s certain political elites believed the name dispute with Greece would be settled by bolstering the economic ties between the two countries?

‘Alike economic all other forms of cooperation have been influencing the overall climate. To us Greece has always been one of ours five top trade partners. The relations between Macedonia and Greece are natural and I don’t believe it will change. Adopting the confidence building measures is for our benefit as they help us in many spheres – the economy, energy connectivity and infrastructure projects, but I don’t believe that all of that will automatically lead to the name dispute settlement. Still, good economic ties and contacts between citizens are vital for (resolving) any political issue with Greece as a precondition for finding a possible solution to the name dispute.

Is it possible for the Balkan countries, working on the EU accession agenda, to give priority to an establishment of regional economic cooperation over current political disputes?

‘I believe the economic cooperation ought to be a priority, as it is the foundation of good political climate. Actually this has been proven in reality. The economic cooperation is moving upward regardless of the political relations. It is also the case with the regional ties.

Could the project for the construction of a Budapest-Athens high-speed railroad track contribute to better regional integration?

I’m confident all countries along that corridor will become better connected and see a rise in goods flow and movement of people due to the fact that the geography of our region and trade will change – so far it has taken a maritime route from Northern Europe to Macedonia and the Balkans. It will boost the EU’s interest for our region. The project itself of the creation of a European union would not have been successful had it been conceived only as a political project. I believe we, too, should focus on economic cooperation by creating a common market.

To what extent is Brexit expected to affect the domestic economic market?

Let’s hope it won’t have any impact. It is a vital matter for us, because the UK is our second largest economic partner, the first one being Germany. The British Minister for Europe (Alan Duncan) recently visited Macedonia, where we discussed some substantial issues, because the deal produced by the Brussels-London talks matters to us. The British Minister then told us that the interests of British partners were not going to be affected.

Does Donald Trump’s new economic policy pose a threat to transatlantic ties and to what extent?

This is a million-dollar question. It shouldn’t come to any major change, because the economies of the continents across the Atlantic Ocean share a strong bond depending on each other. As a whole, the EU covers the largest market in the world, the American one being the second and the third largest market is China. I see no logic in changing this concept as it will be detrimental to the United States.

What position is going to be assumed by the new US administration in relation to our region?

According to what has been said so far, I don’t believe the Balkans will be high on the list of priorities. However, following the Munich Security Conference, where the US Vice President, Secretary of Defense and Homeland Security Secretary were in attendance, it has been noted that the United States is not planning on abandoning Europe, it will focus more on NATO defense spending rather than on strategic de-engagement from the European continent. We have to find our place in the relationship between the US and the rest of Europe and ultimately take more responsibility in creating a regional cooperation on our own. We cannot expect someone else to do our job for us.

Do you thing the current political relations between Macedonia and Serbia are stable?

Yes. The solid positive acknowledgement between the nations plays an immensely favorable role for the relations between Macedonia and Serbia. I have been told by my Serbian colleagues, who have cited findings of public opinion polls, that Serbs view Macedonia and Macedonians in the most positive light. I’m confident these findings are identically reflected on the other side. Politics can always find a favorable ground in this kind of relations. We are a turbulent region that is becoming more turbulent, but relations between people are of greatest importance, which can be translated in politics as well, regardless of the challenges we are facing.

How would you describe the economy in Macedonia?

Competitive, with a nuance of political uncertainty, but an economy that is carrying a great potential, because we have laid foundations that are producing results in the long run. A system has been set up to attract foreign investments and to open new jobs. It’s no coincidence that in the past 10 years we have managed to open more than 160,000 jobs and that Macedonia registers the highest rate of newly-created jobs per capita through foreign investments.

Can you perform better?

I’m sure we can. We must keep on working and invest a lot of energy every day to keep moving forward.