Brussels, 19 May 2020 (MIA) – European Parliament rapporteur for North Macedonia, Ilhan Kyuchyuk in an interview with MIA says North Macedonia has to organize fair and democratic election as soon as possible for the country to get a functioning government that will bear responsibility, and a Parliament for checks and balances.
The Bulgarian MEP in the interview also discusses differences between Skopje and Sofia and the prospect of Bulgaria blocking the EU accession negotiations of North Macedonia. Kyuchyuk calls on the joint history committee to continue to work all the while urging politicians to look ahead to the future.
At the moment, debates in North Macedonia revolve around a date for the early parliamentary election. What’s your comment?
Not wanting to go deeper in the country’s internal affairs, naturally the country has laws, there is a constitution that should be respected. But, from the Brussels point of view, as rapporteur for the country, it is in the interest of both the European Union and North Macedonia for the latter to hold election that is democratic, fair and free and that will pave the way for the formation of a new government as soon as possible and for a functioning Parliament to be in place in charge of checking on decisions of the government. We will be following the processes and developments. Based on the coming election, the European Commission will prepare a report, and we – the European Parliament – will pass a resolution after the progress report.
Does the fact that North Macedonia has no functioning Parliament and government may be a problem regarding the release of the reports of the EU Commission and the European Parliament, due in June?
All caretaker governments have limited powers, we all know that. It’s not the same as if having a real government that bears responsibility. Of course, Parliament plays an essential role, too. The best scenario involves a formed political government that is responsible before its citizens, a government that can make agreements with international partners and one that has Parliament as its corrective. This is how all democracies function.
Regarding the health crisis, to what extent is it possible to organize elections in the midst of a pandemic?
I’m no medical expert, I cannot predict what the medical circumstances will be like in September of October for example. No one can say for sure if there is going to be a second wave or a third one. Germany’s Robert Koch Institute has warned that it may be possible. In our region, there will be elections in Serbia and Croatia. It is a political issue and the interest of the citizens and their health should be primarily taken into consideration.
Is your resolution going to include the dispute with Bulgaria involving the language and historical figures? How are you going to approach this issue?
Bilateral relations are not part of the negotiating framework, but I would like to note that good neighborliness is also part of the negotiations. North Macedonia and Bulgaria are neighbors and partners that share a joint history and, I believe, a joint future into the EU. Some harsh words were said recently and we all know that words have prolonged action in politics. They carry weight.
We shouldn’t erase everything that has been achieved with one hand, we cannot keep revisiting the source over and over again. Some new phrases would have to be found. This is the purpose of the history committee. It’s in everyone’s interest for the team to continue to work and politicians should only focus on creating economic, cultural and human communications. I’m saying this as someone who thinks about the future.
I think that the ruling party in North Macedonia has always recognized the two agreements with Bulgaria and Turkey, as being a integral part of the country’s politics and as being key steps that clears the path towards EU and NATO membership.
It is also the EU’s position – respect good neighborly agreements, implement them and build a future together. I see no reason for Bulgaria and North Macedonia to be foes, it’s only logical for them to be the best of friends within the EU, such as German and Austria for example. My German and Austrian colleagues share joint initiatives.
Otherwise, it would be a historic mistake.
Do you think Bulgaria could block the opening of negotiations with North Macedonia because of these differences?
There’s no official position. I’ve listened to an interview with Mrs (Ekhaterina) Zaharieva, the Foreign Minister, and she confirmed that there is no official position of the country.
According to you, what concrete steps should the two sides take to settle the dispute?
The history committee should continue to work and to have a broad term. I think it was a mistake that it hasn’t convened for months. It should be functional, to have meetings, to allow historians to solve the historical issues all the while politicians look ahead to the future.
The modern interest of both Bulgaria and North Macedonia, and of the EU, too, is the Western Balkans to be prosperous, secure and stable. It can only happen within the EU.
My job as rapporteur is to make sure the countries get as close as possible. Also, North Macedonia to join the EU.
The second thing that is also very important is – no one should say harsh words neither before elections, nor after and also not even during election campaigns. Because they carry weight.
Finally, could the negotiating framework and the EU reports be released in June?
We would have wanted that, but I’m not getting such signals. It’s seems it is going to be sometime later. I repeat – fair and democratic election with a government carrying political responsibility and a functioning Parliament are key for the Skopje-Brussels relations.
Translated by Bisera Altiparmakova