Sašo Ordanoski is a political analiyst from Skopje with many years of expericence in journalism and public communications both in national and international arena. Since January 2015 he has been the program manager at the Center for Strategic Research and Documentation Forum.
Europen Western Balkans: Do you think that with the election of the new Government in Macedonia, there will be an acceleration on Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic path?
Sašo Ordanoski: The purpose of the new government’s election is to accelerate the process of Euro-Atlantic integration in Macedonia itself. This was one of the main reasons for supporting the policy of the current Prime Minister Zaev both on the domestic political field and the open support that Zaev and his Social Democratic Alliance gets from international and especially Euro-Atlantic community in the period of resolving the deep Macedonian political crisis for several years.
The new government has a difficult task to bring back the reform agenda in the country, because the vast majority of the process has diminished in the last 5-6 years, especially in the field of democracy, independence of the judiciary, the widespread problem of corruption and organized crime at the highest levels of the state.
The problem is that the new government has a very small majority in Sobranje (Macedonian Assembly), and the main partner of the current Government is the same Albanian partner as in the Gruevski government, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), which has been favorably involved in the majority of democratic and legal abuses of the previous government. Therefore, at least until the next political “filtration” after the local elections in Macedonia, I would recommend a very limited optimism for the speed and depth of the reforms that stand on the Euro-Atlantic path of Macedonia.
EWB: Do you expect that there will be some positive shifts in the “name issue” of the country in the near future, because this often stands out as the main obstacle on Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic path?
SO: First of all, Macedonia has a difficult task to regain its good position, lost in the last few years of the previous autocratic regime, in Brussels, Berlin and Washington, as these are the addresses on which further progress of negotiations with Greece over the “name issue” depends. So far, the greatest success of the new government has just been to improve relations with some of our neighbors, with the main European capitals, as well as with the Americans.
Additionally, both the EU and the US are aware that they too were part of the “problem” in the ten-year process of domestic “kidnapping” and state and democracy in Macedonia, because they did not adequately respond to what was happening in the country on time, and now they are trying to be more active in the restoration of the of law and democracy in Macedonia. The list, as well as speed of reforms which have been agreed jointly between the EU, the US and the newly elected Government in Skopje are ambitious, and Euro-Atlantic support and help to achieve these reforms are also evident.
In this context, a positive step in the cooperation between Athens and Skopje is evident – for example, the last visit of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias to Skopje a couple of weeks ago passed in a very friendly atmosphere, which we did not get used to in Skopje taking into account Greece’s policy towards us. Of course, these are positive moves, but the solution to the “name issue” is still far away.
I have the impression that both sides, assisted by American and European diplomacy, are working to find the formula in order for Macedonia to become a member of NATO in 2018, with concrete commitments – both in terms of content and in terms of dynamics – how to resolve the name issue in a certain foreseeable future. Details of such an eventual agreement are still unknown to the public, but there are indications that this is the case.
EWB: Do you believe that Macedonia’s entry into NATO would bring more internal stability for Macedonia?
SO: There is no doubt about that. This would also have a positive effect on the further development of interethnic relations in my country, the development of Macedonia’s relations with neighbors, as well as the stabilization of democratic processes in the country. This, on the other hand, will inevitably bring more favorable conditions for the social and economic development of the country, first of all as a good basis for increasing foreign investments.
Therefore, one of the important reasons for Macedonia’s accession to NATO is the internal stabilization of the country, and therefore the wider region. That is also the security interest of NATO, especially given the evolution of the situation in Turkey and the more aggressive approach of Russia in our Balkan region. In all geopolitical analyses, the stability of the Balkans is an important “gateway” to better address the Middle East situation and the situation in the Mediterranean, beginning with the refugee crisis, through threats of international terrorism, to the resolution of various conflict situations south and east of the European continent.
EWB: So, do you think that the increasing of NATO security umbrella in the Western Balkans region would lead to more overall stability of the region?
SO: Of course. For example, through a number of Balkan countries joining NATO, Macedonia’s immediate neighbors are “pacified” to such a degree that even in situations of unpleasant domestic security challenges (such as the armed conflict of larger size in Kumanovo in May 2015 or violence in the Macedonian Sobranje in April 2017) things could not get out of control due to the non-ivolvement of these countries into Macedonian internal affairs and the security coordination of NATO members in those crises.
EWB: What do you see as the main security challenges of the Western Balkans in the coming period?
SO: The greatest security challenge is probably the socio-economic situation in our societies: life is difficult, social inequality is high, which is always a good ground for various security-political interventions. The sudden renewed interest of Russia in our region is not of altruistic or economic nature, but rather resembles the re-use of our region as a manoeuvring space for certain Russian-Western confrontations that have European and global political, energy and security dimensions.
Also, the practical “self-isolation” of Turkey from its all-time Western allies (and it seems, for a long time), the Western Balkans is becoming a delicate space for advancing various ideas that could threaten the security and stability of the Balkans. An urgent consolidation of the Euro-Atlantic idea as a basis for stability of the region is necessary. This is particularly true of the next phase of resolving the relations between Serbia and Kosovo, as the dynamics of Serbian-Albanian relations are probably the main factor of stability for the entire region over the next ten years.
Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States