Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov on the situation in Macedonia

Submitted on Tue, 05/16/2017 - 06:46

Fragment of the Press Conference by Permanent Representative of Russia to the EU Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov. Brussels, 3 May 2017

Question: The situation in Macedonia is very tense. As I understand the Russian reaction, it says that the West does not understand what is going on there. By pushing towards a government led by Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) Zoran Zaev it would create even more turmoil. Can you explain Russia’s position better?

Vladimir Chizhov: The situation in Macedonia is tense, dangerous and fragile. The latest elections which took place last December actually produced a result similar to the previous one putting Prime Minister Nicola Gruevski and his party first and the main opposition of Zoran Zaev second. Macedonia is a multi-ethnic society; there are several Albanian parties there. Since Nicola Gruevski and his party did not get an absolute majority of seats and no other party expressed the wish to join a coalition with it, the country was back in a constitutional impasse. In that situation the leaders of three Albanian parties were summoned to the capital of Albania where they signed up to the so-called Albanian Platform. When they came back to Skopje, they managed to persuade, with the help of others, Mr.Zaev to sign up to that platform.

If you read the text of that Platform, you will understand why the tension has only increased. Because it goes a long way from the already existing arrangement of 2001, the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA), which was written by nobody else but Javier Solana and gave the Albanian minority certain quotas. By the way, there was a very interesting provision there, stipulating that any national minority which represents at least 20 per cent of the population has the right to have its language recognised as a state language. When I met Mr.Solana in those days, I asked him whether he would consider applying the same provision to Latvia and Estonia. He smiled.

The current so-called Albanian Platform goes much further – it goes against the constitutional order of Macedonia. And that in the existing tense situation with a lot of mutual recriminations and a lot of emotions running hard. In our view, its implementation would have been detrimental to the future of the country.

What happened next? There was a meeting of the country’s parliament, the session was declared closed, some parliamentarians left and others organised an informal meeting and elected a new speaker in clear violation of the house’s rules and existing legislation. The newly-elected speaker is an ethnic Albanian with a long record of participation in armed activities in the country.

Then next morning the European Union put out a statement in support of those developments, that, I am afraid, was not conducive to alleviating the tensions and promoting a peaceful outcome of the crisis. President of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov has been standing firm. He is engaged in discussions with all the political parties, but he is firm in protecting the country’s constitutional order, which he has an obligation to do.

You can ask me how I see the way ahead for Macedonia. I believe they can not avoid having another early election. When that happens is, of course, for them to decide. You can not create an exit from a political crisis by destroying the pillars of a country; we have seen that in other places in recent years, quite a lot.

Question: The EU and the US clearly support the opposition and the new speaker; they want to change the government. They have means of pressure. What could the Russian Federation offer the Macedonian government as an alternative for the Euro-Atlantic strategy or any other kind of support?

Vladimir Chizhov: The Euro-Atlantic strategy of Macedonia has been encountering certain difficulties unrelated to the current crisis and that continues to be the case on both tracks, NATO and the European Union.

There is always an alternative to Euro-Atlantic integration. Some countries are contemplating taking that route, others choose not to. Of course, I will not say that the Euro-Atlantic path is the only one available for any country, be it of the Balkans or any other region. We are not interfering, as distinctably different from the United States and, unfortunately, the European Union, in this internal political crisis. We believe that the ultimate goal is to preserve Macedonia as a single country, to preserve its Constitution and allow the political forces to agree on how to proceed. As I said earlier, my personal understanding is that they should probably have a new round of elections.