Kotzias: The EU must keep its word to North Macedonia and Albania

In our opinion, as long as the European Commission started and set a horizon this summer to launch formal negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, we will have to deliver the promise we made, says Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in an interview with EURACTIV.com.

FM Kotzias appeals to all sides to understand that there are indeed problems with these countries, but by joining a monitoring and screening process, they can solve them more efficiently.

“I’ve told my counterparts they can be as strict as they want. But we must not block that prospect. I am afraid that if a date for accession is not given to North Macedonia, all this effort we made with great sacrifices and compromises from both sides, could be jeopardised. Furthermore, if one of the two countries starts the negotiations, and let’s say, Albania is left out, this will create a state of instability in the region,” says FM Kotzias.

According to him, if some countries had issues with North Macedonia and Albania, they should have notified them before.

“Now, we have the Commission’s report and the proposal to look at the opening of the negotiations. Now we reached the point and we have to do it. Europe must keep its word,” adds Kotzias.

Pertaining to the opposing countries, the Greek FM says in the beginning it was Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, but some contradictions in German politics as well.

“In Germany, there is a conflict within the ruling coalition and this makes Angela Merkel quite cautious about measures that will integrate third parties or how the migration issue will be tackled. I understand it. The French are not happy with the way the debate about the future of Europe is going. And the Dutch have expressed disagreements, but I think it will be easier for them to overcome them. So the point is to bring France together with Germany in order to avoid destabilising the Balkans,” says Kotzias.

Pertaining to the name agreement, he says it has been Europe’s best news for the last five years.

“It’s a solution to a problem that came at a time when we had a crisis in the eurozone, a crisis of identity, deepening or enlargement, the Brexit, the migration issue. It’s crucial to emphasise that the solution of the name dispute helps recognise the potential of diplomacy to solve problems and that Europe does not look back,” notes Kotzias.

Regarding the reactions of the oppositions in both countries, he says that Greece’s New Democracy operates as a VMRO-DPMNE branch in Athens, while VMRO operates as a branch of New Democracy in Skopje.

The FM says the dividing line is no longer ‘those in Skopje and we in Athens’ but among those who want the solution of the problems and the European orientation and those who push for a non-solution.

“I believe Zaev will not bow to the pressure. He is a much more resilient politician than he seems at first sight,” underlined Kotzias.