Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Bujar Osmani considers that opposing of VMRO-DPMNE to the name deal with Greece, which is a project for next generations, not next elections, will complicate the domestic political situation. However, he still believes that VMRO DPMNE will ultimately realize that the country has no future without EU and NATO.
“The main opposition party is still opposed to the deal, which will complicate the domestic political situation. We have been working hard with all political actors locally, and with the international community, to help bring everybody on board, because this is a project for next generations, not next elections. In that sense, I still believe that VMRO DPMNE will ultimately realize that the country has no future without EU and NATO. They still seem bent on holding this process hostage, and with it, the country’s future. We would prefer to fight this battle with the opposition side by side, but if we have to push forward without them, we will, and we will succeed. And I believe that with the overwhelming support of the people, we will make it happen in the time required,” Osmani said in the interview with Greek newspaper Ethnos.
Asked on possible negative result in the referendum in autumn, he said “I don’t believe that a negative result is likely, mainly because I have strong faith in the people. They will, I am sure, recognize the simple choice: we can move forward to a better future, or we can slide back into the past. I am confident that the majority will support the former. That’s why we are not afraid of a referendum, and the opposition is.”
“The simple truth is that the majority will support this process, and that is why we have been working hard to convince VMRO DPMNE to promise to uphold the will of the people, whatever it may be. On our behalf, I can say with a clear conscience: if there is one vote more against the deal, we will respect the will of the people. I dare the opposition to vow to the same,” he underlined.
Answering question in regard to early election, which has been recently announced by PM Zoran Zaev, and other forces that do not agree with deal will come to power, Osmani said “snap elections are not our goal in and of itself. We believe that we have much work to do, in urgent reforms, preparing for NATO membership and the start of EU negotiations, and being forced into elections might slow these reforms,” adding that he is confident that they would win elections if they take place tomorrow.
In regard to one of the issues arising from the Prespa agreement and is related to the commercial brand name “Macedonia”, Osmani said “I believe that many aspects of the deal, which is essentially a fair compromise on both sides, will have to be established through practice and good will going forward.
Osmani said that biggest challenges we have to face in the coming years on the road to Europe are the corruption and the judicial system. “The restoration of a normal meritocracy and civil servant environment will take time, and will face obstacles from those who have something to lose in these reforms. We are prepared to be tough on these reforms, pushing for a quick turnaround. We will create specific task forces aimed at the biggest obstacles and priorities. We will invite help from the international community and share their experiences. Ultimately, we will persist, paragraph by paragraph, person by person, but change will come,” he noted.
Asked about the most important reforms that the country needs to make to join the EU, Osmani said, “We need to concentrate on preparing for the tough process of screening and subsequent negotiations with the EU. As you know, the process of negotiations is the biggest overhaul of the country there is. Many aspects of our legal, political and social system will have to adapt to the standards of the EU. In this upcoming period, we are focused on delivering quick results in the areas of public administration, the judicial system reform, the fight against corruption and organized crime, while also restoring a fully functioning democracy and real freedom of expression, all of which are areas that were practically ruined under the previous government.”
In regard to other big actors like Russia which are also showing interest in getting more involved in the Balkans, Osmani noted that Russia has neither the resources, nor the interest, to keep stirring up trouble in this region for a prolonged period of time.
“I believe that the current push is a final attempt to derail, or slow down, the inevitable process of EU and NATO ascension,” Osmani said.
Asked about the reports that “Greek businessmen” who are “sympathetic to the Russian cause” have paid Macedonians sums ranging from $13,000 to $21,000 to “commit acts of violence” ahead of a crucial referendum later this year, Osmani answered “The accusations against meddling in other countries’ domestic affairs are serious, and I would urge all international and domestic institutions to expedite a quick and impartial investigation into these allegations, in order to quickly get to the bottom of this,” Osmani said in the interview with Greek newspaper Ethnos.