Skopje becomes the capital of diplomacy

Every single decision to boycott the referendum is a boycott of the future of the state and of democracy”, stated British Minister of State for Europe and America Alan Duncan at yesterday’s meeting in Skopje with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev. Duncan voiced support for a successful referendum as a democratic way of expressing the citizens’ will, as well as the process of Macedonia’s integration and encouraging the country to achieve its strategic goals. He added that this was important for Macedonia, but also for the entire region. Prime Minister Zaev, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the majority of citizens will come out and vote for the country’s Euro-Atlantic future.

“The vast majority of citizens are for Macedonia’s membership in the EU and NATO, because it will bring stability and security in the country and a European standard of living. I am confident that this will be reflected in the forthcoming referendum vote. I expect all political subjects in the state and individuals to find strength and rise above political interests and will respond to the obligation to state their opinion in the referendum at this historic moment for the future of the country”, said Prime Minister Zaev.

The guest from Great Britain was not the only diplomat from Western countries that visited Macedonia yesterday. EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn met with the President of the Macedonian Government. He also urged young people to get informed, to use their democratic right to vote and freedom of choice, and to decide on the opportunities offered to them.

“On September 30 you have a unique opportunity to shape your future. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a choice that will have an impact on the citizens, their children and the next generations those who are not yet born. The referendum is a very unique opportunity for citizens to take such important decision, which has so far-reaching consequences”, Hahn said.

The spokesman for the OSCE Media Freedom, Harlem Désir, who met with the Minister of Communications, Accountability and Transparency, Robert Popovski, also waited in line in the government. Desir, who was accompanied by the newly appointed head of the OSCE mission in our country, Ambassador Clemens Koja, showed special interest in the procedure for adopting the new Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, and then also on the issue of the status of online media in the media regulation, as well as measures to protect against fake news.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass arrived in the afternoon at the Skopje Airport, and said he could not have imagined a better moment for a visit, alluding to the historic signing of the name agreement, signed by the governments in Skopje and Athens.

Since the announcement of the referendum, this looks like a usual day on the Macedonian political scene. Dozens of high-ranking politicians came to visit the country, which is why it is said that Skopje has become the capital of European and world diplomacy. Some of the visitors were NATO’s Secretary General, the German Chancellor, the US Secretary of Defense, Prime Ministers and Ministers in the governments of the strongest European countries etc.

The initial enthusiasm of visiting high-ranking foreign guests is slowly suppressed by fatigue because of the tight agenda, the media are struggling to follow the inflation of statements, and citizens seem indifferent to identical messaging coming, such as: “Vote if you want future and prosperity, or else…”.

“I do not think the topic of the referendum is decreasing or getting less interest. On the contrary, it is still the main topic in markets, stores, streets etc. Everyone comments on it. And I think that such a high number of visits by prominent foreign politicians, and how it affects a population that still hesitates to come out and vote. When such a strong credibility is obtained from diplomats from the most powerful countries whose visits used to be unimaginable, such as Angela Merkel for instance, it is certainly a good argument when we realize that we are not alone in this. The referendum and the entire agreement is not only a contribution to Macedonia, but also the whole European Union and the United States. The failure of the referendum will be their failure as well. That’s why their agility and dedication is so visible”, analyzes PR expert Igor Atanasov.

He sees irrationality in the way in which the campaign is managed, that is, the election and referendum agenda are being mixed up together.

“Very little is being debated about the agreement itself or the EU and NATO, the benefits and consequences of membership, what is mostly debated is daily political events or, for example, what Zaev have accomplished during this past year in power. It is sad that neither the opposition nor the government made efforts to show their voters that it was not a matter of choosing between political parties”, stresses Atanasov.

He says that neither the campaign nor the visits of foreign diplomats are so boring and problematic right now, as is the deadlock in other processes and spheres in society, and above all in businesses that await the end of the referendum, so that they can go on with their lives.

Goran Adamovski