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South Slavic: April 20, 2000

20 April 2000, Volume 2, Number 15

Interview With Macedonian President Trajkovski. Part II

RFE/RL's South Slavic Service's Recent Interview with Boris Trajkovski, President of Macedonia

Karabeg: The Serb Renewal Movement, the most powerful opposition party in Serbia, has recently warned that frequent contacts between Hashim Thaci and Arben Xhaferi, as well as their joint international activities, indicate that the idea of a Greater Albania has been activated. How do you see that cooperation and their joint appearances?

Trajkovski: That is a statement by a leader of one political party and I do not want to comment on it. However, I think that meetings between politicians, particularly now and in this region, represent something good and in accordance with a European orientation. As people in politics, we are talking about the necessity of a political dialogue, therefore I consider this sort of discussion and talks positive.

I do not think that some sort of a shadow should be cast over these talks, or that there is a plot behind them. I simply think that we who live in this region should talk to each other. Talking is much better than making war. Dialogue is a much better instrument than any weapon. And if there are ideas about "megastates" in some heads, then it should be openly said and be discussed. However, I think that those talks were a positive thing.

Karabeg: Do you think that the idea of a Greater Albania still lives, or that it belongs to the past?

Trajkovski: I see more and more statements coming from our area, namely from Tirana, which do not point that way. The President of Albania, Rexhep Meidani, recently said that Southeast Europe should be integrated into the European family of states, and that that is the only way to overcome the problem of borders in the Balkans.

I was impressed by the words of the U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, when she said in Tirana--and her message was clear--that no one should dream about some megastates, whether we are talking about a greater Albania or a greater Yugoslavia. I think that many politicians have already realized that there is no room for states like that here. I think that the right lesson might have been learned thanks to the example of Kosovo. That idea could still exist only in the minds of few extremists, but not universally.

Karabeg: The Belgrade regime was not happy about the VMRO-DPMNE's victory in the parliamentary elections in Macedonia [in1998] and your presidential election victory [the following year]. One can say with certainty by following the official [Serbian] media that they are not indulgent towards your new government. Are you afraid that Belgrade might start putting a chill on the relations between your two countries?

Trajkovski: I have no time to think about somebody's bad luck or good luck. As I already said in Bucharest--and I am going to say it again here--the policy of Macedonia is to develop good neighborly relations and regional cooperation. We have a good track record on this and have shown our willingness to help all our neighbors equally by offering to cooperate. I hope that this policy will be successful.

I think that Belgrade will soon be forced to change its policy because of the suffering of the Serbian people. Belgrade will have to join not only the process of change, but also to contribute to the development of regional cooperation and the establishment of peace, stability, and security in the region. As far as your question about Milosevic and his men's attitude [toward Macedonia is concerned], I do not find it logical, since all he can do that way is to hurt his own people. Moreover, I believe that Serbs will not allow themselves to be led in that direction. Other politicians will eventually come along who will think differently.

Karabeg: Do you expect that the border issue might become a sore point, since Macedonia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have not yet resolved all their border disputes?

Trajkovski: Our relations with the neighbors are excellent, but, although we have signed an agreement on cooperation with Yugoslavia, the border issue remains open. You can see what is happening right now in [southwestern] Serbia. This is why we would like to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

As far as we are concerned, we will continue to try to overcome the problem. We have created a joint committee that is supposed to work things out, but, because of its internal problems, Serbia either has not time to deal with the issue or it wants it to remain open.

Karabeg: The government of Serbia has recently limited the flow of food between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Macedonia, in spite of a free trade agreement between two countries. They explained it with the need to stop black marketeering, since food prices in Serbia are quite low. Do you accept this explanation for Belgrade's decision?

Trajkovski: I think that the main motive for that decision was an economic one, since people have been looking for all sorts of ways in order to survive. I remember that back in 1990 and 1991, people from Serbia did black-marketeering here in Macedonia with goods from Serbia. They did it to survive. There were similar attempts here recently, and the reasons are the same.

This uncontrolled trade, however, drains the food supplies in Serbia. That is, I think, the reason for the measure, not some sort of political motive. The other day, the Macedonian foreign trade minister met with his Yugoslav counterpart and they discussed the problem. I think that a solution will be found and that the problem will be soon overcome.

Karabeg: You said during your recent visit to Estonia that President Milosevic is the main obstacle to stability in the region. Let me quote you: "There will be no stability in Montenegro, in Kosovo, or in the entire region as long as Milosevic remains in power. Once he is replaced, I think that we will have stability here." It seems that Milosevic is not going to be replaced at any time soon. Does that mean that will have to wait a lot longer for stability in the region?

Trajkovski: This view regarding Milosevic's responsibility for the instability in the region is not just my own. I think that many [people among the] democratic forces in Serbia say the same thing, and they publicly ask him to quit the presidency. I would [just] like him to change his policy; it would be very good if he did so. Of course, it all depends of the will of the people of Yugoslavia and Serbia; they are supposed to decide whether they want him to be their president or not. However, his policy has been internationally a source of instability in the region and for the countries of the region.

Karabeg: Let me remind you of one more statement of yours, the one you recently gave in an interview to a Polish newspaper. The question was: who represents the most serious danger for Macedonia. You answered that "as long as Milosevic is in power in the neighborhood, the danger remains that some sort of evil idea might be born in his mind."

Trajkovski: Milosevic is not the only problem. What is important is that true democracy wins in Serbia. If Milosevic is replaced, but not through a democratic process, I think that another Milosevic might replace him.

Karabeg: What is your opinion about the relations between Macedonia and Greece, since they were quite bad until recently? The situation has since calmed down. Can we speak of a full normalization?

Trajkovski: We have excellent relations with Greece now, especially in economic and cultural cooperation. Greece is becoming the most important investor in the Republic of Macedonia. I expect our relations to keep going that way.

This is very important for the Republic of Macedonia and it sends a variety of messages. First, it proves that cooperation between neighbors is possible. The second thing is that we are working together with an EU state, which encourages economic development in the Republic of Macedonia. The third thing is that we are sending a message to Brussels that we want to take part in European integration.

As far as the name of our country is concerned, it remains an open question that needs to be negotiated within the United Nations. However, it does not hamper good economic and political relations between our two states. We have high-level meetings almost every week--our prime ministers, ministers, and other political officials meet, as well as, of course, our businessmen.

Karabeg: You said that present relations between Macedonia and Bulgaria are a good example of good neighborly relations. Could we say that Macedonia, at this moment has the best relations with Bulgaria?

Trajkovski: I think so. After the signing of the Declaration and other agreements, our relations [have been getting steadily better]. Now we are developing our economic cooperation. It might be going a little bit slower, but it is going in a positive direction as well.

Our two countries have similar stands regarding regional cooperation, particularly concerning the [EU's] Stability Pact. There is a common interest in development and support for a number of projects within the Pact. We have common objectives in our foreign policies, and those are a European orientation, as well as [membership in] the European Union and NATO.