Todays Date
June 27, 2022

TITO PETKOVSKI: Macedonia has become a serious problem for the EU

Twenty-three years after declaring independence, Macedonia has not solved the problem with Greece, pointed out in the nineties that without it there is no EU membership, said in an interview for Inbox7, NSDP leader Tito Petkovski, then vice president of the Macedonian Parliament.

Inbox7: 23 years ago Macedonian citizens in a referendum (95% turnout with no Albanians) voted for independence. What uncertainties did Macedonia face then?


Petkovski: Macedonia was confronted with many uncertainties, because there was the breakup of former Yugoslavia, somewhere with horrors, somewhere with wars, somewhere protests, etc., it just was not easy to leave the territory of RM, which was controlled by the then YNA. Macedonia was faced with the need to carry out a very wise policy. We did not want a war in Macedonia as happened in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia…We wanted to gain independence peacefully and we succeeded in it. Some critics today say it should have been done in a different way, even some leaders of the ruling party say there is no independence without bloodshed. However, it happened, we were able to find a mutually acceptable solution with the YNA and the national leadership of former Serbia and other republics of former Yugoslavia. The key issue was what the citizens of RM wanted and therefore there was a referendum.


Inbox7: How much did you then believe in independent Macedonia and the referendum question itself left an alternative to join the Association of Yugoslav states, thus increasing the Albanian campus revolt. What was your position then and now from this prism how do you see the historical decision Macedonia to leave the Yugoslav core, which had already begun to fall apart?


Petkovski: At that time I was Secretary of the then ruling party of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Macedonia and with the collapse of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia at the last 13th Congress with the delegation of Slovenia leaving SKJ, our position was clear and unambiguous. Via Radio Skopje I addressed the Macedonian public that even one delegation to leave the Communist League, we saw no reason to stay in shrunken LCY. We had no alternative, and I would argue even today that it was a big mistake that Yugoslavia broke up but I know how it broke up. The rise of nationalism, populism, foreign intelligence services were directly involved, primarily German BND, etc., who just wanted to disintegrate Yugoslavia as a work of communists although many western countries were unable to understand and accept such a constant in the development of the former Yugoslav federation.


But we had no other alternative. With the departure of Slovenia and Western countries there was no other solution and we did not want to go in a small federation, like Serbia and Montenegro. For Macedonia then the best solution was to make a federation like the Federal Republic of Germany, with looser relationship between the federal units.


Inbox7: Why the possibility for an alliance with Yugoslav states had to be left open in the referendum question?


Petkovski: This motivated a number of citizens, who in all surveys stated that they did not want Yugoslavia to fall apart, except nationalist leaders in the character of Tudjman and Milosevic. Then in Macedonia emerged VMRO-DPMNE with a strong nationalist and populist charge and the confrontation began. The second part of the question practically amortizes tensions of people who did not want a war, because coming out from a union if you are not sentenced to lead a wise policy can end up with bloody scenarios.


Inbox7: Is Macedonia a fully independent state after 23 years?


Petkovski: I personally think that today Macedonia is a country with no prospects. We are a bankrupt state on all grounds. Today we have 640,000 people employed, according to the Bureau of Statistics, 170,000 public employees, 290-300.000 retirees. If we take the retired for the employed, 340,000 thousand remain. If we take the 170,000 public sector employees, then 170,000 people remain who work for a huge population. So this country is doomed to borrow and it will never end. And the government boasts that Macedonia is a middle indebted state. Macedonia can go bankrupt even for 500 Euros if it fails to service the debts. And Macedonia will objectively be in such a situation, as 40% of GDP is Macedonia’s external debt. So today it is a huge disappointment among Macedonian citizens who expected to develop independently, in the ‘90s the standard of citizens was 30% higher than now. So either it is the wrong policy or terrible manipulation or we simply do not have potentials, personnel, human resources…

Inbox7:  Macedonia decided to change the flag under pressure from Greece – on Grcev’s proposal, accepted by the then President Kiro Gligorov …


Petkovski: Grcev solely technically made it, the decision was ours, because the problem with Greece was imposed. In all contacts with the international community for the independence of Macedonia and building our independence we had to run a balanced international policy in relations with the neighbors and then was strongly imposed the question by Greece which was supported by the European Commission and the EU that changes to the flag were to be made. Then came Grcev technically and a group of architects with the symbol of Vergina.


Inbox7: But MASA began to decode the middle text of the Rosetta Stone. Were antiquization decisions made then and what was the purpose?


Petkovski: No. It is tragic what has happened to Macedonia with the change of its identity.


Inbox7:  Now that we have Alexander the Great on the square perhaps it is logical Vergina’s flag to be our national symbol. What do you think?


Petkovski: Today it has no logic. This is now tragic, we had the strongest card in the Slav educators, that brought civilization to the vast majority of Europeans, it was our strongest card. Why they gave up and went to antiquization, I do not know. Perhaps the feelings of the family Gruevski are really original, originating from the Aegean part of Macedonia, and perhaps that is the reason why it is their imperative. But I think it is a crime to the Macedonian nation. First, for the Slavs there is a scientific foundation, for antiquisation in Macedonia there is no scientific evidence, no round table has been opened, no debate has been made. How come at once we are descendants of Alexander the Great and greater Greeks than the Greeks themselves. It is unscientific, voluntary, extremely politically irresponsible and to build such identity you will need manifestation symbols. The more we prove that we are descendants of the powerful general, the poorer we become.


Inbox7: But the fact is that the current flag does not depict national identity, which builds authorities and is accepted by majority of the people.


Petkovski: The flag features only the colors. By removing the star desideology happened and everything else remained the same. So if we are with Alexander the Great, why do not they put him in the coat of arms.

Inbox7: In this situation can we expect a change in the state symbols, the assembly, constitutional amendments are already on the agenda.


Petkovski: Yes, but there would have to be an eagle on Alexander the Great. It is impossible.


Inbox7: Some of the challenges after the independence of Macedonia are overcome. But many questions remained open that today stand on the road to EU and NATO. The ruling parties are on different sides: DUI requires quick solution to the name issue, VMRO-DPMNE thinks that the question touches upon Macedonian identity. Is solution possible?


Petkovski: What is happening to Macedonia today was prompted at the beginning of our independence. Changing the symbols, EU had a strong stance that we must build good neighborly relations. It was not prompted that there was no way Macedonia to be an independent state unless makes a compromise with Greece regarding the name, even in the 90s. And although it is clear identity, it is not to be discussed after 23 years, someone abuses it.


Inbox7: DUI is pressing. Can they speed up the process?


Petkovski: I do not think so. I do not believe because Gruevski has made a political career on the name issue. He has practically served nationalism and populism daily to the citizens via many media he controls and today it is impossible to make such a compromise. Gruevski says we will give the head but not the name, if so we will never get the solution and what is the other option? Why did people vote for a sovereign state but to decide upon all issues? If we cannot decide upon all issues, what is the meaning of independence? Even now, because of that, from EU arrive completely different tones that even if we resolve the name issue with this level of democracy, with this level of media freedom, with this level of human rights and freedoms, with this level of rule of law, we have no chance to enter the EU. In Berlin, according to our information, Gruevski has been told that Macedonia is a serious problem to the EU and even to resolve the problem with Greece you are already a serious problem. As we work anti-European. We change the constitution, build financial zones over which the EU is appalled, we define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, when free sexual orientation is respected in Europe. This is not provided in any documents of the union.


Inbox7: In Cardiff there is an ongoing NATO Summit, Macedonia does not expect anything new. Without a solution to the name, the country remains outside the alliance, despite meeting the criteria for membership. How long can this situation be sustained?


Petkovski: At this point Macedonia is a hopeless state. The situation in the country is hopeless. The second largest ethnic Albanian community terribly opposes any option other than NATO and the EU. If Gruevski and VMRO – DPMNE remain consistent to the policy, that means that they will divide Macedonia. It is more than positive, because the Albanians do not want to go to other alliances as with Russia. Most of the Albanians work in European countries, which is not the case with the Macedonians.


Inbox7: As this is an unsustainable situation, do you think we are entering a new conflict?


Petkovski: Absolutely, they are pushing that conflict, Gruevski rules Macedonia on anti-Albanian basis, what he said during the election campaign – give me 62 MPs so that DUI does not blackmail me.


Inbox7: Ahmeti replied with the same connotation.


Petkovski: Yes, that is how they manipulate with these poor suffering people who are tied to an ethnic group. It is a terrible manipulation.


Inbox7: But if there is a conflict it would be devastating not only for the people but also for the government.


Petkovski: I do not know whether they think in that direction. They are interested in power, they constantly organize pre-elections, aware that by buying votes with employment to reach a state to 2 million people and do not want to carry out a census to see who is in the electorate of this country, so they are aware that can thus manipulate to stay in power longer. I do not know if it is true but I think it is close to the truth that one of the most powerful people at the top of VMRO – DPMNE celebrated the first billion profit on Macedonian soil from Macedonian citizens with a special plane in Dubai with selected company. Do they want Macedonia to survive as a country at all? If they constantly irritate interethnic tensions in every election I do not know whether they want a harmonious life between Macedonians and Albanians. I am not sure the followers of Ljupco Georgievski for division of Macedonia even today do not accept this policy.


Inbox7: The latest episode of lawsuits for defamation ended in favor of the prime minister, Zaev is to pay 50,000 Euros for inflicted heartache. You decided, for the judgment under which you are to pay the Prime Minister 10,000 Euros in damages, to send the case before the Constitutional Court. What decision do you expect?


Petkovski: I will fight for justice, I am a lawyer and I will fight to the end, till formally legal options exist. This is the last instance of domestic law, after that I am going to Strasbourg. It is true that the court decision does not affect the decision taken by the national courts. But if you are an EU aspirant you must respect European standards. I have informed everyone about my case. Everybody knows that 2008 before the NATO Summit in Bucharest there was an agreement to change the name. I suggested to the court Bush to be heard, then Branko Crvenkovski, the then defense minister Laze Elenovski who were present at the conversation. But as now they rejected Dan Doncev, so did Crvenkovski dismiss the court as a witness. What Gruevski makes in Macedonia is awful abuse of judiciary, terrible manipulation of citizens, but it can not last long and Hitler thought he would conquer the world but failed.


Inbox7: You have restored three won mandates (parliamentarians Goran Misovski and Sonja Mirakovska and businessman Ljubomir Josifovski) in the last parliamentary elections. What are your next steps?


Petkovski: We will actout of parliament because we have no other chance but to boycott everything, all institutions, domestic and international public to make sure that in Macedonia there is no democracy, no freedom, no functioning institutions. I think fortunately the Albanian political opposition also walked out of parliament. So Macedonia is faced with the challenge of new elections, but not organized by Gruevski.