British Ambassador to Macedonia, Galloway: The rule of law in the case of Mr. Gruevski should have been followed in Macedonia
- Macedonia is in the process of adopting constitutional changes coming out of the Prespa agreement which is coming to an end. Do you believe that there are still chances for complications along the way?
-The process is aobviosly still ongoing, we had the first vote in October, and in the last few days we had the second stage and we are now moving to the public consultation and the final vote. The Prespa agreement is a historic opportunity which gives Macedonia to resolve long standing problem and for both countries it will bring stability, prosperity and help Macedonia in it’s strategic objective in euroatalntig integration.
- The parliamentary members from the opposition who have voted for opening of the Constitution were excluded from VMRO-DPMNE, among which prominent party figures. From this distance, how do you see the role of VMRO-DPMNE in the whole process of solving the name issue with Greece?
Parliamentaries are elected to represent the views of the citizens. The people of Macedonia have said for a very long time what they want and that is that they want to be part of Europe and to be part of NATO. Also, political parties across the spectrum have also repeatadely said that that is their aim. So, today the public consultation process is launched in Skopje and it will go out across the country and that is the opportunity for the people to engage and its opportinuty for all sides of the political spectrum to engage and deliver for the citizens of Macedonia.
- The ethnic Albanian parties from the opposition have come out with requests for constitutional changes that are not part of the Prespa Agreement, and are referring to the status of the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia. Taking into account the weak two/thirds of the majority, is there additional possibility that the constitutional changes will not be adopted?
-Macedonia is a diverse country. For a country to be functioning democracy it needs to be representative and inclusive of all different elements of society. Therefore, it is reasonable that people want to see changes made and to negotiate on behalf of their sectors of society. However it is also understandable at the moment that people want to focus on main strategic goals for which there is consensus across all society which is euroatlantic perspective for Macedonia.
- Is there Russian influence in Macedonia and how much can it distance the country from the process of NATO and EU?
-Macedonia is a sovereign country and therefore it is entitled to take its own decisions. As I have said a couple of times, people have said they want to be in Europe, they want to be in NATO and that is their decision. Therefore, it makes it even more important for the reforms, to have strong institutions and not have corruption because then Macedonia is more able to fight influence wether it comes from inside or outside of the country.
- Since you mentioned corruption, what do you think that is the level of corruption in the country? Your personal experience?
Talking about my personal experience I have not had any personal experience of corruption since coming into the country. Everybody I met with has been dealing with me in a very upfront way. But, I’m aware of the history of the country and the problems in the past few years which now the Government is trying to tackle. It is one of the areas the Government is going to work on. I think it is necessary to rebuild Macedonian citizens faith in the institutions and to rebuilt trust.
- You have been supporting projects for reforms of Macedonian administration. Probably you have seen the reports what has been done in the past few years. Is there improvement in the work of the administration since we as citizens can not feel that, at least too much?
-I can not offer and analysis of progress right now, but we’ve seen the Governments’ agenda, we’ve seen the areas they’ve said to focus on like judiciary, public administration reform, anticorruption, and these are the right areas. These are the areas that are important for EU, they are important also for NATO, more importantly, as you just said, they are important for Macedonian citizens. And we have projects of support in all those areas. We will continue focus on them.
- Do you think there is still much to do in regards to these reforms?
-Yes, I think there is.
- The new government headed by Zoran Zaev came with great ambitions for positive changes, reforms and economic boom. One and a half year later the results are not in compliance with the promised goals. There are no significant changes in judiciary, as well as in fighting organized crime and corruption, no confiscation of assets, and the economic growth is the lowest in the region…What is your grade for the work of the Government?
-I do not think I can give them a grade. But I would say that in a year and a half the Prespa Agreement with Greece and the Agreement with Bulgaria are not small things. These are big achievements. These were quite courageous acts. At the same time, reform agenda has been launched but Macedonian citizens need to see that being delivered. I would hope to see more progress in those areas over coming moths. There is legislation going through Parliament, there are actions the institutions should be taking and hopefully we will see more of that going forward.
- Can I kindly ask if you can transfer your opinion into numbers? Let’s say from 1 to 10? What is the opinion you will give to the Government?
-I do not think I can give them a grade.
- But it will pass the exam?
- At the referendum in 2016 the Great Britain has decided to abandon EU. Macedonia and its citizens desperately seek from their political elites to speed up the reforms so the country can become EU member. Can you tell us-what is better-inside or outside of EU?
-The EU is made up from sovereign nations. It is made of sovereign nations that choose to be inside of European Union. So, the British people have chosen to leave so that is the process we are working on. Macedonian citizens have said they want to be in the European union so that is what we are supporting. And whatever happens now once Britain has left the European union, UK and Macedonia relations will continue to be strong as ever and we will continue to support your European ambitions.
- How do you comment the escape of Mr. Gruevski, the ex-priminister? Do you think that the act of giving asylum from Hungary is justified and expected or do you think that Mr. Gruevski should have a fair trial here in Macedonia?
-Macedonia has just come out from a political crisis, a crisis that was in part about the rule of law and accountability. I think that it is important for the macedonian future that these cases are taken through to the end and that there is accountability for things that happened.
The rule of law should have been followed in Macedonia. That would have been the best thing for accountability and reconciliation here in Macedonia.
- I as a citizen can feel the disappointment among the Macedonian people after the statements of some members of the international community that the name issue does not automatically means EU and NATO membership? What is your message to the Macedonian people? What are the signs they should follow in the future?
-I think there are two things: Firstly, Macedonia should be recognized for its corougessness and bravery for the Prespa deal. It is not an easy deal and it should be recognized by people outside of Macedonia. But the reform process, the reforms that NATO and EU seek before Macedonia joins, they are also of the interest of Macedonian citizens. That is what political clases in Macedonia have to deliver before their people and that is why EU and NATO integration are in Macedonia’s interest. Because it will make Macedonia better for its citizens.
Your Excellency thank you for the interview.