Writes: Denko Maleski
In the world of international politics as in the world of domestic politics, everything is politics. And what is politics? The dictionary definition says: the activities associated with the management of one country or one of its domains, especially the debate between parties that have the power. And what is foreign policy? That is the policy of a sovereign country in interaction with other sovereign countries. In order to get a date, the debates in the policies of North Macedonia and those in the EU Member States should match. The bitter experience with Greece over our EU membership has shown us what it means only one country to have reserves or be against. Then, namely, there is no date. What will be the outcome of the debate between the parties in France, Germany or the Netherlands, for example, we will yet know. Our political debate says that we deserve a date for starting negotiations with the EU and we have many arguments that have been recognized in the latest European Commission report. This is not the same country as two and a half years ago. There are significant changes for the better. In the first place is the resolution of the 30-year dispute with Greece, the colossal realization of the Western-backed politicians of the two Balkan countries, contrary to all the forecasts and efforts of domestic ultranationalisms. So, the Prespa Agreement was meant to open our doors widely to EU membership. However, it does not have to be quite so. This is not a time when Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt drew the map of the world and spheres of influence as they thought it should be, with a cigar and bourbon, as Barack Obama, the former US president, would notice. Modern democratic times are characterized by the involvement of nations who through their parties participate in the adoption of foreign policy decisions. It can complicate things.
The results of the last European Parliament elections do not speak of some fantastic success, though not of the failure of French President Emmanuel Macron who put himself on the map of united Europe. Marin Le Pen’s populists won this game for a percentage, two, making the outcome of the “Macedonian debate”, if any, less uncertain. To complain to America? America entered us in NATO, but its impact on France is low. When, during a visit to the White House and a conversation with the National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft and the Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, President Gligorov requested US mediation among the French over Macedonia’s membership in the UN, Eagleburger promptly replied: “It is better for you that we do not intervene, as the French do the opposite of what we tell them”. And that is part of the relations between the countries. Moreover, the impending decision for a date does not go hand in hand with the absence of Britain, which as a rule was for the “enlargement” of the EU, as opposed to the French position for its “deepening”. Namely, it is known that in this political “bargaining” between the British and the French, the common policy of the Union was formulated. Today, strict French criteria are dominant and their position can only soften Germany’s policy, somewhat, because it is two major powers that have their own views on European integration.
It is paradoxical, but what may not be in favor of getting a date for negotiations is the publication of the “French Strategy for the Western Balkans”, just one day after the Berlin Summit recently organized by Germany and France. With the plan, France envisions an increased initiative to stabilize the six countries of the region through economic and social development and strengthening the rule of law. For this purpose, the strategy envisions strengthening France’s relations with the region: bilateral co-operation with the countries in the field of economics, security, justice and defense and the engagement of the French Development Agency in promoting economic integration among the Balkan countries. The strategy is elaborated in detail and there is no deviation from it. The initiative, which should expand the French influence in the Balkans, can be of great benefit to us. But what remains unknowable is whether the French policy sees the Strategy as a substitute for the start of negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania or as complementary with the negotiations. So, not either-or, but also-and: both membership negotiations and Strategy. Namely, France to vote to start negotiations that will last at least 8 years, and in the meantime activate its strategy, which can be of great help in realizing the reforms in the Balkans and in our country. Logically, we in Macedonia, wish to be exactly that. Finally, Serbia and Montenegro, covered by the Macron’s plan, are in parallel with the Union membership negotiations, so no precedent would be made if our country gets a date and is covered by the Macron’s plan. However, the decision is not ours. It is in the field of “foreign policy”, and “external” means that, ultimately, we have no influence on the outcome of the political debate and the position of a sovereign state, whose consequences, however, will be felt.
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