|H.E. Goce Karajanov|
Ambassador and Consul General, Permanent Mission of Macedonia to the UN
|Intergovernmental Relations among Balkan Nations and the European Union||02/ 26/ 2014|
Distinguished Dr. Konjhodzic
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please allow me to express my appreciation for the opportunity I have been given to be a part of today’s discussion. I believe that this is just the beginning of our cooperation, and as a representative of the Republic of Macedonia, I’m really looking forward to establishing strong working relations with all of you, present here today.
I would like to congratulate ambassadors Tafrov, Hoxhaj and Consul General Sejdiu for their remarks, and let me begin by pointing out that recently, the world renowned English Language Merriam Webster
Dictionary, has officially recognized a new word – Balkanization. According to them, to Balkanize means to break up (as a region or group) into smaller and often hostile units.
However, I’m glad that we gathered here today, not only to prove that the editors of Merriam Webster Dictionary had been wrong, but to give evidence that words cooperation, integration and support, rather than hostilities and conflicts are very commonly used words in our countries. Being part of the Analytics team in my MFA, I’ve come to a conclusion that, in every major foreign policy speech delivered by the leaders of the Balkan nations, speaking about Europe, 3 out of 10 most commonly used words
are the words, cooperation, integration and support.
Nevertheless, we must not only “talk the talk of Europe but also walk the walk of Europe”, and do genuine reforms which will bring us closer to each other, and to the EU itself.
In fact, in the past two decades, the Balkan region has experienced fundamental political, economic, social and cultural shifts. What once was a region torn apart by devastating conflicts, now is comprised of 3 EU member states, 4 EU candidate countries, with 2 more undertaking the necessary steps towards joining the EU.
EU perspective served and continues to be a powerful catalyst for democratic reforms, transformation and modernization of our societies.
Indeed, sustainable reforms aimed at consolidating democracy, the rule of law, human rights, improving the infrastructure and the business environment have been undertaken in the entire Region. Thus, the EU has significantly contributed to the current outlook of the Balkans, which is now in an advanced stage of integration and more importantly, is contributing in addressing the new challenges of global security.
On the other side, I would like to put it straightly that the path of the Balkans must lead to a complete European integration and nowhere else, since I believe there is no other credible and sustainable alternative. In that sense, the EU member states from the Balkans have the biggest responsibility to preserve the credibility of the EU enlargement policy and pull all of us towards the EU. They should help and push the rest of us that are in the pipeline, forward.
That is why we need to maintain genuine and honest cooperation. Historically peoples of the Balkans shared the same fate. Today, they share the same values and the same vision towards more prosperous
region. However, we would not be completely honest should we not admit that challenges still lay ahead in front all of us. Sometimes, those challenges, turn into real obstacles, destroying our peoples dreams for better tomorrow.
Speaking about my country, it has always been a priority for Macedonia to establish and maintain good relations with all our neighbors. For us, they are essential for the development of the country. Our economic development depends on the quality of our links and networks. Our multiethnic society is reflected in our cultural links with our neighbors.
By developing political, economic, cultural and other types of cooperation of common interest, taking into consideration the specific qualities of each state, we have exchanged many visits at various levels, signed numerous international agreements and protocols, supported each other’s candidacies at multilateral organizations and undertaken a plethora of joint initiatives in the political, economic and cultural fields.
Last year we were sincerely encouraged with the success that the region had with the accession of Croatia to the EU and the progress that both Montenegro and Serbia also had in that respect.
On the other side, having an EU candidate country status for almost 8 years with 5 consecutive recommendations to start accessions talks, and basically 5 consecutive vetoes by one member state, may be the biggest negative precedent in the history of enlargement, which seriously affects the credibility of the EU in my country, but in the region too. What was once a strong cohesion factor in our society can easily turn into destabilizing force, and I believe that should not be allowed.
How can EU integration contribute to regional agreements and stability in the Balkan region?
First and foremost, by pursuing economic projects and principally those concerning infrastructure and regional interconnectivity, that are utterly important to the region as a whole and to all countries individually. Such projects play a pivotal role in reducing the unemployment, helping create new jobs which, in turn ultimately leads to a state of progress and well-being for everyone in the region.
EU funds are most drastically needed in our efforts to improve the existing infrastructure between the EU member states and the candidate countries from the region. That is what practical integration would, in truth, actually look like.
Secondly, EU 2020 Strategy for growth and development should be extended to the Balkans. Candidates and potential candidates should be asked to produce national convergence strategies, including lists and targets in key sectors such as employment policy, education and skills training, energy efficiency, research and development. This does not mean the EU should pour extra money into the
Balkans. Rather, it means setting different priorities in the region than in the past. If the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) was geared to institution building and adoption of the acquis in the previous period (2007–2013), IPA2 (2014–2020) should support the transition to a new growth model based on competitive exports. For instance, the program should commit funds for large cross-border infrastructure projects, in conjunction with the European Investment Bank (EIB). Such measures should upgrade the regional market and tap into new sources of growth. Thirdly, the pro-enlargement countries (Visegrad group for example) should co-ordinate much more closely their lobbying efforts to ensure that
the Balkans do not slip completely off the EU agenda. In particular, having coped relatively well with the crisis and as proof that enlargement is a project that pays off, the “new member states” in Central and Eastern Europe should make the case for further expansion and keep the big European centers committed to the process.
And last but not least, the basic thread that we on the Balkans have to follow in regard to Europe and to improving the intergovernmental relations is that democracy, has to prevail over populism, ethic exclusivity that imposes only one own interest and brings conflicts, division and spreads instability. Europeans has always insisted on democratization, stability and development of those who want to join the EU. But Europe should not want stability more than the Balkan countries want it themselves.
That is why all the Balkan nations, those in the EU, and those who are on the doorstep should show readiness for rational agreement, instead of Balkan stubbornness and causing damage to others. With persistency and with this kind of civilized approach, in fact Europe is slowly being established in other countries in the Balkans, which can attain a European perspective only with this kind of demeanor.
The EU has invested a lot in the Balkans. Now is the time to harvest the results. Enlargement with the Western Balkans will have positive impact on the EU which will become stronger and more united continent. It will also contribute to the EU’s commitment to act as a global actor.
Therefore, our vision for the future can be achieved only if we get closer and become reliable neighbors, and only if we recognize that we should learn from the past, while creating strong prospects for a better tomorrow.
Thank you very much for the attention.