Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European Affairs Teuta Arifi in an interview with the Bulgarian National Radio
Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO entry, saying Skopje should change its constitutional name, because it, according to Greeks, leads to territorial claims to the Greek district with the same name. This was the reason for Athens to block also Skopje’s EU negotiations. Now Bulgaria sets a condition that Northern Macedonia is not an option in the name issue talks. Our colleague Nikolay Krastev managed to speak with the Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European Affairs Teuta Arifi at the Balkan forum in Sofia.
Reporter: Are the Balkans stable today, according to you?
Teuta Arifi: I think that in terms of stability the Balkans is much more stable in NATO, as there is more to do about the building and restoration of the democratic processes. And I do not think the Balkans faces a danger similar to the big stability dangers a few decades ago, but I think much work should be done at the European summit, which will be definitely the final stabilizing factor for the Balkans.
Reporter: Do you have the feeling that Macedonia is now a bit isolated from the regional processes?
Teuta Arifi: I think there could be sensitive moments in the ongoing processes, but I think it is very natural for us, as a country, to be part of all regional processes and together with the other countries in the region to claim the tendencies of the EU. It is essential, key to us that we are invited to this forum together with Montenegro and Serbia in the opening of chapters 23 and 24, which once again shows the regional entering in the EU and it would be nice for the regional entering to continue, because countries might have different dynamics, but the essential thing is for them to be motivated to move ahead.
Reporter: Why are today’s relations between Skopje and Sofia complicated and cool 20 years later, since Bulgaria was the first to recognize Macedonia?
Teuta Arifi: I think it was very important that in a key moment – the declaration of Macedonia’s independence – Bulgaria recognized the Republic of Macedonia. The Balkans can be together about its past and can be together in terms of building the current relations. That’s why to me, as a staunch European, it is best to look at (…), where we can find easier answers to our questions from the past. I think, if we follow this line, we will be able to overcome the issues we probably have different opinions about.
Reporter: Do you have an explanation why the Bulgarian ambassador to Skopje was attacked a few weeks ago?
Teuta Arifi: I do not know. I do not have much information, but I think every representative, every diplomatic representative in any country should have the opportunity to fulfill their duties and I think we can hardly expect such problems.
Reporter: How would you comment on Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s statement that the name Northern Macedonia is unacceptable to Bulgaria?
Teuta Arifi: I think it is essential for the countries in the region to support Macedonia’s membership in NATO and the European Union. And said this (…) I expect this will be done first by the EU members in the region Bulgaria and Greece. I think I will not comment the issue further, but I think the good neighborly relations are the key to the Euro-Atlantic integration.
This was Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Teuta Arifi’s brief diplomatic response regarding Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s reservations about Macedonia’s name. The good neighborly relations are indeed significant; this is valid in both directions. But Saturday 150 program will continue following how they will develop from now on.