The Foreign Affairs Ministers of Macedonia and Greece, Nikola Dimitrov and Nikos Kotzias, had a joint press conference following their meeting on Thursday, saying that they discussed the differences over the name issue, but mainly the way in which this process will continue, the interests and worries of both parties and improving the understanding over the issue.
Dimitrov said that he hopes Greece will recognize the new reality in Macedonia and the sincere desire for friendship with Greece. “We expect and hope for help and support in our European integration and we want to see a friend and future ally in each other, instead of outsmarting each other”, said Dimitrov. Dimitrov added that he had a lengthy conversation with Kotzias and that he assured the Greek colleague that Macedonia doesn’t have a hidden agenda and greatly appreciates these meetings which allow for building of mutual confidence as basis for friendship.
“I re-affirmed our foreign policy priorities in which maintaining good neighborly relations and regional cooperation in line with our European orientation. The relations with our southern neighbor have a special meaning for us, including the good economic cooperation, the high frequency of movement, joint interests in stability, security and prosperity of the entire region”, said Dimitrov.
Kotzias responded that the two countries are close neighbors who are connected by many things, and therefore they should continue working on the confidence building measures and resolving the issues of their citizens. The package of confidence building measures includes work in various areas such as transportation, but doesn’t directly relate to the name issue.
“Greece supports and continues to support with all its might the stability and sovereignty of this friendly northern country. Your stability feeds our stability and our development feeds your development and stability“, Kotzias added.
Kotzias said that Greece is in favor of stability in both countries, maintaining their ties and the principle of maintaining the current borders and the sovereignty of both countries. Kotzias added that the expansion of NATO toward all the Balkan countries, and particularly toward Macedonia, will be good for the region.
“This road asks that we develop our economic and other ties, and to overcome the problems and any type of irredentism that exists and which transforms non-existant problems and transforms our mutual problems in fights and arguments”, Kotzias said. Asked by the press about Greece’s position on Macedonia’s NATO membership, Kotzias said: “Regarding NATO, there is the Bucharest decision, and one this decision is implemented, this country will become a member of NATO. It is not up to us how this NATO decision will be implemented, but up to the decision makers. We want to see this dear northern country join NATO and the European Union but for that to happen, it must be in accordance to EU and NATO rules. There is a European leadership, European Government and European perspective in the country I’m in today, but an element of the European perspective is to respect the decisions and the rules”. At the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit, following the Greek veto for Macedonia’s membership, the NATO countries said that Macedonia will be able to join once the name issue with Greece is resolved.
The Greek Foreign Minister said that there are positive results from the confidence building measures and that relations are improving much faster than with any other neighbor. “We will build new pipelines, introduce cooperation between universities and in research, as well as police cooperation for the security of the entire region”, said Kotzias.
He added that there are illogical and crazy issues in each country, but that deep down, there is love between the countries. He again called for demolishing irredentism. Greece has frequently accused Macedonia of irredentist tendencies toward its territory. “Future belongs to cooperation and I hope we will find courage to overcome all elements that keep us in lack of logic and that our love will develop allowing us to resolve problems”, Kotzias said.
Kotzias traveled to Skopje by car to avoid landing at the Alexander the Great airport. Asked whether Macedonia has decided to rename the airport or the Alexander the Great highway or remove some of the monuments in downtown Skopje, Dimitrov said that the Macedonian Government doesn’t strive for “Greater Macedonia” but for “Greater Europe”.
“I don’t think it’s wise to base our foreign or domestic policy on historic persons from 2.000 years ago. We are a nation that learnt some lessons from the past in the past few years. We can’t change the past. We can change the present and open up our future. History should be a teacher but not a prison. We firmly stand by our obligations in the 1995 Interim Accord. We will react wherever we can, because it is a wrong signal, and just as we are not happy when someone’s greater state maps intrude on Macedonian territory, we understand that Greece is not happy when someone waves greater state maps. It is 2017 and the two peoples will live much happier if there are bridges and open doors. i can’t speak specifically about plans for certain statues, but I don’t need hundreds of statues to be a proud Macedonia, and I also don’t mind when some Greek citizens in Solun call themselves Macedonian”, said Dimitrov.
While in Macedonia, Kotzias is set to meet President Gjorge Ivanov and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Speaker Talat Xhaferi, Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani and representatives of the political parties. Following the meeting with Dimitrov, the two ministers said that they also discussed advancing police cooperation and security, and cooperation in the areas of economic development and education. The two ministries signed a memorandum on cooperation between their diplomatic academies and also discussed about greater cooperation during natural disasters.