Friday, 15 December 2017 | News today: 7

Gudrun Steinacker Ambassador of Germany: You don’t understand the essence of EU functioning

The era of the great power has ended long ago, at least in Europe. In Europe there are no solutions, which have been dictated from above. It is about building trust and cooperation. All participants should make efforts for that. Otherwise, it is not true that Berlin, London, and I would like to mention Paris in this context, are not interested in the dispute and is solution. They have shown that interest various times, says Gudrun Steinacker, Ambassador of Germany in an interview with Republika

gudrun ambasadorka germanija

Ms. Gudrun Steinacker, you have been the Ambassador of Germany to Macedonia since 2011. How do you evaluate the Macedonian-German relations on political and economic field and how can they be enhanced?

Steinacker: The German-Macedonian relations have been good and trustworthy from the very beginning, and I am convinced that will continue that way. Of course there are areas in which there is a space for further enhancement. I would like some of the difficulties related to the regulation of the stay of our experts in German language to be finally overcome, and we could get a little bit bigger support from the Macedonian Government for our programmes for advancing the German language.

Do you think that Macedonia deserves to be member of NATO and start the accession negotiations with EU at the moment?

Steinacker: As a German Ambassador is not under my authority to mark what your country deserves and what not. NATO and EU have established that Macedonia has met all criteria for membership in NATO  and the start of accession negotiations with EU. Germany supports that. However, the conduction of those decisions is not in our hands because both international organizations function in accordance with the principle of consensus.

How do you evaluate the reforms that are being implemented in the country, which are significant for the membership in EU?

Steinacker: According to the opinion of the German government, the European Commission’s 2013 report on perfectly reflects your country’s progress in the last year, as well as the deficiency. It formulates demands, containing suggestions for your government, behind which stands the German government as well.

According to you, which are the fields on which Macedonia has the best progress, and where do you think still it has to be worked on in order to reach the European norms?

Steinacker: According to me, there are issues with the implementation of the laws and the rules, and sometimes with the judges’ rulings. Nevertheless, I hope that those issues can be overcome through dialogue with the correspondent ministries, offices and the civil society. Germany gives its contribution to as soon as possible agreement with the European standards and norms with a number of bilateral projects and programmes through organizations such as German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Development Credit Bank (KfW), German Chamber Industry and Commerce (DIHK),German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Goethe-Institute, Center for Study Abroad, “Konrad Adenauer” and “Friedrich Ebert ” Foundations, as well as experts in international project finance, as the projects from the EU twinning programmes.

Macedonia has received the fifth consecutive recommendation for setting a date for start of accession negotiations with EU, but the start has been postponed each time. Why the Union is sacrificing its credibility, presenting itself as not serious union violating its own norms and criteria just so its member could impose an irrational dispute?  

Steinacker: I believe that this question shows that you don’t understand the essence and the way of EU functioning. EU is the largest peace project after the termination of the WW2, and the Nobel Peace Prize which was presented to EU last year confirms that. The Union is a complex system of giving and taking with rules which the member states set themselves, also having complex control mechanisms resting on the consensus principle. The future member states are expected to respect that rules without exceptions. That way of Eu’s functioning, is not maybe always simple and comfortable, but it is based upon the consensual willingness of all 27 members of this Union of states.

The name issue is highly on the agenda of the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. Why has the Chancellor decided to adhere to this issue so seriously?

Steinacker: According to me, it is a good sign that in the middle of coalition negotiations, Doctor Angela Merkel had time for the UN mediator Matthew Nimetz to inform her about the situation of his mediation efforts in regard to the name issue. The Chancellor is well introduced with the issue and always seriously follows it. However, no conclusions about any special German engagement in terms of this issue should be brought.

Is she afraid of the risk to suffer diplomatic failure, which would influence her credibility, if taking into account that nobody has succeed to help in finding a solution for 20 years now?

Steinacker: Here I can only reiterate the previous answer. I think that you should be more careful with the term “credibility”. According to the German attitude, first of all, the name dispute is a dispute between two sovereign states, one of which is a member state of EU. That is why the solution to the problem primary must come from these two states, their governments, respectively. The process of UN mediation, according to us, is the real framework for finding a solution to the problem.

Do you believe that the name dispute will be very much easier to be resolved if the great powers like Washington, Berlin and London show interest in it, in order to find a reasonable solution which will not be a classical extortion in the style of take it or leave it, as Athens position at the moment? 

Steinacker: The era of the great power has ended long ago, at least in Europe. In Europe there are no solutions, which have been dictated from above. It is about building trust and cooperation. All participants should make efforts for that. Otherwise, it is not true that Berlin, London, and I would like to mention Paris in this context, are not interested in the dispute and is solution. They have shown that interest various times.

Brussels has adopted the mechanism which allows the annulment of the no- visa regime for the countries that can not stop the wave of asylum-seekers. Do you think that there is a serious threat for Macedonia to lose the visa liberalization? 

Steinacker: The mechanism is a prophylactic solution, insisted by, mainly, the countries having many asylum-seekers as well as the corresponding communities. But, I am convinced that this mechanism will not be applied, because Germany has much more use from the no-visa travelling, than damage from the eventual asylum-seekers.

What is your recommendation to your fellow countryman that want to invest in Macedonia?

Steinacker: The German Embassy is at their service for counselling, as well as the German Chamber of Commerce (AHK) in Skopje and the Macedonian – German Economic Association. I can only tell every investor to look for more information, to travel the country, talk with the Macedonian Government, as well as the municipalities and the representatives from the business sphere in order to get larger picture about the possibilities before bringing the decision to invest.

Even though you are Ambassador to Macedonia for just two years, you speak Macedonian quite well and obviously know the country well too. What are your favorite places to spend your free time?

Steinacker: My knowledge of the Macedonian language, is, unfortunately, not as good as I would like. Although, thanks to my good knowledge of the Serbo-Croation language, I understand and read Macedonian rather good. I read newspapers and new on the Internet and I watch TV. My first visit to Macedonia was in 1977 as a student, and have visited it often later on as well, thanks to my friends here. That is the reason I was so happy to come here as an Ambassador. I enjoy climbing and beautiful nature. Besides the  Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa, my frequent travel destinations include the beautiful medieval churches with their wonderful murals. However, wherever I go, not only do I enjoy the nature, but also the kindness and hospitality of your people.