Saturday, 16 December 2017 | News today: 0

President Ivanov: Facebook campaign and leading a country is not the same

After five-year presidential term, former professor enters the election campaign once more. His greatest assets are the vast number of citizens, considering him an honorable politician with firm position in regard of the so-called identity issues and principled position towards everybody not respecting the Macedonian language and nation. In an interview for the weekly magazine Republika, President Ivanov does not want to respond to the attacks of the largest political opponent Stevo Pendarovski, who attacked him severely after he was elected at SDSM’s congress. Let deeds speak for him, Ivanov jokes a little. He respects all counter-candidates, but he is positive that the constant criticism without any done work, the expensive campaign on Facebook, the agreement with Ahmenti and the courtship to the foreigners and Crvenkovski cannot bring anybody to the presidential position.

Mr. Ivanov, can You give an assessment of Your work before Your presidential term is expired? You have been the Head of State in a rather intensive period.

Ivanov: The citizens of the Republic of Macedonia will have the opportunity to assess my work in the upcoming elections. If I, personally was not satisfied of what I have worked, I would not accept the opportunity for re-election. During my mandate I did not save anything, I used lot of effort and energy and worked with my cabinet the best I knew and could in order to complete not just the programme for which I gained the trust of the people, but more than that. I was aware of the challenge. In 2009, the Republic of Macedonia was still facing the traumas from the Bucharest summit, which was followed by the world economic and financial crisis and the European dept crisis. However, I am proud that I did not forget the needs and the requests of the citizens, the vital national interests – security, strengthening  coexistence and mutual respect – economic prosperity, cultural affirmation, education, youth…The feeling of dignity and  pride of the Macedonian citizens intensified. The trust of the citizens in their own boosted.

Twentieth independence anniversary, sports, cultural and all other successes showed the togetherness and the sense of belonging. Thus we broke the illusions and perceptions that we are small for big successes.

We managed to increase the international reputation of the Republic of Macedonia. We replaced the concept of closeness and exclusivity with the concept of openness towards foreign policy. The ruling of the International Court of Justice and the fifth consecutive recommendations by the European Commission to start accession negotiations speak much of the legitimacy and the validity of our policy. I have been leading a rather active foreign policy of openness, enhancing old and creating new perspectives of the economy, new markets and new opportunities, attracting  foreign direct investments, securing energy future, things that will boost the standard of living and open new jobs. We have dedicated a lot of time to the young people, to waking up the entrepreneurial spirit, improving the conditions for quality education, scientific research, leadership skills.

Is there some challenge that You did not manage to realize in the past few years? What do You consider as Your greatest success, and what as Your personal failure?

Ivanov: We managed to resist the pressure  and the blackmails, we managed to respond to the arguments of the force with the force of the arguments. Nobody will considers us as small and insignificant, all they have to do is listen. We faced the largest national challenge and the blockades on our European and Euro-Atlantic road as a grown-up country with firm arguments of the international right, the international principles, the human rights and the right of human decency.

Looking at the needs and request of our citizens, I am definitely joining the efforts of the Government and our economic diplomacy to contribute towards the economic progress of the country by opening new jobs, raising their standard of living, spreading on new markets, providing energy security and gasification, new perspectives for our business community.

What is left not merely as my challenge, but as the challenge for all of us is failing to realize our international objectives, and and it is not our fault at all. Everybody claims that the Republic of Macedonia is prepared to become part of NATO immediately. We even have five affirmations that we are ready to start accession negotiations with the EU. Although, we are being blocked because of an issue we did not want, but it was imposed on us – the name issue. However, thing are changing, and we are not discouraged by the blockade. When you know you are right, you have great faith to hang on and not falter. Today we have much bigger understanding and great support by our partners in EU and NATO. Despite our status quo, we do not hesitate to create our own EU in Macedonia. We are not discouraged  to work on implementing European reforms, reaching the highest European standards and criteria on our own, for the good of the citizens. Thus, the negotiations, whenever they started, will be just pure formality, and the question of membership in the EU will be reduced to a pure technical question. It is important to keep working on that.

On one hand, You are being considered as pro-European politician, while on the other hand, You have entered in a direct conflict with the European institutions as no other president before. Did you threat that you would not accept the report if it did not contain the adjective “Macedonian”, and You severely criticized European Ambassador Aivo Orav when he called us “Slavic-Macedonians”?

Ivanov: There is no stepping back. I will always react fiercely is someone shows disrespect of our identity. The reaction comes exactly from that pro-European orientation. I would treat anybody like that, whether they were a Macedonian, German, French, British, Italian… if they showed such disregard. Europe, as a peaceful project is desired precisely for the principle of unity in diversity. A principle which implies that every European can feel as they want, in accordance with their roots, belonging, tradition. Every contemporary European politician uncompromising would defend the human right of self-identification and the right of human decency. The are issues that do not recognize compromise. The Republic of Macedonia with its unique model of respecting diversities, model of integration without assimilation, can offer many things to Europe and the region. We neither ask for more nor for less than what the other European countries and people are asking for.

You attended the last two NATO summits in Lisbon and Chicago, respectively. Despite the firm determination of the Alliance that there is no membership without settling the name issue, You keep making pressures on the member states. In case You are re-chosen, would You attend the forthcoming summit even if is clear that we will not get a membership invitation there as well? How much is worth it to be persistent?

Ivanov: We do not lack persistence or faith. If our ancestors, Illinden people and ASNOM people did not have faith and persistence in the struggle for freedom, would we have an independent state – Macedonia? I would go and would insist the ruling of the International Court of Justice to be respected. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen cannot ask respecting the international right in some situations, and state that Hague’s ruling does not have any influence on NATO as an organization. NATO is operating on the basis of the international agreements and the international right. NATO’s cornerstone must not be the stumbling block as well. The states and the international organizations have a greater need for international legal order .

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The opposition media are using some of Your public statements as a mean to attack You? Do such regards distort Your image?

Ivanov: The high confidence that I have within the citizens, which can be seen from my direct contacts with, and which can also be seen from the public opinion researches, speaks the opposite. Toady I hear the same old criticism that the opposition used to direct to me during the time of the 2009 election campaign. Everything I did in the past five years shows that the criticism was not constructive. It is clear that they have to ignore the results of my working as president. Macedonian citizens know well how committed I was in terms of the state interests. Some people are annoyed by the fact that I am always with the citizens, either they had worries or they were celebrating. I was happy to accept the invitations to attend various events and manifestations across Macedonia – vine pruning on St. Trifun’s Day, Vodici (The Baptism of Christ), the Galičnik Wedding Festival, rakija festivals, leek festival…Such manifestations keep and cherish the Macedonian tradition. As I also mentioned at VMRO-DPMNE’s Convention, the President is not above the citizens, but he is with them and always one of them. I am equally President to all citizens. I did not become President to have them at my service, but I to serve the citizens, to serve Macedonia.

In the last five years, despite the fact that You are constantly being criticized by the opposition, it did not make a thorough analysis of what You have done as President. To what do we owe that?

Ivanov: So far I have not seen any detailed analysis by the opposition on my mandate as the President of the Republic of Macedonia. If they do one, they will not be able to ignore the results of my work, and that maybe is not in their interest. I accept criticism if it is supported and constructive. It is my habit that I have been building for 20 years as a university professor. One cannot be a university professor if they face no thesis with counter-thesis, positions with counter-positions. The same thing should be applied in politics. Transparency in work and good solutions come from debate and dialogue.

Your Greek counterpart Papoulias declined few of your invitations too meet and openly discuss bilateral relations. You have had excellent relation with former Bulgarian President Prvanov, and good and occasionally conflicting relation with his successor Plevneliev. You have established good relations with your Serbian, Croatian, Albanian and Montenegrin counterparts. How complicated is it leading high politics on the Balkan?

Ivanov: All Balkan people wish to live in peace, in safe, stable and prosperous countries. We now have that chance more than ever before. The need of better life and higher standards engages us all in a cooperation like never before. Engages us in frequent contacts that build trust and mutual respect.

The region is evidently improved, but it need a period with specific projects to raise our citizen’s living standard. That requires cooperation. For instance, I promote the idea for connecting the Adrian-Ionian highway to Corridor 8, for economic benefits. It is a project that will significantly change the region, make our economies more competitive and more attractive to foreign investors. We are on a good way to accomplish that. Not cooperating is not an option, especially in matters of environment protection and natural disasters prevention, which are issues that do not recognize state boarders. If that is how you define high politics, than yes – there are challenges, but we strive, and that gives results.

I am sorry my counterpart Papoulias had declined all my invitations. It is hard to explain how can two neighboring countries’ Presidents in the 21st century not meet for more than 2 decades. Which is not hard, because our societies and economies do not have any problems, but do cooperate. All we should do as Presidents is follow them. But, better days are yet to come. In comparison, during the past 5 years I had at least 20 official meetings with the former Albanian President Bamir Topi, as well as the current one Bujar Nishani. Same with former Serbian President Tadikj and the current one Nikolikj. I have had numerous meetings with Kosovo Presidents Pacolli and Jahjaga. Same with Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro. I had excellent cooperation with Prvanov. I hope for the same with the current Bulgarian President. Although neighboring relations are not always with the desired dynamics, I am convinced the spirit of traditional good neighboring relations will dominate.

You have been accused of partiality to Moscow. Is it true and what are the possible consequences for Macedonia from closer relations with Russia? 

Ivanov: Such thesis has obviously established by individuals who see everything through block division and Cold War prism. The world we live in is not black and white, but absolutely interdependent, connected oriented towards securing people’s well-being. We are open to everybody, we want to build relations and cooperate with everybody. It is clear we are dedicated to nourishing and promoting strategic partnership with the USA. Our strategic goal is also clear – EU and NATO membership. But, what is unclear is the effort to build relations with the Russian Federation, which is a permanent UN Security Council member state and our economic partner, investor and a state that has recognized our constitutional name, our identity. We have showed it is possible to have authentic foreign politics opened to everybody, building new friendships with everybody, while not endangering the existing ones. Result-oriented foreign politics. In the past few years Macedonian citizens were demonstrated a politics for cooperation and openness to everyone can exist, with no exclusions.

However, I would look at the bigger picture. My visits to Russia, Qatar and China gave specific results. Thanks to our Vice PM Stavrevski’s visit of Saint Petersburg  and the meetings with Medvedev and Miler we managed to connect Macedonia to the “South Stream” pipeline. We managed to close the clearing debt Macedonia had to Russia. Russia is a large and attractive market and remains to be a major exporting partner of ours, while Russian investments flow into Macedonia. We were the first to sign a deal for favourable loan with China for the construction of two highways (Skopje-Shtip and Kichevo-Ohrid). Now China is important trade partner with Macedonia. Qatar had opened its Embassy in Macedonia, a first sign of preparedness for future cooperation. There are ongoing projects, as well. Unlike the critics, I had no prejudices ti visit long-distance countries like Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan and any other place our economy might benefit from.

How do You comment on opposition’s accusations that You do not lead authentic politics, but having stands identical to the Government? So far, You did not react on the accusations of your opponent Stevo Pendarovski, who immediately after the nomination attacked You by saying the President function has lost its dignity.

Ivanov: My stand on key national issues is familiar to everyone. Differences in some matters are normal. However, unlike their understanding of politics, whenever a difference has occurred, we had always gathered around the table and establish national and state matters by dialogue.

And I am not surprised by such criticism. They lack experience in leading authentic Macedonian foreign politics which is beneficial for our people. Instead, they are arrogant and ignoring to people’s requests.

I would not want to comment on Mr. Pendarovski, I will let his deeds speak of him. I respect all my opponents, but I have to say it is one thing to observe matters and processes from the side and criticize, and it is completely different to make decisions, create strategies and deal with serious consequences in the interest of the nation and the state.

I do not wish to insult social networks users, whom I respect as active factors in democratic processes, but it take much more than an expensive Facebook campaign to become a President. Neither the political agreement with DUI, nor Crvenkovski’s servile treatment of foreigners are sufficient capital to be a successful citizens’ representative. Nonetheless, leading a country like Macedonia requires huge knowledge, responsibility, dedication and thoroughness.

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The beginning of the campaign has shown that, unlike your opponent Pendarovski, who is quite active on the social networks, You have decided to have direct meetings with the citizens. Why did You choose such campaign?

Ivanov: Because I have a clear conscience to appear before anybody. Our fellow citizens have chosen me to represent them. To be their voice wherever I go. I feel strong obligation to inform them about my ongoing activities and results personally. Media addresses are necessary; to me it is more important to talk face to face with the common citizens. Personal contact is irreplaceable. It is my choice.

As I am obliged to convey the Macedonian message around the world capitals, so I am obliged to hear the voice of my fellow citizens.

What is your comment on DUI’s accusations that Albanians do not see appropriate representative of themselves in you?

Ivanov: For 5 years now I have not heard any criticism from DUI to my work and my dedication in building coexistence. I have attended every significant holiday of the Albanian community in the Republic of Macedonia. I have met Macedonian Albanians from the diaspora. And I have been making any differences. I have been and I am a President to all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. I led the religious dialogues, sponsored many events significant to our coexistence, the 10th anniversary of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, youth interaction projects from sports, culture, education. I am led by the idea for integration without assimilation. I must emphasize I treat all communities in Macedonia the same way – Turks, Roma, Vlachs, Serbs, Bosniacs. My relationship to the Albanian community in the Republic of Macedonia has reflected in my foreign policy, as well. We initiated quadrilateral cooperation with the Albanian President Bamir Topi,  and the Montenegrin President, Filip Vujanovikj, in order to assist the integration of our neighbor Kosovo in the regional initiatives. Contrary to the current stand of DUI’s leadership, I had received a letter from Mr. Ahmeti to congratulate us on the leadership. I will only quote a part of it: “I congratulate you on the leadership capacities you confirmed by the messages you have sent to the ancient Prizren, guaranteeing you the values, benefits and positive sides to these meeting  more and more confirm you are a true statesmen, visionaries, who trace the one-way road to cooperation, integration and European perspective for our people and countries”.

What is actually behind DUI’s attitude?

Ivanov: Personally, identical to the public, I was confused by their attitude, their request. I was probably used just as an occasion, while we revealed the right reason in the past days. Behind that idea is the request for thorough constitutional amendments in the President election process, which will lead to a change in the overall political system in the country.

Where do You see Macedonia in 5 years?

Ivanov: My vision for the next 5 years is for Macedonia to continue to grow and develop its economy, to be integrated in EU and NATO, increase employment rates, raise our living standard. The key systems in our country – security, education, health, social system – to be in accordance with the European standards, to keep up with the future. To build modern agriculture country, to build Macedonia in the direction of innovations and new technologies. To connect Macedonia in terms of infrastructure and energy. To continue the centuries-long tradition of coexistence, respect and acceptance of differences. To preserve family values and cultural traditions. To further improve neighboring relations. To enter a new phase of regional cooperation, working on mutual projects. To enhance relations with the strategic partners. To open new markets and perspectives. In a word, to build Macedonia higher, with highest values, highest criteria and highest values.

How will You achieve the vision of EU and NATO membership, when the name dispute hinders the way, and it is a pre-condition? We have heard your stand – “Republic of Macedonia” for general use. The opposition accuses You of unwillingness to reach a solution, while You, on the other hand, have mentioned a request for the UN Secretary General to inform the Security Council?

Ivanov: Would I even mention a possibility to request for the UN Secretary General to inform the UN Security Council on the process if we do not wish for a solution of this imposed and absurd problem, if we were not constructive? Our position concerning this issue is clear. I am as open to the foreign partners as I am with my fellow citizens. My position is that I will not accept ideas and suggestions that might harm our identity, language, uniqueness, coexistence. A solution is possible if the framework is respected impeccably. I have been talking with high foreign officials on a language they understand, the language of human rights, right to self-identification and human dignity. I do not understand the language of those who criticize me. I just hope they do not speak of the alleged pragmatics, which means to succumb although we are right, or by defeatism.

Eventually, I do not know what is their stand on this issue. Do we have to “knuckle under”? Do they accept a name with geographical qualifier, and change of our constitutional name? Will they solve the name issue in 6 months? Will Macedonia not survive unless admitted in EU, even if it would cost us our constitutional name and our identity? Do they, even after 20 years, propose the leaders meet outside the Assembly to draw the red lines on the map? Or do they accept anything that is acceptable for VMRO-DPMNE? To remember at last that maybe citizens should be asked about this issue on a referendum? Maybe not having a stand on this issue and wandering around is one of the key reasons the people says “NO” to the opposition for 8 years now.

After a 20-year-long process in the UN, the opposition aspirant for President of Republic of Macedonia asks for marking red lines. It is only logical to ask what have my predecessor and his chancellor been doing if they are still looking for the red lines. We are waiting for them to decide what is their stand and finally hear it. Everything else is abuse with citizens’ feelings, manipulation, confusion, which do more harm then good. For country’s sake, I hope they will stop wandering on this issue and consider citizens’ expectations.

Will You change anything in your work if citizens’ grant You a second mandate?

Ivanov: Yes, I will work to achieve my vision with even bigger enthusiasm and energy.

In times when politic is thought of as dishonest profession, 74% of the citizens find you an honest man, according to the polls. What does that mean to You?

Ivanov: I find that recognition for my efforts and dedication. I do not take it as personal capital, I would be much happier if I have managed to set a very important standard for the future Presidents, so that nobody can go below this standard. Our people is fed up with quasi politics, empty promises, corrupted politicians.

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By: Nenad Mirchevski

Photo: Republika