Thursday, 14 December 2017 | News today: 14

Who has heard Kerry?

Although there has been an imminent danger their statement would be considered to be opposite to the one of their American partners, the German Foreign Office came forward with a precise and firm stance regarding the possibility of Balkan countries to cooperate with Russia. Thus, official Berlin gave open support to the possibility for Macedonia, via "Turkish Stream" gas pipeline, which would pass through Greece, to succeed it the long-desired route which would take the pipeline further to Serbia and Hungary, than Austria, Italy and other European countries

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Columnist: Goran Momiroski

During the visit of the old-new Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci to Berlin, I have tried to get an answer to the question how does Germany, as a main partner of the USA in Europe, interpret the statement of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry regarding countries which are on the line of fire between Russia and the USA.

Unfortunately, at the press conference I did not have a chance to ask Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, my question, nor could I ask the visitor from Kosovo. Not because of political reasons or host’s inconvenience, but because of completely different reasons. Both the hosts, as well as the visiting delegation, were not aware at all of Kerry’s statement! Two days later, after I had sent the question in writing to the German Foreign Office, I did receive an answer and it has been published in Macedonian media. Apart from the answer which was unexpected and opposite to America’s stance, I found it astounding that none of the German, nor Kosovo journalists knew about Kerry’s statement.

My fellow journalists from Kosovo, who were part of PM Thaci’s delegation, at first did not believe Kerry would mention Kosovo. When I played them Kerry’s speech on the internet (at exactly 1 min 34 sec) in which he brings up the analysis that includes four Balkan (Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro) and three South-East European countries (Georgia, Moldova and Transnistria), they were all evidently confused and started consulting each other. The conclusion was that it was strange they did not know of this “news bomb”, followed by an immediate conclusion (probably after a consult with PM Thaci’s cabinet) that the news should not be published because Kerry’s statement can be misinterpreted by Kosovo’s public.

On one hand, I was delighted by the simplicity of my fellow journalists who determined what’s good, what’s bad for their public, but, on the other hand, I was surprised to learn top Kosovo journalists, who were covering Thaci’s visit to Berlin, did not know about this news. Judging by their reaction, I figured that there is no need for someone to tell them what should, and what should not be published. It was obvious that any information that can in any way confront the USA and Kosovo should not be published in state-owned media they represent.

However, I found out later that some Kosovo media, mostly privately-owned portals and newspapers, did publish the news, but still with a certain reserve and not as a cover story, because it has primarily been published by the Russian television “Russia Today” (RT) i Serbian media, which Kosovo does not rely much on.

What also came as a surprise by Kosovo journalists, was that at first they made a relation between Kerry’s statement on lines of fire in the USA-Russia conflict and the top topic on Berlin’s press conference – Kosovo’s asylum seekers, whose number rose dramatically in the last couple of months. Still, it is almost incredible that Kosovo emigrants know a bit more or knew what the American State Secretary thinks and therefore started their exodus towards the North.

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If Germany can be buying gas from Russia, so can Macedonia!

German discipline and adherence to principles has one again been shown in practice when professionals from German Foreign Office replied to my aforementioned reaction to Kerry’s statement at a short notice. Although there has been an imminent danger their statement would be considered to be opposite to the one of their American partners, the German Foreign Office came forward with a precise and firm stance regarding the possibility of Balkan countries to cooperate with Russia. Thus, official Berlin gave open support to the possibility for Macedonia, via “Turkish Stream” gas pipeline, which would pass through Greece, to succeed it the long-desired route which would take the pipeline further to Serbia and Hungary, than Austria, Italy and other European countries. Leading European country and propellant of European economy, which uses Russian gas even in the heat of EU’s sanctions to Russia, says every country should decide on its own on their relations with Russia.

This stance would make it a whole lot easier for Macedonia when deciding whether to join “Turkish Stream” and the opportunity to gain additional income from gas transit across its territory, besides having a long-term cheap energy. If this project lees the light of the day and Macedonia does become part of it, “Turkish Stream” would be a much more useful option to Macedonia, since “South Stream” would have not resulted in any gas transit income for the country because the energy would have been transported to EU via Greece. Naturally, Macedonia – a member of European Energy Community – has to pass through numerous procedures to be able to say “YES” to Moscow. Among others, it includes avoiding Gazprom’s monopolistic position, which – according to European rules – cannot be dominant owner of the gas and the distribution systems. Berlin’s message has, in fact, initiated new dilemmas for Macedonian officials, who would have to decide whether it is Berlin’s or Washington’s stance that it more important when it comes to the ever-increasing Russian penetration into the Balkans.

All these events take place in times when Macedonia is facing a serious political crisis, with a dysfunctional parliament and a possibility for the crisis to go on for months. Particularly because, even though they have not openly stated it yet, the government and the opposition have a slightly different positions regarding the need and possibility for the country to provide long-term energy stability.

Skopje has not received any offer from Putin

Up until this column has been published in “Republika” weekly (6 March 2015), Macedonian Government has not made any statements regarding the new gas pipeline Russia has announced. According to some unofficial sources from Skopje, no formal offer  on Macedonia’s inclusion in “Turkish Stream” has yet arrived. Is Moscow putting the Western allies on a test via ‘virtual’ inclusion of Serbia and Macedonia, or, is Putin’s plan truly serious?! It won’t be long before the answer to this question swims to the surface.

Just like Germany did, Russia, Macedonia, Serbia and other global players would have to quite soon speak their mind on whether smaller countries would have to respect the double standards or be able to run their foreign and energy policy without fearing they might be subjected to revenge due to vanity of their strategic partners.