Zaev: Although we are a member of NATO, I cannot say that I am not frightened of Greater Albania

Zoran Zaev
FOTO: Zorana Jevtić

Various non-papers for solving the Kosovo issue frighten me because not all wounds in the Balkans have healed. When the EU steps on a brake with all of us in the region, as soon as it slows down our integration process, some non-papers, other radical ideas appear, the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, said in an interview for Belgrade-based Kurir.

When asked whether he is frightened of the fact that the non-papers openly promote „Greater Albania“ – which includes part of North Macedonia, Zaev replied:

„I can never say ‘no’ with certainty, but that would not be easy to do in North Macedonia because we are a member of NATO and with every threat to our territory and integrity, Article 5 of the NATO Treaty would be activated, which would protect us – all for one, one for all.“

However, the prime minister of North Macedonia stressed that one should “never say never”.

„Because you definitely don’t know how far someone will go to provoke it. And that is why the solution is for every country to join the EU. Once we reach the Schengen conditions, then there are no borders.“

Even though North Macedonia is a member of NATO, that does not mean that I am not worried – you never know. If something represents a risk for the Serb people, it is clear that it is a risk for all of us. The Balkans is a small region, we are all connected. When the region is stable and secure, then North Macedonia is also secure and stable. And when the region is unstable and has problems, then we are also unstable and have problems“.

According to Zaev, „radical ideas“ can only end in wars – and in no other way.

While expressing hope that the region will see no more wars, he cited the integration of the region into the EU as a way to prevent them.

Commenting on the Belgrade and Pristina dialogue, and resolution of the Kosovo issue, Zaev says that everything acceptable for Belgrade and Pristina is also acceptable for North Macedonia. He underlined that the agreed solution must guarantee peace in the Balkans, European integration, security, and the future of all ethnic communities living in that territory.

Zaev also addressed the mini-Schengen initiative launched by him, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, and the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama. As initially announced, the initiative aims to improve co-operation in the region.

„Our goal is there to be a ‘don’t stop, just go’ sign at the border. We are working on that, we need to harmonize the legislation, to spread the trust among the institutions, so when your food agency confirms that Serb products are good for Serbia, then there is no need to verify this in Skopje, but we would just accept it. There is no reason to wait at the border,“ Zaev said.

He announced that the borders for the free flow of people, goods, and capital will be open by 2022.

„We have already adopted several agreements, memoranda, parliaments have started to amend the laws so that we can harmonize all that, and at least three countries – Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania are striving to accomplish this,“ he said.

The latest non-paper is identical to the one published by Koha in April

In the interview with Kurir, the Prime Minister also talked about non-papers – just a day after the latest non-paper on the solution to the Kosovo issue was published in the media. Autonomy for northern Kosovo, special status for the Serbian Orthodox Church, mutual recognition of Belgrade and Pristina and changes to the constitution are some of the proposals listed in the document published by the Albanian Post two days ago, which cited Germany and France as its authors.

However, the document published by this media outlet is identical to the one published by Pristina-based Koha at the end of April.

At the time, Koha reported that the authors of the document were Germany and France. The embassies of these countries, however, denied these allegations the very next day, stating that they supported the dialogue mediated by the EU through its envoy Miroslav Lajcak.

Pristina criticized the document, claiming that it comes from Belgrade. However, the President of Serbia denied these allegations. He also said that this non-paper is „the biggest thing, although offered informally, that Serbia could get“.

On the other hand, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, interpreted the document as a return of the land swap idea, emphasizing that he could not allow such a thing to happen.

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