Skopje's Ambassador to Tirana exclusively for Argumentum/ Albania and North Macedonia Set to Mutual Cooperation Based on Constructive Political Dialogue

By Marjana Doda

Editor-in- Chief 

Albania and North Macedonia share a common vision for a prosperous and interconnected region, integrated in NATO and the EU, has said the Ambassador of North Macedonia to Albania, Dancho Markovski.

In an exclusive interview with Argumentum.al, the first with an Albanian media outlet since the presentation of the credentials letters to President Ilir Meta, Ambassador Markovski unveiled among others the state of the relationship between the two countries as well as the focus of his work during his ambassadorial tenure as the top diplomat of Skopje to Tirana.

"The bilateral relations between the Republic of North Macedonia and Republic of Albania are with a clear expressed commitment to continue mutual cooperation based on an open and constructive political dialogue," said the Ambassador.

But he admitted that the economic cooperation between the two countries does not follow the positive trend of the established political relations.That is why economic diplomacy, according to him, was one of the most important talk points at the meeting between the two ministers of foreign affairs Osmani and Xhacka who agreed on two important meetings, that is scheduling of the second intergovernmental session in the second half of this year, as well as revitalizing the government's Joint Committee for Economic Cooperation.

Touching upon the pandemic Mr. Markovski was of the opinion that the virus has caused a crisis that will mark the 21st Century. But he hastened to confirm that an unprecedented competition has been created to provide as many vaccines as possible, and according to him, solidarity and some even distributions of the available vaccines were abandoned. "A "first to the finish line" competition has begun, in which rich countries have an advantage over the poor."

But the Ambassador was certain that the world will not be free of the virus if whole regions are left without a vaccine as sooner or later, they will become hotbeds of new species of mutated types of Covid 19. "That is why solidarity is needed, not health nationalism. The pandemic only confirmed that the world is a global village in which we are all interdependent."

Asked about the joint path of the two countries towards the EU and the expectations for the holding of the First Intergovernmental Conferences by them with the Union the Ambassador was of the opinion that the process of enlargement is severely hampered by bilateral issues or misunderstandings imposed by individual EU member states, which block enlargement by setting various conditions that have nothing to do with the enlargement process.

"This situation seriously undermines the integrity of the EU, as one of the most forward-thinking international organizations that the modern world has ever had. The policy of the Union in a way becomes a hostage in itself. This has a negative impact on its role of being a respectable factor in international relations," said the Ambassador of North Macedonia to Albania, Dancho Markovski in the following interview:

Argumentum.al: Mr. Ambassador you have already presented your credential letters to the President of the Republic of Albania. How do you assess the relations between Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia both in the political and economic aspects? 

Ambassador Dancho Markovski: The bilateral relations between the Republic of North Macedonia and Republic of Albania are with a clear expressed commitment to continue mutual cooperation based on an open and constructive political dialogue, and in my opinion, this is the most acceptable way to build good neighborly relations and future cooperation, since both our countries share a common vision for a prosperous and interconnected region, integrated in NATO and the EU. Multilateral and regional cooperation, joint cross-border projects, use of IPA 2 funds, energy and infrastructure connectivity remain high in the priorities of our mission which are accompanied by continuous dialogue through bilateral visits which will continue in the next period.

-There is one year now that the entire world is fighting against the Covid -19 virus. The Balkans and concretely our two countries are faced with the grave social-economic repercussions. Could we have much more regional cooperation in the circumstances of the pandemic? 

-The pandemic has caused a crisis that will mark the 21st Century. We are witnessing a significant number of rich countries with far more advanced medical systems who are struggling to protect their citizens. It seems that all countries share the same fate, unfortunately the challenges that we are facing will not end with the vaccination, we will face economic problems that unlike the more developed countries, it will be much more challenging to overcome the problems caused by Covid-19 pandemic.

-As a follow up, Mr. Ambassador, there has apparently been a lack of solidarity of the international community in face of Covid-19. At the outset there was a closure of borders and now we witness the issue of the distribution of the anti-COVID-19 vaccines. North Macedonia has obviously opened its doors to the Chinese and Russians vaccines. Do you think that we have to do with a sort of “nationalism” regarding the vaccines?

-It is obvious that the world was not prepared for a pandemic of such epic proportions. The spread of the disease has caused millions of infections that subsequently lead to many failed businesses, loss of jobs and totally disrupted rhythm of life across the globe. Most countries have resorted to restrictive measures that have forced the closure of small and medium-sized businesses, to the point of restricting the freedom of movement of citizens in order to overcome the crisis. It is important to note that on the other hand, research centers have managed to find several types of vaccines against the Covid 19, however production problems and huge demand have taken their toll. An unprecedented competition has been created to provide as many vaccines as possible. At the same time, solidarity and some even distributions of the available vaccines were abandoned. A "first to the finish line" competition has begun, in which rich countries have an advantage over the poor. However, one thing is certain, the world will not be free of the virus if you leave whole regions without a vaccine, sooner or later, they will become hotbeds of new species of mutated types of Covid 19. That is why solidarity is needed, not health nationalism. The pandemic only confirmed that the world is a global village in which we are all interdependent.

-Albania and North Macedonia are ‘close and far’ with regard to the economic relations. The first Albania-North Macedonia intergovernmental meeting held on December 16, 2017 in Pogradec was considered as a “new chapter” for the bilateral relations. However here we are after 4 years- the commercial relations between Albania and North Macedonia are at a low insignificant level. Which is the obstacle preventing the development of these relations?

-I agree that the economic cooperation between the two countries does not follow the positive trend of the established political relations. The realized total trade exchange of 149 million euros for the last 2019, clearly shows that economic cooperation is still modest. However, allow me to elaborate on this and point out that this is not due to administrative or similar obstacles that prevent the trade between the two counties. It is my opinion that we are facing insufficient mutual knowledge of the companies from both countries. That is why economic diplomacy was one of the most important talk points at the meeting between the two ministers of foreign affairs H.E. Mr. Osmani and H.E. Ms. Xhacka. The ministers agreed on two important meetings, that is scheduling of the second intergovernmental session in the second half of this year, as well as revitalizing the government's Joint Committee for Economic Cooperation. In the meantime, the ambassador's task will be to connect the chambers of commerce and associations of the two countries.

-A few weeks ago, you announced together with the Minister of Culture of Albania the establishment of cultural and informative centers in the Republic of Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia. What can you tell us about this project?

-The need for further concrete expansion and deepening of bilateral cultural cooperation is an issue that will be given great attention during my term as an Ambassador. The activities that will take place continuously in the next four years will be aimed at rebranding the Macedonian culture and the cultural presentation of our country to the Albanian public, in order to present a new image of our country. The meeting with the Minister of Culture Elva Margariti, among other things, aimed to inform her that we will soon open the Cultural Information Center of North Macedonian in Tirana, based on the signed agreement for which Minister Margariti has a great contribution.

-Let me turn, Your Excellency, to the joint path of our two countries towards the EU. Both of them have fulfilled the conditions for the holding of the First Intergovernmental Conference as announced by the EU Council in March 2020, but they are still waiting for the green light from Brussels. North Macedonia is in face of the Bulgarian condition. Will your country sacrifice the language, culture and history besides its name? 

-The process of enlargement of the European Union implied the fulfillment of the strict so-called Copenhagen criteria adopted by the Union, which should be a merit system for the readiness of each candidate country to start negotiations. Unfortunately, this process is severely hampered by bilateral issues or misunderstandings imposed by individual EU member states, which block enlargement by setting various conditions that have nothing to do with the enlargement process. As a result of the sere quests, the European Commission has been put in a situation where it cannot fulfill its promise. Evidence of this are the several delays by the EU in the past two years, despite the promises made by the European Commission. This situation seriously undermines the integrity of the EU, as one of the most forward-thinking international organizations that the modern world has ever had. The policy of the Union in a way becomes a hostage in itself. This has a negative impact on its role of being a respectable factor in international relations. On the other hand, this situation leaves room for other international players to penetrate in to our region.​

-And to conclude, Mr. Markovski, which is your focus in the post as the new Ambassador of North Macedonia to Albania, and how can it serve for the strengthening of the friendship between the two people and the development of the economic and political relations between our two countries?

-The plan for my work consists of four main directions: Promoting the policy of good neighborly relations; Increasing the economic-trade cooperation; Rebranding the cultural representation of North Macedonia and creating a new image and understanding of my country; and Implementation of a new concept in the cooperation and support of the activities of the Macedonians and their societies and associations living and operating in a friendly Albania.

/argumentum.al

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