Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Mr René van der Linden; Mr Secretary General, Terry Davis; distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly; ladies and gentlemen, first, allow me to thank you for the invitation to address the Council of Europe, which is the generator of European democracy. I must admit that it gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to express my opinion on European efforts and perspectives on the Republic of Macedonia, as well as the entire Balkan region.

Let me extend the gratitude of my government and the Macedonian people to all members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and its President, Mr René van der Linden, as well as the Secretary General, Mr Terry Davis, for their continuing support.

Today, the Balkans is entering the stage of its redefinition mainly through the ongoing talks on the future status of Kosovo, the forthcoming referendum in Montenegro and the constitutional redefining of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In such circumstances, it is important to be reasonable and constructive. In that respect, my government has always been convinced of the fact that, regardless of future status, only full implementation of all standards in Kosovo regarding democracy, human rights and the rule of law will provide a solid base for political stabilisation and lasting peace in the whole region.

The Republic of Macedonia is helping the process in accordance with its capabilities. With its policy, Macedonia is an example for good neighbourly relations. Macedonia is a successful model of multi-ethnic and multicultural society. We believe that our model of the Ohrid Framework Agreement can be implemented in other countries in the region.

Within a relatively short period, the Republic of Macedonia has adopted all regulations deriving from the Ohrid Framework Agreement, including decentralisation, use of ethnic symbols, the opening of a new state university in Tetovo for the representatives of the Albanian ethnic community, equitable representation of the ethnic communities in state institutions, use of the languages of the minority ethnic communities and so on. Today, we have satisfying results in the sphere of decentralisation, which has been recognised by international institutions.

The Republic of Macedonia is at a very important stage of its development. Acquiring EU candidate country status represents a strong signal not just for the Republic of Macedonia but the entire Balkan region. Profound reforms in all spheres of the society – politics, judiciary, administration and business – are the major issues where we exercise even greater efficiency and dynamism. For this purpose, we have even amended the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia.

All our efforts in the previous period were aimed at meeting the obligations that emerged from different stages of our integration in the European Union. We have adopted a lot of reform laws and fundamental alterations have been made for their effective implementation.

The Republic of Macedonia is facing another test. We are to conduct parliamentary elections that will, to a large extent, be decisive for our future. We have adopted the new Electoral Code in line with European recommendations and we hope that it will contribute a lot to fair and democratic elections. All the demands of the opposition are implemented in the Electoral Code. We have decided that the president of the Electoral Committee will be proposed by the opposition. That leaves no doubt about our desire for fair and democratic elections. But fair and democratic elections also mean accepting the results that emerge from the will of the citizens.

The Republic of Macedonia deserves to be considered as a leader in regional co-operation. We attach great importance to it and regard regional co-operation as an essential precondition for joint progress. We have recently joined the Central European Free Trade Agreement, and further liberalisation of trade in the region will follow the creation of a free trade zone, which will be a strong impulse for fast development. We strongly support this process and estimate that it will be a catalyst for development and Europeanisation.

In the economy, we have made successful reforms towards enhancing the business climate. The status of EU candidate country has started to produce results. The interest of foreign companies in investing in Macedonia is growing continuously. All this gives us the right to hope that this year will be the key year for improving the economy, for new employment and for a better standard of living.

I would like to mention just a few things that the Government of the Republic of Macedonia has done to make Macedonia an attractive business destination. We have adopted new legislation; we have implemented a one-stop-shop registration system; we have launched the reform of the real estate register; and we have amended many other laws. All these reforms will be very unpopular in the forthcoming elections, but they will be very important for future generations.

The Republic of Macedonia’s membership of the Council of Europe on 9 November 1995 was the first cornerstone of the realisation of the European aspirations of the Republic of Macedonia. When we became a member of the Council of Europe, we agreed to respect the basic principles of the Council of Europe: democracy, human rights and the rule of law as common values.

For a long period, the culture of co-operation, solidarity and reaching consensus on important political issues among the member countries of this Organisation have been critical driving forces for the development of Europe in political, economic and cultural terms.

At the Warsaw Summit, the Council of Europe established several priorities. One of them has been co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union. One of the main topics in this session of the Parliamentary Assembly is relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union. In this regard, Mr Juncker, Mr Schüssel, Mr Popescu-Tariceanu and the President of the European Commission, Mr Barroso, addressed this distinguished forum.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union ought to be the platform for future co-operation between the two organisations and contribute to their partnership.

The Council of Europe, as a genuine pan-European organisation, creates the opportunity to enhance political dialogue between EU member countries and the countries that are preparing for membership, such as the Republic of Macedonia.

The Council of Europe, as the oldest intergovernmental organisation in Europe that promotes the principles of fundamental values, has a vital role in the challenges of the 21st century, such as terrorism, crime, corruption, trafficking in human beings, xenophobia and intolerance.

The European Court of Human Rights is a special feature of the Council of Europe. The right of individual application that enables any individual to lodge an appeal against any state for the violation of individual rights is an essential accomplishment of the Council of Europe. The Republic of Macedonia supports the ongoing reforms of the Court, and we are looking forward to the report of the Committee of Wise Persons on this issue. I would like to point out that the Republic of Macedonia was among the first countries to ratify Protocol No. 14.

I thank Romania for its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and for its contribution to the implementation of the Action Plan of the 2005 Warsaw Summit. We deeply appreciate all the activities undertaken in the field of the European Convention on Human Rights to improve its effectiveness, the protection of the rights of people belonging to national minorities and social cohesion and co-operation with European institutions and international organisations.

I also welcome the Russian Federation’s forthcoming chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. We believe that that will add value to the implementation of the main principles of the Council of Europe.

The European future of the citizens living in the geographical area of Europe is not just a natural right, but an imperative in modern relations. The European idea has caused a radical switch in the awareness of the Balkan people, who today prefer co-operation and the joining together of the countries in the region. Today, more than ever, the common people of the Balkans are interested in the perspective of economic development and global progress both of the region and of Europe in general. Today, the citizens are even more convinced that joint co-operation and integration are an incomparable advantage compared with the old political disputes and wars.

In the Balkans, European affiliation and integration are also remarkable stimuli not just to regional peace and security but to the general development of South-East Europe and Europe as a whole. It will be good to continue to move forward in that direction. It is very important that the politicians in the region who have a very sincere European orientation receive stronger support. Otherwise, the old-fashioned politicians who usually offer nothing useful and who manipulate ethnic issues in their countries will be favoured.

Our efforts towards making accession to the EU a priority are based on the logical conclusion that Europe belongs equally to all its citizens and nations. Each problem in every part of Europe is, at the same time, a problem for the EU. European estimates are that it is necessary for the Balkans to import stability in order to prevent the export of instability from the region. All analysis regards the security of the entire Balkans as crucial to the security and progress of Europe in general. Despite numerous problems, the Republic of Macedonia is moving towards the standards for becoming an EU member state. Today the Republic of Macedonia is a good example of stability and tolerance within the region. In terms of interethnic relations we have achieved great results in a very short time and have resolved problems very quickly.

In fewer than five years we have doubled the percentage of participation by other ethnic communities in public administration. In a few years, Macedonia has done what it took other countries decades to implement. Launching the talks on full EU membership will probably have an additional positive impact, not just for our country but for the region in general.

We have been working intensely on the approximation process of the domestic judiciary with that of Europe. We are making efforts to implement the obligation for compatibility of the new judiciary with the acquis. Yet we are taking into consideration the realities and resources as well as the guarantees for their realisation.

We are achieving satisfying results in accepting the values of the Council of Europe such as democracy, human rights, the rule of law and respecting and enhancing cultural values. We respect the highest standards in terms of protecting the rights of persons belonging to national minorities as well as decentralisation from Council of Europe conventions. As an illustration, Macedonia is the only country with a Roma municipality and with the Roma language as an official language.

It is clear that the republic of Macedonia is still searching for a more efficient dynamic in terms of faster economic growth, the more efficient functioning of state institutions and for a more efficient way of tackling organised crime and corruption. Nevertheless the EU also needs a more flexible approach to the countries that show commitment to the reforms. That should be done not just in the interests of those countries but in the interests of the EU. It is inevitable that we redirect the political energy of the Balkans more intensively towards greater support from EU member states and EU institutions in general. In addition there is a general political consensus in the country about strategic development issues.

It is logical that in this context the Republic of Macedonia is prepared for an even more dynamic plan from the European Union for finishing the process of reform.


Thank you very much, Mr Buchkovski, for your most interesting address. You made a clear commitment to further reform and to a multi-ethnic society.

I remind members who have put forward questions that those questions should be limited to thirty seconds and no more. The first question is from Mrs Papadimitriou on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.


Mr Prime Minister, as a Greek parliamentarian, I welcome you to our Chamber. On 7 December 2005 in Paris, in response to Labour Member of Parliament O’Hara and myself, you stated that your country “is ready to be constructive. We are very happy for Greece to be one of our supporters in our application for candidate status on 15 December 2005. I respect the Greek Parliament’s decision to support my country’s accession to the EU, either with the provisional name of the Former Yugoslav Republic or with a compromise name. We are prepared to continue the New York negotiations under the mediation of Ambassador Nimetz to find a solution as soon as possible.”

Mr Prime Minister, are you prepared to confirm that your statements are still binding and that you are willing to continue those negotiations in a supportive spirit?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

Mr BUCHKOVSKI. – In the meantime, I have had a meeting with Prime Minister Karamanlis and such meetings will be important for our common future. I thank you for your support for our intention to be a candidate status country in the EU. It is very important for confidence building between politicians, because the business communities of Greece and Macedonia co-operate extremely well; last year, Greece was still the biggest investor in our country. I would like to repeat our intention, after the parliamentary elections, to organise more frequent meetings with representatives from the Greek Government to try to find a compromise on the one issue between Macedonia and Greece, the difference on the constitutional name.

Mr Ivan IVANOV (Bulgaria) (translation)

European Transport Corridor No. 8, which links the Black Sea to the Adriatic and runs through Bulgaria, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Albania, is of vital importance to the economic development of South-Eastern Europe. My question is: What does your government propose to do to speed up construction of the part of Euro-Corridor No. 8 located in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

I would like to repeat our intention regarding Corridor 8. It is a top priority for the Government of Macedonia, but we have to be realistic. It has been a priority in our meetings for a decade at presidential, prime ministerial and ministerial level. We have repeated the same sentence; we are interested in the building of Corridor 8, but we await a concrete result. With Bulgaria becoming a part of the European Union from the beginning of 2007, we want to connect the two capitals, Skopje and Sofia, as soon as possible. We may need additional support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, but we continue to promote common projects.

Mr Ivan IVANOV (Bulgaria) (translation)

Thank you, Mr Prime Minister. The European Transport Corridor No. 8 project also includes the building of the AMBO pipeline between the Black Sea and the Adriatic. In your opinion, what are the possible means of speeding up work on this project, which is extremely important for the diversification of oil supplies in South-Eastern Europe?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

One year ago in Sofia, the former prime minister of Bulgaria, the former prime minister of Albania and myself signed a protocol of understanding and, together with Mr Ferguson, we are working on the AMBO project. I am not in a position to inform you as to how realistic our plan is to finish the project in 2007. I know that for financial construction from the United States, there will be a precondition to do with how quickly we start building the pipeline between Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria.

Mr IWINSKI (Poland)

Let me ask two questions. First, to what extent is the old challenge relating to refugees still important for Macedonia? By the way, we had a very interesting meeting in Skopje two months ago.

Secondly, you just informed us that you are tackling the problem of criminality and corruption. To what extent did the operation organised under Concordia turn out to be useful and successful?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

On the refugee problem, as you know, we had a rich experience during the Kosovan crisis. Approximately 400 000 Kosovars came to our country as refugees. We have more than 1 000 refugees from Kosovo of Roma origin, and we are trying together with UNMIK to find a solution so that we can return the last group of Kosovars to Kosovan territory.

On our intention to be stronger in fighting organised crime and corruption, I am satisfied with our cooperation with the Council of Europe and the Group of States Against Corruption. We are building our capacity to be stronger in fighting crime and corruption. We have a project to build interrogative border management systems in the region, which involves more co-operation between customs officers and different institutions. This, I think, will be one of the preconditions if we are to be stronger in our fight against organised crime and corruption across the region.

In Macedonia, we want to promote co-operation between NATO and the EU after the successful mission undertaken by NATO during the crisis of 2001. NATO and the EU changed their role during the period of stabilisation in our country, and the Berlin- plus formula was one reason why the international community promoted the Concordia mission in our country. That was extremely positive, and we are trying now to develop our relationships with our European friends as regards the processes of our police. We are preparing a new police law and we can expect to continue the reform process along with experts from the European Union.

Mr IWINSKI (Poland)

Let me raise a different and slightly delicate issue, which is, to my mind, an important one. When I go to Macedonia as I have done many times over the last twenty years, I find that the position of Macedonia as an independent country is not well enough known and understood. To my mind, one of the reasons for that is that there is not enough diplomatic representation in Skopje. There are no more than 20 full diplomatic embassies – Poland is represented. What can you do about that? It seems we should ask colleagues from other countries to guarantee that they will have full diplomatic representation in Macedonia. Those who are not present in a country cannot understand the situation there.

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

For your information, I may say that there are more than 40 representative embassies from different states in our country, but I agree that that is not enough. If we intend to promote Macedonia as a success story among the international community, it will be important to present our model of a multi-ethnic society. Disseminating our positive experience would be easier if representatives of European Union countries and others were present in Skopje.

Mr DZEMBRITZKI (Germany) (translation)

Prime Minister, our President referred in his welcoming address to the fact that the established members of the EU were tired of Europe. You have demonstrated both in your speech and with the work you have done that you are wide awake as far as Europe is concerned, and your efforts in this regard deserve our recognition and respect. This gives me all the more reason to ask you to tell us, on the basis of your own experience, what the consequences would be – there were already allusions to this in your speech – if your path to the EU were made much more difficult or the door were closed on you because of this weariness of Europe. What consequences do you see for your country and the region as a whole?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

Dear German friends, it will clearly be difficult without a clear European and Euro-Atlantic perspective to exist in the western Balkans for pro-European and pro-democratic politicians. The debate in the European Union about the process of enlargement has a direct impact on Euroscepticism within the western Balkans. Our intention is to continue with the same rules, to respect the “Thessaloniki principle” and to keep the door open for the states of the western Balkans. After what we expect to be the successful entry of Romania and Bulgaria, the recognised leader in our region will be Croatia, and we expect Croatia to become a member of the EU in 2008 or perhaps 2009. After that we will be ready to be the leader in the rest of the western Balkans. We now have the status of candidate country and we expect a positive report in October if the Macedonian politicians and citizens organise free, democratic elections. We must recognise that Macedonia is important today not just to the region but for the process of Europeanisation. I believe that we will continue the debate in the European Union, with renewed energy in our reform processes, and that we will put pressure on Brussels and Strasbourg to keep the door open for Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania.

Mr GRZYB (Poland)

What is your opinion, Mr Prime Minister, on the process of Balkan stability and on how the Council of Europe and the European Union can support it?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

Dear Polish friend, in the Balkans we are in a crucial period for our future. There will be definitely be a referendum in Montenegro. There is the question of the eventual status of Kosovo, and there is the redefinition of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are big challenges not only for Serbs and Kosovars but for Muslims, Croats and Bosnians in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and for the international community. The role of the Council of Europe will be an important one, particularly for the Venice Commission, and on decentralisation. One of the key issues is the process of democratisation and Europeanisation in the region of the western Balkans. In our model of a multi-ethnic society, three pillars are part of the framework agreement: use of the mother language – the language of the Albanian community – active political representation and decentralisation.

In our case, we want to promote a new territorial organisation and multi-ethnic municipality, not monoethnic municipality as was proposed in Kosovo. That provoked a referendum with a vote against a new territorial organisation. In my opinion, it was the latest attempt by radicals and conservatives in our country to destroy the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. After that, it will definitely get easier. After the implementation, that will no longer be the predominant theme in the daily fight between the government and opposition. The situation is now similar to that in other western European nations, and economic and social life will be the predominant theme.

What will be the role for the Council of Europe in the western Balkans? Europe’s role will be crucial for the western Balkans. Leadership is the biggest problem. We need leadership and a clear vision of a common future for all of us in a united Europe.

Mr IVANOVSKI (“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)

Dear Prime Minister, regional cooperation is one of the criteria for full membership of the European Union. If one lives in a state in the Balkans, it is the key criterion. What are the achievements of the Republic of Macedonia on that policy, and what are the plans for the future?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

Last week in Bucharest all states from southern and eastern Europe organised a meeting with Chancellor Schüssel of Austria, which has the presidency of the European Union, and Commissioner Mandelson. The topic of the meeting was regional co-operation, a precondition for growing closer to the European Union. One idea was for the European Commission to promote a southern European free trade area. We need stronger economic regulation between all countries in the region. Not only will that be training for the European Union, but it is important for us to implement the same legislation as EU states so that we are ready one day to become a full member.

Our intention as a small country in South-Eastern Europe is to promote our positive experience. To cooperate economically, one precondition is to promote stability in the region. After the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, Macedonia is the only stable country in the region – that may be only my opinion. We need multi-ethnic stability and a multicultural society, especially now when international society is preoccupied with the problems in Serbia and Montenegro and in Kosovo. We should disseminate our positive experience. Our model is authentic, but perhaps with some changes it could be implemented in other areas in the region.

We insist on closer co-operation between those countries to promote a positive climate for politicians. We can compare that with the situation four or five years ago. There is a more pro-European atmosphere in the region and there are more frequent meetings, formal and informal, between politicians in the region because we are dreaming the same dreams – dreams of the EU and NATO. Without a clear European and Atlantic perspective, the situation in our region would be totally different.

Mr STEENBLOCK (Germany) (translation)

Prime Minister, a few days ago, on 29 March, your parliament passed a new electoral law, in the drafting of which you played a very important part. I should like to congratulate you on this law.

It no doubt puts the democratisation process on a very sound basis, but I should like to ask two questions about it. Firstly, what future steps and measures are planned in order not only to improve the electoral process before elections but also to ensure the systematic implementation of the recommendations of the OSCE and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Election Observation Missions? Secondly, what specific challenges do you see and how can the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the OSCE help you to meet them, including help in introducing a best practice system?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

Dear friend, we know that one of the preconditions for the European Commission sending a positive signal to Skopje about the date for starting negotiations is that we hold free and democratic parliamentary elections. In the meantime we have been more closely co-operating with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE in drafting a new electoral law. In doing so we have adopted all the recommendations made by the ODIHR. The law was adopted ten days ago by our parliament and we are now beginning the process of announcing a new state Electoral Committee.

It is our intention to promote a friendly atmosphere before the end of the campaign. We accepted a proposal by the opposition about the president of the state Electoral Committee, and on Friday I expect our parliament to announce a new structure and membership for the committee. In the meantime we have enough time to negotiate with our international partners – the OSCE, the European Union and the Council of Europe – the number of observers for the parliamentary elections. I am optimistic that we now have a more friendly atmosphere between the government and the opposition in our country, and all politicians know how important the parliamentary elections are for our future. I am sure that all the citizens of our country are ready to show you in the elections that European values and standards exist in our country.

Mrs INCEKARA (Turkey)

This year, the Republic of Macedonia will hold parliamentary elections. What steps have been taken by the government and the opposition to organise free and fair elections? How do you think the Council of Europe will assist in and monitor the process?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

The latest information is that the OSCE, the European Commission and the Council of Europe will send observers to our parliamentary elections. About 20 members of parliament from the Council of Europe will be present. In the meantime, we are trying to start a process of education in our country to eliminate irregularities. We have to recognise that the last local elections showed that we have a problem. With the support of our international partners we are trying to promote a positive climate. We anticipate that non-governmental organisations and other institutions in our country will be ready to prepare public opinion for our expectation. This parliamentary election must be the cleanest and fairest in our country.

Mr ERTSBORN (Sweden)

As you are well aware, Prime Minister, my colleague Dick Marty, the Assembly’s rapporteur on alleged secret detentions, regards the case of Khaled Al Masri as a potential instance of CIA rendition involving authorities in Council of Europe member states. Would you care to use this platform to state your government’s official position on that case?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

I repeat our government’s official position. The Macedonian Government is ready to co-operate with the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and, in particular, German prosecutors. We have sent additional answers to additional questions to the Council of Europe, and we are expecting a special commission from the European Parliament to visit our Minister of the Interior on 28 April. We are in direct contact with our public prosecutor and the German public prosecutor about official legal investigations of the Al Masri case. We are keen to collect all the information as soon as possible, and to establish closer co-operation with all the institutions in the European Council and the European Parliament.


Thank you. Do you have a further question?

Mr ERTSBORN (Sweden)

I just want to thank the Prime Minister for his answer.

Mr JOVASEVIC (Serbia and Montenegro)

Your Minister for Foreign Affairs recently said something about borders between the state union of Serbia and Montenegro and Macedonia. What is your personal opinion on borders between the state union and Macedonia, what are your obligations arising from that state contract, and are you going to change basic principles confirmed by two governments?

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

Our government intends the process of demarcation to involve technical issues – not political issues. We respect Resolution 1244, and we are trying to solve the demarcation problem as soon as possible. Article 72 of Ambassador Einik’s report stated that the eventual full status of Kosovo would be necessary to solve the demarcation problem. Now we are trying to find, on a technical level, contra-partners in the process of demarcation. We want the international community to help us find a solution as soon as possible, perhaps during the negotiation in Vienna between Belgrade and Pristina. It is important to us that Belgrade signed a special agreement with us on demarcation, but there is no chance of its being our contra-partner at present. Kosovans, on the other hand, would like to be our contra-partners, but that would have no international legitimacy.

Macedonia is in a very delicate position. We must be careful, but we must also be pragmatic and selfish. We should like to find a contra-partner as soon as possible to finalise technical issues relating to demarcation and borders.

Mr JOVASEVIC (Serbia and Montenegro)

I should like to know whether you are able to control the border between Macedonia and Kosovo.

Mr Buchkovski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

We cannot have any formal control of the border because our contrapartner is Kfor. We have extremely good co-operation with Kfor in the administration of the border between Skopje and Pristina, and all citizens on both sides respect the Macedonian border.