Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 23 June 1999

It is a particular pleasure and honour to be here today in the cradle of democracy to greet you and to speak in front of you. This year, when we celebrate the fifieth anniversary of the establishment of the oldest European integrationist institution, I must remind you of the basic principles for its establishment – the reasons why the Council of Europe was founded.

We have witnessed the numerous achievements of the Council in past years. The large number of ratified conventions in various fields – human rights, the environment, culture, crime and so on – are proof of the need for the Council. I stress in particular the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights and the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights as one of the greatest achievements in the work of this Institution. I must also mention the creation of the European Commissioner for Human Rights, whom we expect to become active in 2000.

The last decade of this century has been characterised by many changes in Europe and in the world. Unfortunately, the achievements in the fields of democracy, security, respect for the rule of law and human rights are still facing new challenges. We are witnessing new tests of those values. Disrespect for those values has resulted in an enormous disaster in our region and its painful consequences have greatly jeopardised the stability and security of our region and, more widely, in Europe.

Since the beginning of the Kosovo crisis, the principled position of my country has been for a peaceful political solution of the Kosovo problem essentially through wide autonomy within the framework of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and respect for the human rights of all individuals who live in Kosovo. In support of international efforts for the resolution of the crisis, I stress the fact that the peacekeeping Nato forces meant for Kosovo were stationed on the territory of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and now are being deployed in accordance with the adopted United Nations Security Council resolution. After the start of the Nato air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, an enormous number of representatives of various international governmental and non-governmental organisations – the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Verification Mission for Kosovo, various humanitarian organisations and other organisations that were active in Kosovo earlier – have found accommodation in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

The Kosovo crisis has hit my country hard. We were faced with an enormous wave of refugees of more than 360 000 persons – about 18% of the total population, of whom 250 000 are still in our country. We have offered those unfortunate people assistance with all that we had. We have used all available human, material and technical resources to help the refugees. “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” demonstrated an enormous solidarity, although it had a rather limited capacity. Considering all the circumstances in which we found ourselves, we have carried that out rather successfully. The overall situation would have been even better if the international community had reacted faster and more energetically.

The problem with the refugees is still acute. That is why I would like to appeal to people to strengthen the joint efforts, to help these people return to their homes and to find their peace as soon as possible. The crisis in Kosovo, and particularly the enormous inflow of refugees from Kosovo, means that “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” has found itself in a very difficult economic, social and political situation, which could prove to be destabilising. We have suffered enormous losses. Direct losses are as high as $660 million, while indirect losses have still to be assessed. A great number of workers have been laid off as a result of the loss of markets, the cancellation of contracts, the increase in transportation costs and similar developments. About 20 000 additional workers have been left without work, and the total unemployment rate has reached 40%. All that is adding to the grave social situation in the state. I must point out that all citizens of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” – who were themselves subjected to enormous social, political and economic pressure – have demonstrated great humanity, tolerance and solidarity towards the refugees, as well as patience. That pressure could easily have resulted in more dramatic events.

My country, for the third time in this decade, has had its development blocked as a result of external factors, influences and situations. One has to admit that this would have been too great a burden even for many countries that are larger and more developed than “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. It is known that there can be no successful development in conditions of war, sanctions, embargoes and political, economic and humanitarian disasters. That is why we have asked for donors’ conferences aimed at avoiding economic collapse and compensating us for the losses that we have sustained. That is the best way to share the burden that we have carried and are still carrying on account of the refugees.

The Government of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” highly appreciates the support and assistance that we have received from the international community, which has been provided through various finance organisations or at a bilateral level. I appeal for that support to continue in future, because overcoming the consequences of the crisis more quickly is the main precondition for my country to return to implementation of the reforms that it had already started. I should like to express my gratitude for the assistance of US$2 million granted by the Social Development Fund to soften the impact of the crisis.

Because of known historical, political, ideological and other circumstances, and particularly because of the influence of foreign factors, the Balkans – Southeastern Europe – have had no chance to be united, until now. Until the beginning of this century, the interests of three powerful European empires – die Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires – were crossing over the Balkans. During the cold war, however, the Balkans functioned according to the known formula of 2+2+2, in which Turkey and Greece were Nato members, Bulgaria and Romania were members of the former Warsaw Pact and the former Yugoslavia and Albania were outside any military-political association. That situation caused difficulties not only for unification but for the development of relations and co-operation between Balkan countries. It is significant that such a situation has seriously limited the infrastructure connections of Southeastern European countries.

The countries of central Europe have come to the end of the cold war far better prepared than the Southeastern European countries and with a clear vision for membership of Euro-Atlantic institutions. The unification of Germany and the German-Polish Relations Agreement were an especially significant impulse in that direction. It is important to mention that the European Union has extended open hands towards the central European countries and, through significant assistance and support, has opened the road for them to EU and Nato membership.

The countries of Southeastern Europe, following the end of the cold war, unfortunately started on a different road, the features of which were nationalism and the great-state ambitions of several Balkan countries. That is the main reason why the Balkans has been faced with wars, ethnic cleansing and destruction for nearly a decade. Democratic Europe – or, more correctly, the European Union – unfortunately has not succeeded in finding a key to overcome those unpleasant happenings. At certain times, an impression could have been gained that the EU has seemingly “written off’ the region. The EU influence on the Balkans could have been significantly greater and more efficient if it had shown greater understanding and provided more support and assistance for the countries of the region that are undoubtedly destined for membership of the Euro-Atlantic institutions.

For a long time the international community has characterised Southeastern Europe as a politically unstable area where all countries feel the consequences of unsolved and neglected problems. The countries of Southeastern Europe had difficulty in promoting good neighbourly relations, in spite of declared intentions to do so. I stress that the policy of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is directed towards a more successful promotion of peace and stability and the advancement of mutual relations and co-operation in the region. A number of practical steps have been taken towards that aim which are already, fortunately, bearing fruit. Concretely, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” has succeeded at bilateral level in furthering its relations and co-operation with nearly all the countries in its neighbourhood.

The states of that region are members of various initiatives and regional organisations through which they adjust their national and joint interests. The Southeastern European process, the Central European Initiative, the Royaumont Initiative, CECI and others are practical projects and integrative processes for our specific interests in various fields, including the economy, transportation, border collaboration, defence and security.

We expect that the Stability Pact will be successfully implemented. That document is extremely important for the future of our region. Through its three baskets of activities and through the regional institutions that I have mentioned, as well as the Council of Europe, it should contribute to the definitive stabilisation and development of the region and its speedy integration into Euro-Atlantic organisations. To achieve this aim, I appeal for even greater co-operation between the regional organisations and their mutual completion and co-ordination. I stress that the primary interest of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is speedy implementation of the second basket of activities concerning economic development and reconstruction.

It is known that the European Union will have a leading role in the implementation and the co-ordination of the pact, together with OSCE. We expect, however, that the Council of Europe, with its proven values and experience and with a broad scope of instruments and means available to it, will also make a maximum contribution to realising the jointly determined aims that will be useful for us all. I want to mention here the document on the contribution by the Council of Europe to the Southeastern Europe stability programme, adopted at the 104th session of the Committee of Ministers in Budapest last month. There are numerous programmes and activities that the Council should implement in that direction.

I should like to take this opportunity to repeat the proposal to establish a Euro-Balkan youth centre with a seat at Ohrid, in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, as a practical realisation of our joint interest in youth, tolerance and culture in Southeastern Europe. The region of Southeastern Europe deserves a chance for peaceful development, prosperity and hope for the peoples who live in that area. We cannot lose any more time in passive monitoring of those integrative processes as they happen among us and around us.

On the crisis in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, I should like to use this occasion to welcome once again the efforts of the G8, the United Nations, the European Union, Nato and the OSCE, which have led to the start of the process of resolving the Kosovo crisis. I appeal for firm implementation of the UN Security Council resolution whereby the complex operation of the return of the refugees and the final stabilisation of the region has been started. Let us hope that this will be the last crisis in our region; but, to avoid similar situations in future, we must together more successfully defend democratic principles and values.

The significance, work and sustenance of an organisation depend to a great extent on its ability to adjust to real situations and requirements and to contribute to the solution of practical problems. I am sure that the new challenges are already reflected in the manner of work and the structure of the Council of Europe. I welcome the work of the Committee of Wise Persons in respect of the reform of the Council of Europe. I also welcome the implementation of its recommendations which has already begun.

We all have to contribute continuously to the strengthening and advancement of the basic values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. The true determination of each individual country to persist on that road is essential if we are to succeed in the full realisation of those aims. I assure you that “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is already on that road and that it will continue to make its contribution to the full implementation of those values.


Thank you very much, Mr Georgievski, for your most interesting and informative address. You have kindly agreed to answer questions and seventeen members of the Assembly have expressed a desire to put questions to you. I remind them that questions should be limited to thirty seconds and no more, and that they should ask questions, not make speeches of any kind.

To ensure that as many members as possible – I hope all – are able to ask their questions, I do not propose to allow supplementary questions, and I shall group questions. The first group of three will be Mr Kirilov, Mr Obuljen and Mr Weiss. I call Mr Kirilov first.

Mr KIRILOV (Bulgaria)

Let me express my deep satisfaction with the breakthrough that has been achieved between your country and Bulgaria, thus creating the conditions necessary for active bilateral development and good relations between neighbours. As a new state, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” demonstrated true statehood and maturity during the conflict in Yugoslavia, when you hosted both a large number of refugees and Nato forces. You have declared many times that “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” does not want its territory and airspace used for military strikes against Yugoslavia. Will you elaborate on that position?

Mr OBULJEN (Croatia)

We know that your country is hosting almost 250 000 refugees from Kosovo, which is the equivalent of almost 12% of the Macedonian population. We in Croatia were in a similar position at the end of 1992, when we were hosting about 700 000 people who had escaped from the same Serbian policy. Therefore, I can understand your situation. My questions are, what are the most difficult problems that you face in this respect; and what sort of assistance from the international community is needed to enable your country to emerge from that refugee crisis as soon as possible?

Mr WEISS (Slovakia)

A month ago, I visited your country and I thank you for all that you have done for the refugees. My first question is, how can the international community help your government most quickly and effectively to overcome the consequences of the crisis in Kosovo? My second question is, how many Albanian refugees do you estimate will not return to Kosovo, and what will the consequences of that for the internal political development of your country be?

Mr Georgievski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (interpretation)

said in answer to the question about the participation of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” in the Nato operation that his country had hosted 16 000 Nato troops. This had been seen by Yugoslavia as a provocation and they had been declared aggressors. A week before the peace agreement, approval had been given to increase the number to 30 000. It was a position shared by all the neighbouring countries, and had been adopted by Greece and Hungary who were Nato members. It was right that only air strikes had been used rather than ground troops.

In reply to the second and third questions, he repeated that “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” had to sustain 360 000 refugees, which imposed an economic burden. Economic assistance was important, but it was equally imperative that the Stability Pact came into force as soon as possible. There were always fears that such a Stability Pact, established at a time of war, would be forgotten when peace was achieved. It was necessary for all politicians to hold to their promises immediately.

A good economic programme would motivate refugees to return to their homes to start the process of rebuilding. It was possible that none would remain in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

Another problem was that many of the refugees were not actually from Kosovo. They had come from southern Serbia and were not explicitly mentioned in the agreement governing the return of refugees. Consequently, pressure would need to be exerted on the Serbian Government to ensure that all refugees were able to return safely.


Thank you. The next group of questions is from Mr Lopez Henares, Mrs Squarcialupi and Mr Saglam. May we have questions, not statements. I call Mr Lopez Henares.

Mr LOPEZ HENARES (Spain) (interpretation)

asked whether the education system in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” could cater for the needs of all ethnic groups.

Mrs SQUARCIALUPI (Italy) (translation)

Mr Georgievski, as you have already explained, your country was most helpful in receiving the Nato military contingents, besides which it took in the people expelled from Kosovo, even if at times there were rejective moves that caused tension.

This is my question. In view of your country’s historic links with Serbia and its large Serb community, is it conceivable that sooner or later your country may have to pay the price for this co-operation?

Mr SAGLAM (Turkey)

I would like to express my admiration for your country, Prime Minister. “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” has done a remarkable job in assisting the Kosovo refugees, considering the country’s limitations. Do you think that the international community has done enough to help you through the refugee crisis, and how do you see the assistance by Turkey being extended in that respect comparatively?

Mr Georgievski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (interpretation)

said that “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” had made good provision for the education of minorities and was the most advanced country in the Balkans in this respect. All minorities had the right to be educated in their mother tongue from kindergarten to the end of high school. The right to higher education would also be met if Europe would help to finance a new higher education institution.

Relations with Serbia would be complex, not only because of the refugee crisis but also for historic reasons. Serbia had not recognised the independence of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” for five years and the border between the two countries had still not been confirmed. For this reason “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” was concerned about what would happen if Serbia did not democratise because there were many ways in which it could make life difficult for its neighbours. “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” had been very satisfied with the international assistance which had been provided to the refugees, such as food and drugs, but financial compensation to “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” for its spending on the crisis had materialised very slowly.

At one point, nearly 150 000 refugees were living in private homes and were given the right to free treatment in local hospitals. However, a large number of employees in factories had not been paid for several months, and had not been able to pay their social insurance contributions. They were, therefore, not eligible for free hospital treatment. This had created real problems; refugees could be treated but some local people could not. As soon as assistance was received from western countries, the situation would improve.

With regard to Turkey, he wished to express pleasure at the aid and assistance his country had received. Turkey was one of the first states to react to the situation. It had received refugees from his country during the crisis at a most difficult time.


Thank you. Mr Ivanov is not here, so the next two questions are from Mr Behrendt and Mr Dokle. I call Mr Behrendt.

Mr DOKLE (Albania) (interpretation)

said that Mr Georgievski had recently met the Prime Minister of Kosovo. What did he think were the prospects for links in the future between Kosovo and his country?

Mr BEHRENDT (Germany) (translation)

The European Commission has, as you know, adopted a so- called stability pact for the countries neighbouring Kosovo and held out the possibility of signing association agreements to provide participants with the clear prospect of closer links with the EU. As head of the German delegation, I especially welcome the fact that this offer of greater co-operation has come about as a result of the considerable support provided by the German presidency of the European Council. This has opened up the possibility of implementing a programme that takes account of the particular burdens this region has to cope with.

Prime Minister, I should like to ask you in this connection whether you think it is sensible for the Council of Europe to make its own programmes and experience available in the areas on which the Stability Pact mainly focuses – namely democracy, the rule of law and civil society – in order to speed up the process of bringing your country closer to the EU by fulfilling the so-called Copenhagen criteria.

Mr Georgievski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (interpretation)

said that before the crisis, his country’s policy was clear. It was aiming towards an association agreement. It could have reached it even without the conflict, but the war had helped to finalise European Union support on the agreement. On Monday, the European Commission had recommended that the EU should commence political negotiations. This was a great opportunity and one welcomed with open arms. His only fear was that this initiative would be short-lived, and so he approached it with maximum openness and preparedness.

His government had entered into communication with the provisional government and supported a range of initiatives with regard to the future condition of Kosovo. It should have wide autonomy, including its own administration and government, and as a neighbour, his country had an obligation to collaborate with it. There were a number of other reasons for his country’s support for the new settlement. Firstly, this would ensure the swift return of refugees to their homes. Secondly, it would help to guarantee that the Kosovo Liberation Army would not be active in his country. Thirdly, and most importantly, economic reconstruction through the Stability Pact could not be achieved without collaboration. Stability in the region would depend on the work of the new government, which was why his government had entered into communication with the Kosovars.


Thank you. The next group of questions is from Mrs Poptodorova, Mr Solé Tura and Mr Toshev. Firstly I call Mrs Poptodorova.

Mrs POPTODOROVA (Bulgaria)

The long-term political and economic stability of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is the key to regional stability. This is an objective to which my country, Bulgaria, has always been committed. What are the chances of maintaining long-term internal political stability? What are the specific measures that need to be taken in the economic sphere and for the return of the refugees as a pre-condition for stability?

Mr SOLÉ TURA (Spain)

Do you think that it is time, Prime Minister, for international organisations such as the Council of Europe to recognise the true name of your country, the Republic of Macedonia, instead of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”? What must we do?

Mr TOSHEV (Bulgaria)

May I sincerely congratulate you, Prime Minister, on the positive role played by “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” during the Kosovo crisis, and on your policy of stronger co-operation from the countries of South-Eastern Europe?

I wish to ask a specific question. There have been many cases when Bulgarian books, even on mathematics, or books written by European authors that had been translated into Bulgarian, were confiscated on the borders of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” or even from the homes of Macedonian citizens. The worst cases arose during the election campaign last year. When your coalition took power these incidents stopped. I would like to know whether your government is committed to making the necessary legislative changes to allow freedom of access to information in the form of the Bulgarian language for Macedonian citizens.

Mr Georgievski, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (interpretation)

said, in answer to the first question, that he was very hopeful for the success of the Stability Pact, particularly in that it encompassed the security, democracy and the economic development of the region. Each of these factors was equally important for long-term progress. Without economic development there would be a new crisis in the Balkans within five years. The Stability Pact did not fully deal with infrastructural issues. For instance, there was no main road between Albania and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and no main international rail route across the Balkans. This hampered trade and communications between Balkan countries. There was also a need for business communication with western Europe to be improved. He argued that economic development was also vital to encourage the return of refugees to Kosovo.

Turning to the second question, he was glad of the support expressed in regard to the recognition of his country’s name. His government had established friendly relations with Greece, including economic cooperation, and it was hoped that the issue of the name of his country could be resolved with the Greek Government in the spirit of co-operation in the region. Finally, his country had, until recently, blocked the importation of books and other materials from Bulgaria, but his government had improved relations with Bulgaria and was now happy to see such materials imported. He expected that any remaining regulations targeted at Bulgarian literature would soon be abolished.


I am afraid that time has run out on us. There is only one minute left before we are due to rise. I apologise to the five questioners who are left on the list.

I thank Mr Georgievski very much for answering our questions and for his remarks during the course of questions.