In a speech in Jerusalem before the Israel Council on Foreign Relations (ICFR), Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki drew a parallel between the birth of Israel and that of his country: “We faced a situation in which pretty much everyone around us disagreed with the existence of a Macedonian state.”
Turning to the effect of events in the Middle East on his country, the 38-year-old chief diplomat of the former Yugoslav republic noted that over 140 Macedonian citizens had been fighting for the Islamic State.
"One would be naïve to think that they don’t come back. This is a process that we have been ignoring….How did we arrive at a situation in which a European country, albeit with a problematic European integration path but still one with a European destiny, could produce so many people that are fighting for a wrong cause using methods that are completely unacceptable in our society? Indeed, some of them are making their way back and we shouldn’t be surprised if something dramatic happens as it did in Paris.”
Poposki noted that in 2015, Macedonia, a country of 2.1 million inhabitants, had seen 800,000 migrants use this route in an attempt to make their way from one EU country (Greece) across a non-EU, non-Schengen country (Macedonia) back into the EU. Since the beginning of this year, 90,000 have done so. “We just happen to be on the shortest and cheapest route from the Middle East to Europe, one which has been used for centuries,” said Poposki.
He lamented the fact that the EU and Schengen rules had not been enforced at the EU external borders, and that Macedonia had been compelled to confront the problem. Negative publicity for Macedonia had been one of the results.
“Greece,” he said, “is in a particularly vulnerable situation and no one should…put all the blame for what has been happening in Europe on Athens. That would be unfair. Coming from a Macedonian, this might sound funny, but these are the facts. Maybe the only good news is that this critical situation has provided us with an opportunity to work more closely with the Greeks and we have managed to strengthen our relations.”
The Jerusalem-based Israel Council on Foreign Relations is devoted to the study and debate of foreign policy, with special emphasis on Israeli and Jewish concerns. The council functions under the auspices of the World Jewish Congress.
Photo: Andres Lacko