Dr. Gjorge Ivanov, President of the Republic of Macedonia

Dr. Gjorge Ivanov, President of the Republic of Macedonia
Dr. Gjorge Ivanov, President of the Republic of Macedonia

00:44 – What are Macedonia’s advantages as a multi-ethnic society?

Macedonia has a large and rich heritage from the past, our multi-ethnicity is a heritage from the past that we have preserved as a project for the future. On these lands there have been many empires, many conquerors, oppressors. They have all left their mark, Macedonia has found a way to place all that in a certain harmony, to create an ambient of mutual respect, to respect one another and to respect their differences, not to dismiss it or destroy it, because we have examples in the Balkans where people have tried to assimilate the differences, to create new nations, new countries.

Macedonia has created a model of integration without assimilation, for everyone to be what they are but to be part of the whole. When we became an independent country and with the Ohrid agreement. Also with the changes in the constitution it became our multi-ethnic democracy, a democracy which includes everyone and excludes no one. It is a very difficult way of functioning for a democracy and it is sometimes a nightmare for very rich countries.

You see now the events transpiring with the Brexit and what the polarity is in the UK, what the situation is in Belgium, how they treat minorities in many well developed countries, how difficult it is to include them in the decision making processes. But we have succeeded in that and we are an example of how the future relations will look like in countries that are now receiving immigrants.

All the cities, all countries in Europe will be multi-ethnic, multi religious, multi-language, and you will need to find ways to help them nurture their own culture, their own tradition, to practice their own religion…it a great challenge and a great responsibility, we have shown that it can be done.

02:56 – Macedonia practices openness to Foreign Direct Investments, how would you describe it’s economic growth?

All the international reports who follow the changes and the openness of the economies also the accessibility always rank Macedonia very high.

That goes to say that…what is up to us, the economy, the ambient the attracting of foreign investments that didn’t come over night but it took years and years of making changes in the laws, adjusting our laws, reforms in many areas…so we could create an ambient for these people to feel the benefits of coming to Macedonia.

We do what is up to us. What needs to be done by others, slows us down. Corridor 10 needs to pass through Macedonia and corridor 8, those are European corridors. We are close to finalizing corridor 10 but for corridor 8 we have been trying for years to get funding from the European Development Bank because it’s a European corridor. Imagine the paradox, we are building a European corridor through Macedonia with Chinese money that our citizens need to pay back.

04:04 – What were your goals at the beginning of your mandate, and how they have developed throughout the time?

We, as a country, ever since our independence have set two strategic goals for ourselves, to be a member of NATO and to be a part of the European Union…but as obstacles came and reaching those goals became prolonged we had to adjust to the newly created ambient, so from the first day of my mandate I have been promoting a policy of openness towards all.

To be open to our neighbors, to our region, to our surroundings, to the middle east, northern Africa, but still our main mission are the membership in NATO and the European Union as a strategic goal although the openness has created the opportunity to gain new friendships, to create new opportunities for our business people and to influence the conditions in our region.

That policy will stay in place and I will nurture it, build it, and implement it during my whole mandate in hopes for us to have outstanding relations with our neighbors, to dedicate ourselves to the region, to keep track of all that is happening with NATO and the European Union as they are also subjected to changes, to dedicate some time to ourselves and harnessing our own resources and our potential.

05:27 – What has been done and what are your recommendations for enhancing the regional cooperation?

Well, there are a lot of projects that are supported by the European Union in for ecology, protection of waters and forests, mountains, there is some for creating regional projects between municipalities, our municipalities are doing quite nicely.

After the unfortunate events following the collapse of Yugoslavia and the wars during former Yugoslavia opened many wounds, to have those wounds healed many regional processes were open, the process of cooperation, regional initiatives, and those were also drained as they were busy creating dialogue once again and building trust, cooperation.. Now we have different regional initiatives such as the Brdo – Brioni process that was a Slovenian and Croatian initiative, who aside from declarative insist on concrete actions.

The Balkan is a region where geography has created history.

Me and my cabinet from the very beginning felt we needed a Adriatic – Ionian highway. We also need to be connected with fast railways because that way the whole region opens up. If the region opens, minds of people open, and people with an open mind have a need to compete, to prove themselves, to create a market, a market of ideas, products, services.

We have a continuity in maintaining collaboration on a presidential level with all the presidents in Bulgaria, we have an amazing ongoing communication, they attend certain events like the school for young leaders. The ex-Albanian president has also attended, Presidents Parvanov and Stojanov, the ex-president of Serbia Tadich, the ex-presidents of Kosovo have also been a part of many of our regional initiatives…but sadly…over 25 years we haven’t had a meeting with the president of Greece. Imagine that, neighbor countries and for 25 years there has not been a meeting with a Macedonian and a Greek president.

Regardless of the fact that we have no communication on a presidential level with Greece, we are in great collaboration with the prime minister of Greece, with the Mayor of Thessaloniki, with Greek business people that are in Macedonia. Macedonia has many Greek business people that are very happy with the easy of doing business here.