By Goran Trajkov
On Monday (November 5th), the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in a 15-1 vote that Greece violated the 1995 Interim Accord by vetoing Macedonia’s bid for NATO membership at the 2008 summit in Bucharest.
The accord between the two countries stipulates that Greece would not block Macedonia’s membership in international organisations if done under the UN provisional designation “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
Former foreign minister and current chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs Antonio Milososki was the head of the Macedonian team in the case against Greece.
In an exclusive interview with SETimes correspondent Goran Trajkov, Milososki discusses the decision to initiate proceedings before the tribunal, his experience and other foreign policy priorities for the committee.
SETimes: As a representative of the Macedonian team in the ICJ, how do you evaluate the whole process?
Antonio Milososki: From the view point of contemporary Macedonian history, with each subsequent year we will become more aware of the significance of the verdict. The whole trial was conducted fairly.
Both sides had an equal opportunity to express their arguments on the case. In any other position, except in basketball and here in the International Court of Justice, Macedonia was [at a disadvantage]. Only at the basketball championship in Lithuania, and now in The Hague, did we have equal treatment and rules that apply to all the same way.
SETimes: What does the decision mean for the Republic of Macedonia?
Milososki: The decision on Macedonia is a historical achievement for us. The verdict will be not only legally binding, but also an important historical document from which we will learn lessons for further action.
This verdict is the highest international legal decision on the unreasonable blocking by Greece [of our] NATO membership in 2008.
This means it’s an additional motivation for Macedonian-Greek dialogue, which is important and aims to find a solution in the future for Macedonia and Greece not to look through the gun barrel of the benches at the court in The Hague, but as friendly countries towards the same goal.
SETimes: What do you think the reaction of the international community will be to the decision?
Milososki: The decision only applies directly to Macedonia and Greece, but indirectly also to our partners in the international community. Organisations such as NATO and the EU often emphasise the rule of law as one of the fundamental values of the Euro-Atlantic community.
Because of that, we expect The Hague verdict to be a good opportunity to create a favourable political space for this principle. The verdict should be applied, and Macedonia should get the legal safety that it deserves.
SETimes: Some Greek media, after the decision of ICJ, published that Macedonia ran away from the negotiations. Do you have any comment?
Milososki: I would only stress the comments in the explanation of the verdict in The Hague as a right, proof that the Republic of Macedonia negotiated without false political will, with desire and willingness to talk and find a solution, which, unfortunately, Greece rejected.
[What is] important now is that Greece is in the most difficult period of its existence since the period around 1974, when there was a major crisis with the military junta that came to power. Because of these tough times for Greece, I do not intend to comment on who won and who lost in the process.
We are not asking anything more than what the two countries committed to previously. Now is the time when we have to show pragmatism as two countries with a common interest on the international field.
SETimes: What is the procedure after the decision? Do you think that Greece will respect the decisions of ICJ?
Milososki: [The decision will be] sent to the UN secretary general and he will notify all member states of the verdict. Disregard of the verdict by the countries will mean challenging the authority of the International Court of Justice.
It is important that the decision was adopted unanimously by all judges, except the judge from Greece. Any reasonable state government would be advised to find a way to respect the final decision of the court.
SETimes: What is next in Macedonian foreign policy?
Milososki: This decision opens a new chapter in the international relations of the Republic of Macedonia. The next phase will be increased diplomatic and political communication with important actors in international politics. It will be a short- and medium-term process.
The situation will not change overnight. In the upcoming period, all the key actors in the Republic of Macedonia will have to communicate the verdict from The Hague in a tactical way, present it to international actors and [employ] it to achieve a common goal.