By Misko Taleski
The future of Macedonia and Serbia is in the EU, Serbian President Boris Tadic and Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov concluded during Tadic’s visit to Skopje last Friday (December 16th) and Saturday.
“European integration is uniting us all in the region. We are not discouraged to have additional conditions, even as Macedonia for a third year has a positive report but has not obtained a [accession] date. We are continuing with the reforms and all the achievements regarding the European criteria, values and principles in the state,” Ivanov said.
Tadic relayed the discouragement among some Serbian politicians that Serbia did not receive candidate status in early December.
“The essence of European integration is internal reforms. Serbia, just as Macedonia and the region, has their future in the EU. There are challenges in front of us that need to be fulfilled,” Tadic said.
Regarding Kosovo, Tadic said Serbia has legitimate interests that it cannot renounce, adding that Kosovo should not be an obstacle to Serbia’s European future.
Macedonia has good relations with Kosovo, something Dimitar Mirchev, International Relations Council member of president Ivanov’s cabinet, said doesn’t negatively impact Serbia-Macedonia relations.
However, Mirchev called on Serbia to join regional initiatives that include Kosovo.
“We participate in many regional meetings with Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania. When conditions are created in the following period, we expect Serbia to join regional co-operation initiatives,” Mirchev told SETimes.
During the meeting, Tadic re-iterated Serbia’s clear support for Macedonian identity and culture, as well as the importance of cultural-scientific co-operation between the two countries.
“The statement by the Serbian president is particularly important because there is a trend in Serbia among a younger generation of historians and in the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, to still view Macedonia as southern Serbia, and Macedonians are treated as Serbs,” Macedonian historian Violeta Achkovska told SETimes.
“They have returned to the position between the two world wars when the Serbian authorities did not recognise Macedonians and a Macedonian language. Tadic is a … friend of Macedonia, and precisely such people should lead Balkan countries rather than nationalists,” he added.
Despite good overall relations between Serbia and Macedonia, the two countries are still burdened by the non-recognition of the Macedonian Orthodox Church by the Serbian Orthodox Church.
This issue was brought to the fore by the arrest of fugitive Zoran Vranishkovski right before Tadic’s arrival in Skopje. The arrest was viewed as a provocation by commentators.
Vranishkovski, a former bishop of the Macedonian Orthodox Church who became a bishop of the so-called Orthodox Ohrid Archbishporic, considered a part of the Serbian church in Macedonia, was detained at the Macedonian-Greek border for financial fraud.
“Let the churches solve their ecclesiastical problems and the courts the legal ones,” Ivanov said of the issue.
Tadic said the church issue must not burden relations between the two countries.
“Church law is not part of state law. It is of vital interest for Serbia’s relations with Macedonia to solve that problem, not let it stand between us,” Tadic said.
Tadic also met Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and discussed co-operation in transportation, infrastructure, culture, energy and agriculture.
On the sidelines of the visit, Tadic attended the Macedonia-Serbia Business Forum in Skopje where he praised investment in infrastructure to get out of the on-going economic crisis and attract new investment.
“Technological renewal and re-industrialisation represent an opportunity to raise living standards and secure a stable political and economic future. To enable this, it is necessary for the entire region to advance co-operation in all sectors, not only the economy,” he said