Skopje, 21 August 2022 (MIA) – Given the geopolitical situation, we are all aware that the Western Balkans should be in the EU and the region should be prepared without a doubt but the process should be smooth given the geopolitical situation, Czech Ambassador Jaroslav Ludva has said.
Czech Republic has been a strong supporter of the Western Balkans and particularly of North Macedonia on its European path, also during our Presidency, he tells MIA in an interview.
According to Ludva, 2030 is a viable goal for North Macedonia to join the EU given the new geopolitical situation.
On the French proposal, which helped lift the Sofia blockade, the Ambassador says the French colleagues had done their best to reach a compromise noting that nothing is perfect on the matter, but it is the best proposal that was tabled.
Following is the interview in full:
Ambassador Ludva, your country took over the EU Presidency last month. Are the Western Balkans and its EU integration high on the list of priorities in the agenda of the Czech EU Presidency?
Definitely, Czech Republic has been a strong supporter of Western Balkans and particularly your country North Macedonia on its European way, and of course, during our Presidency, Western Balkans and North Macedonia are pretty high on our list.
North Macedonia in July held the First Intergovernmental Conference with the EU after accepting the French proposal. The second conference and the official start of negotiations will take place after the country passes constitutional changes to include the Bulgarians in the Constitution. In your opinion, was this necessary and will the process be suspended if it didn’t happen?
The negotiation process and compromise – I cannot talk that much because it was during the French Presidency, but each time you should have been looking the negotiations to reach the best compromise, and I’m pretty sure the French colleagues did their best to reach it and we can say that nothing is perfect on this matter, but it’s the best proposal on the table and we have moved on.
The member states approved the negotiating framework, but what’d happened with North Macedonia was a precedent because the inclusion of bilateral issues in the negotiating process was allowed. Is there a risk that this precedent could be used for other countries in the accession process? There are many open issues in the region and also, Ukraine and Moldova recently were granted the status of candidate countries.
The bilateral protocol is a separate document and it’s not a part of the negotiating framework. So, it’s not included, it’s a separate document.
But in the protocol there are questions regarding history…
There are, but they are not part of the negotiation framework. Bilateral protocol is not part of the negotiation framework.
Top EU officials, including Michel and von der Leyen, said we should look toward the future instead toward the past. But, the opposition and many experts believe that we would have to tackle historical issues rather than Europeanisation during the negotiations and any progress will depend on what would be agreed by the history commission? Are there any guarantees that further blockades in the negotiations could be avoided?
There is only one thing which is guaranteed on Earth – it’s death. But there are no 100 percent guarantees else than what I have said before, but I have the feeling that the best has been done. About the future I would say each candidate country should look in the future because sooner or later you will achieve the EU membership, full membership, and that gives you a lot of advantages like the new countries, the Czech Republic is one of the relatively new countries, we joined the EU in 2004, and it gave us a lot of benefits, free travel, we have been for fifteen years member of Schengen, and more investments, higher standard of living. So, it is the future we should be looking at.
According to projections by some analysts, North Macedonia and Albania could become EU members in 2030 at the earliest. Is this realistic given the fact that Serbia and Montenegro have been in negotiations for a decade and are not even close to becoming formal members. What is the most optimistic scenario for this country?
It’s difficult to make any comparison because at any given time, any given moment the situation is different. But eight years from now, which is exactly 2030, I think it’s viable because it took the Czech Republic eight years, in some of the cases it was eight years, Croatia it was a little bit smarter procedure, and you mentioned some other two countries and it was a time not very fortunate for enlargement, the situation was a little bit stuck, but nowadays we have a new geopolitical situation, and I think all of us are pretty much aware that Western Balkans should be in as much, as soon as it gets, Western Balkans should be prepared of course no doubt about it, but the procedure should be smooth given the geopolitical situation. And Western Balkans is out of Europe, should be in. So I think, back to your original questions, 2030 if everything is going smooth is viable.
One of the priorities of the Czech Presidency is Ukraine, ways to manage the refugee crisis and post-war reconstruction of Ukraine as well as the establishment of a new security architecture. What are the principles of the new security architecture?
It’s one of the most important and more difficult tasks for the Czech Presidency. Even though the Czech Republic is not neighboring country and the distance between Prague and Kyiv is the same as Prague and Skopje, we have much more Ukrainian refugees. But it’s not only about the Czech Republic, it’s about the whole Europe and we should approach it.
There is a new architecture in Europe given the Russian aggression in Ukraine, given the new role of China. But we should support Ukraine, we should rely on and be active with Russian sanctions, assets freeze, travel ban, we should even energize part of the architecture structure because it’s very important for the European security. Alternative ways of energy…
It will never be the same as it was before, but first of all the war is still going on, so we should try to end the war and then reconstruction of Ukraine and building of new security architecture of Europe.
After the Covid crisis, solving the energy crisis will be the EU’s biggest challenge in the coming winter. It will be a test for the Czech Presidency as well as for the credibility of the Union itself. EU reached a deal on saving gas, but with several exceptions. To what extend will this agreement cushion the energy crisis?
Definitely this agreement will help because this winter will be different, will be difficult and will be much different from winters in the past. We will have to adopt another approach but we can find examples in the past. There was a crude oil shock in 1973 and within few years within one decade the situation was back to normal because we changed our attitudes, we changed our approach to sources, natural resources. Before electricity production was based on crude oil more than 25 percent more than one quarter, after a decade it was less than 10 percent.
Nuclear energy was the choice those days, now we have a green deal, we have a shift to other sources of energy, so we should be more active shifting to the green deal. On the other hand, it cannot be done overnight so probably the position towards nuclear energy will change because Germany already changed its position. It will prolong the lifespan of coal-based energy, so it will be a mixture of different approaches, looking for alternative sources.
EU is highly dependent on Russian crude oil and gas, so we should be looking at different destinations, like Norway, Azerbaijan. It will help in some way but will not solve the situation, so it’s a mixture of different approaches, it will not be solved overnight, this winter will be difficult and some others to come, but maybe in five years time we can be back to normal.
Neda Dimova Prokikj
Translated by Nevenka Nikolikj
Photos by Frosina Naskovikj
Video by Srgjan Krstikj and Asllan Vishko