Interview / Simonida Kacarska: “The EU has to support the changes in the Western Balkans towards the European future”

On the 28th May, at the international conference “How to better respond to the European aspirations of the young generations in the Western Balkans?” the Știri Europene team had the pleasure to speak with Simonida Kacarska – Founder and Director of the European Policy Institute, a think tank supporting the informed debate on European policy issues, in Skopje, Macedonia (2011). Mrs. Kackarska holds a PhD in Politics and International Studies from the University of Leeds in the UK. She has studied the role of external factors in democratization process. Her experience includes being a researcher, consultant, lecturer and think tank manager. She has spent considerable periods of professional life in different European countries.

After the results of the European Parliament elections, what is your overall vision of the future of the EU? How would the future composition of the European Parliament impact the prospects of North Macedonia’s accession to the EU?

The results of the elections seem to show a picture that’s of a glass possibly half full; if someone wants to be on the negative side, can say half empty, but I would be in the former. In fact, the rising role of the greens and the liberals gives us hope for renew discussion on how does the European public, but also, the decision makers see the future of the European Union. There are exceptions to this trend, France is one of them. We have to wait and see what will happen there. But, in any case, there is enough scope for us to believe, that it would be a relatively moderate and stable coalition still roughly at the center leading the EU. Now, it is too early to discuss portfolios or the structure of the EU Commission. In any case, for us from the Western Balkans, it will be very important to gain the support of members of the European Parliament (EP) as many as we can. In fact, the EP has traditionally been the most supportive institution in respect to the enlargement (process) and we are yet whether this will be the case once again. Although, after having seen the results we are more hopeful now than before. What is very important for us is that a lot of the supporters of enlargement among the MEPs, actually did not run for a post this time. So, it is up to the region to reestablish its role among the MEPs and to build up the interest in the possible new supporters and promoters of the EU enlargement that we will find among the MEPs.

Somonida Kacarska, with SE correspondent Alexandr Burdian

Considering the time you spent in different European countries (Bulgaria, Ireland, Croatia and Belgium), have you noticed certain public policies in the field of rule of law that can also be implemented (at least to some degree) by policymakers in Macedonia?

There are many best practices that one can use, but we are at the point, especially now, in North Macedonia, at which we need to find new policies that fit and we are beyond best practice discussion in this field because there are no clear European guidelines on this. Many people would argue that there shouldn’t be, but in any case, we need to look into practices that can be a best fit. Now, if go back, traditionally, in the last two decades we can see the European accession negotiations have been a very helpful tool in this respect and something that has not been tried in North Macedonia. We are hoping to use once more the attraction, but also the instruments that are at disposal to the accession negotiations, so that we can make some more sustainable changes in the rule of law. In this case, possibly, some of the mechanism that we use in terms of Bulgaria after the accession could also be applied in the pre-accession in terms of benchmarking and so on. But this has not been tried by the European Commission in North Macedonia.

In recent past, your country has undergone a constitutional change of its name. Can this process be the key to start accession negotiations with the European Commission, should we expect a positive response by the European Council, in June?

In fact, we must not forget, besides the constitutional change that has happened, my country received the recommendation for starting the accession negotiations between 2009 and 2015. Which meant there was an assessment on the side of the European Commission that the country fulfilled sufficiently the political criteria. Currently, the constitutional changes and the resolution of the dispute are indisputably a breakthrough which we haven’t seen in the region for a long time and I am not sure that we will likely see it in the near future. On the basis of opening up a Euro-Atlantic perspective in this sense, the one solid decision that the European Council can make is, actually, to support such movements in the region in order to show to other countries as well as it is valid to go and pursue difficult political decisions for the perspective of the EU accession.

Interview conducted by Alexandr Burdian