OSCE PA’s Guliyev: Skopje to assume OSCE chairmanship amid the most challenging time in recent memory

Article originally published at MIA.mk

SKOPJE, 16 May 2022 (MIA) – North Macedonia will be assuming the OSCE Chairmanship in 2023 at the most challenging time facing the organization in recent memory, Azay Guliyev, Vice-President and Special Envoy of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly for South East Europe, has said in an interview with MIA during his recent visit to Skopje.

In the capital, he had met with top state officials, political party leaders as the country is concluding its preparations to take over the OSCE chairmanship next year.

North Macedonia, Guliyev told MIA, in order to have successful OSCE chairmanship, it has to find ways to set out the priorities that involve sustainable goals in all three security dimensions.

Following is the interview in full:

Mr. Guliyev, you visited North Macedonia amid a globally sensitive period – war in Ukraine, economic crisis, pandemic. What was the purpose of your visit, who did you meet and what was your key message?

I have met with President Stevo Pendarovski and Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani, as well as Talat Xhaferi, President of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia; Hristijan Mickovski, President of the Political Party VMRO– DPMNE; Bilal Kasami, President of the Political Party Movement BESA; Zijadin Sela, President of the Political Party Alliance for the Albanians and the Delegation of the Republic of North Macedonia to the OSCE PA.

The purpose of the visit was, first of all, to learn more about domestic and regional developments, including efforts to advance the EU accession process, and to convey the full support of the Assembly in connection with North Macedonia’s 2023 Chairmanship of the OSCE. Regional co-operation initiatives have featured prominently in discussions, as well as North Macedonia’s bilateral relations with its neighbours.

I also have conveyed the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s support to the presence of the OSCE in the region, with a very capable staff at the OSCE Mission in Skopje that regularly provides expert advice in developing democratic institutions and promoting the rule of law.

North Macedonia is part of the OSCE Troika of chair-countries and will officially start its chairmanship next year. The country is formally obliged to present its chairmanship priorities this month. What is your advice to the country’s authorities regarding the coming chairmanship with the largest regional security organization that includes 57 member-states, plus 11 Mediterranean and Asian partners?

North Macedonia will be assuming the Chairmanship of the OSCE at the most challenging time facing the organization in recent memory. In fact, I think you would have to go back to the break-up of Yugoslavia and the related conflicts that tore this region apart to find any comparable crisis to the situation that we face today with the war in Ukraine and East-West tensions at a boiling point.

With this in mind, I believe that a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine conflict must be at the top of the OSCE’s agenda. I wouldn’t want to presume to tell Skopje how to pursue its objectives in chairing the OSCE in 2023, but it must be recognized that these are exceptional times, and that the future of the organization depends on restoring peace in Ukraine, upholding the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris, in particular those related to the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of internationally recognized borders of participating States and also somehow working towards mending relations and rebuilding trust. This includes considering the security concerns of all OSCE participating States and working towards a European security architecture that serves us all.

That said, the Ukraine war – while of course the dominant issue facing the OSCE today – is just one of many challenges. I think that for the 2023 OSCE Chairmanship to be successful, North Macedonia will have to find a way to set priorities that include achievable objectives in all three dimensions of security. This means setting goals in the politico-military dimension, as well as the economic-environmental and human dimensions, and focusing on delivering some success stories that reaffirm the OSCE’s value and the enduring relevance of multilateralism. It is worth mentioning that North Macedonia is awarded by the OSCE participating States with this very important international role because of its achieved progress.

You are coming in a period when the European continent is affected by the war in Ukraine. The Russian invasion is not stopping, there have been attempts for dialogue but there is still no solution. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said recently it is impossible to predict when the war would end. What is your opinion as a senior OSCE official about developments in Ukraine?

This is somewhat beyond my mandate as Special Representative on South East Europe, but of course as a Vice-President of the OSCE PA and more fundamentally as a human being, I am distraught by the news coming out of Ukraine on a daily basis. The violence and destruction must end, and this means that all efforts must be made to facilitate a diplomatic solution. The OSCE and its Parliamentary Assembly are ready to play a role in facilitating dialogue and helping to implement a ceasefire, but this depends entirely on the political will of the OSCE participating States.

How realistic is to see the conflict spilling over to other parts of Europe? The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently said Moscow wants to avoid the Ukrainian scenario and intervene in the self-proclaimed Moldovan region of Pridnestrovie. Of course, one has to consider developments in the Western Balkans because of unresolved issues, with some countries in the area waiting for too long in the EU waiting room?

The Western Balkans have had enough conflict and know all too well the pain that goes along with it, and considering this, I would hope that the people of this region understand that the only way forward is diplomacy and dialogue.

What the war in Ukraine reminds us of is that constant vigilance is needed in order to prevent tensions from spilling over into violence and that unresolved issues must be addressed sooner rather than later – we cannot procrastinate on solving our problems, we cannot wait to settle our differences. There is always an urgency that we must not forget. This goes for leaders in Southeastern Europe as well as EU officials in Brussels. We must move the process forward with the recognition that inaction is a recipe for disaster.

The war in Ukraine has resulted in accelerating the country’s Euro-integration process, namely obtaining the candidate-status, which North Macedonia has had since 2005 but without starting the accession negotiations. Could the war speed up North Macedonia and Albania’s EU integration?

In my meetings in Skopje, I learned a great deal about developments in North Macedonia’s EU aspirations and the expectations for the upcoming decision of the EU Council on whether to allow Skopje to start accession negotiations. There are of course outstanding challenges that need to be addressed, and I believe that doing so would demonstrate North Macedonia’s commitment to European integration and would go a long way towards ameliorating frustrations among the population.

EU integration has become a security issue. Nevertheless, North Macedonia’s path has been blocked due to a bilateral dispute related to the past. Bulgaria is not giving up on the veto despite a war in Europe that is close to our region. The Union integration process is becoming increasingly tangled, especially when historical matters are on the table. What is your view on this situation, how can it be overcome?

Times are indeed challenging for European Union integration, but as EU officials have said, the bloc should continue with the enlargement process, and North Macedonia’s progress should be recognized. Skopje has made considerable strides towards meeting the Copenhagen criteria, including by building democratic institutions and promoting the rule of law, as well as working to strengthen anti-corruption mechanisms.

But of course, EU rules are EU rules, and unanimity is needed to start the accession negotiations process. Ultimately, I hope that all EU Member States can recognize the value of pursuing European integration and that it is in their interests, as well as Skopje’s, to revitalize and strengthen the EU. The OSCE PA believes that dialogue is the best tool to solve the disputes, especially dialogue between neighboring countries should be permanently open. I do hope that I would have a chance to discuss this issue with my interlocutors during my visit to Bulgaria in June in order to better understand the situation on the ground.

EU and the United States have imposed sets of sanctions on Russia. On the other hand, Moscow has stopped gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria. How will this reflect on Europe’s energy security, especially in the Western Balkans?

Energy security is an issue that affects us all, and something that needs to be addressed from a multidimensional perspective. In order to ensure stable access to energy sources, it is important that all of our countries – including those here in the Western Balkans – pursue a whole-of-society approach that includes the involvement of producers, consumers, civil society, and the international community. Working to foster public-private co-operation, we must strive to protect energy networks and develop green technologies, as well as promote digitalization, to ensure a more sustainable system for energy production in the OSCE area.

This comprehensive approach would not only serve to diversify energy sources and reduce reliance on any one particular source, but also mitigate risks and reduce the environmental footprint of energy-related activities, promote economic growth, and ensure political stability and prosperity.

Russia vetoed the extension of the OSCE observation mission in Ukraine, which has been there since 2014 and, as many have said, played a key role from the start of the conflict between the authorities and the Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east after the Crimea annexation. Several members of the OSCE observation mission were arrested in eastern Ukraine last month. What is the latest on this?

I don’t have any additional information on this other than what has been reported in the media.

Russia has openly accused OSCE of spying for Kyiv and covering up Ukrainian war crimes. Your comment?

For eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine, OSCE monitors conducted daily operations in dangerous conditions with the sole purpose of providing unbiased information to the international community. The Special Monitoring Mission carried out some 18,000 patrols and issued nearly 2,500 daily reports, and sadly, a number of the SMM monitors lost their lives and suffered other hardships in carrying out this work. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the work of these brave individuals who have helped enable policymakers such as myself to make informed decisions based on a clear understanding of the reality on the ground.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

  • Facebook
  • twir
  • in
  • inst
  • two
  • video