Ilhan Kyuchyuk: Western Balkans countries should be a strategic priority of the EU
November 6, 2020
MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk: We have lost the energy of the Bulgarian Presidency on the topic of the Western Balkans and the EU
November 11, 2020

The losses will be very large – both for Bulgaria and for North Macedonia

Europe needs its own “Magnitsky Law” because its effectiveness has been seen in the United States, says MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk in an interview for CLUB Z

Club Z: Mr. Kyuchyuk, what do you expect to happen on 17 November, when the General Affairs Council has to decide to launch an intergovernmental conference with North Macedonia? What do you think Bulgaria should do?

Kyuchyuk: My work in recent years is aimed at bringing Bulgaria and North Macedonia closer within the EU. As rapporteur for the European Parliament and as a friend of North Macedonia, I am doing my best to make the two countries part of a union that is shared, based on values ​​and giving perspectives to the next generation.

Talking about history has never been and never will be easy. But if the Prespa agreement with Greece solves certain problems by saying that historical issues must be separated, the 2017 agreement with Bulgaria is the beginning of a long process that aims to focus our common past, our common roots, in order to have a common future in the EU for future generations. This is the difference between the two treaties and it must be realized, to look at this whole conversation on both sides as a process, as a continuation. Each process requires deepening, greater patience, understanding the problem in a deep and broad sense enough to seek its development, and then – a solution.

Club Z: After all, what do you expect to happen on November 17?

Kyuchyuk: Of course, I expect a green light (Meanwhile, yesterday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the European Commission that it is unable to accept the currently proposed negotiating framework for the Republic of North Macedonia and the draft declaration to it, as it does not provide the necessary guarantees for fulfillment of the conditions set by our country, b.r.). After everything that happened, after the green light was given in March for North Macedonia and Albania. Following the huge help that the European Commission gave to the region of 3.3 billion euros during the pandemic, after involving the countries of the Western Balkans in economic and investment terms – this is a deliberate plan that aims to include the region much earlier than their membership in European programs and initiatives. Having set the goal of connectivity – and here I am talking about infrastructural, economic, social, environmental, digital connectivity – but before that connectivity of the people of the Western Balkans. Once the German presidency has set itself this ambitious goal and not only set it, but also put it on the EU’s agenda – the launch of the first intergovernmental conference. Of course, I am working to have such a conference.

And if it does not happen, the losses will be very large – for both Bulgaria and North Macedonia. The whole European Union will lose. The question of trust in the EU, of the EU’s inability to integrate the Western Balkans, will be raised once again. To date, there is tremendous energy for their inclusion. And it should not just be maintained, but encouraged and developed.

Club Z:  If North Macedonia is cut again, how do you see its path?

Kyuchyuk: We will put a comma and start working with the energy we have had so far. But this will be a huge delay and demotivation in the political elites of these countries, in this case – in the government of North Macedonia. It will be a negative signal to the citizens of this country. Let’s just look at the latest research, which shows that the society in North Macedonia is one of the most pro-European. Only this is more pro-European in Albania. There is a moment that must be used by politicians to start working much more actively and purposefully with these countries.

Club Z: And isn’t there a danger of another influence appearing in North Macedonia in case of a delay in its European integration?

Kyuchyuk: All international actors are participants in the politics of the Western Balkans. It has been and will continue to be so. But we should not blame the other participants for their activity. The conversation is about what Europe is doing, what Europe’s place is in relation to the Western Balkans. I am trying to explain this – that there is a positive trend, which, unlike other times, is not just a conversation about the region, but a very specific plan for working with its countries. This plan aims to leave the young population in the countries of this region. To give them a chance to transfer this continent of opportunities, such as Europe, to the Western Balkans. And in this way to cross the path of the emigrants, of their departure to the west, of the brain drain. To create a capacity, an intellectual elite, to unite the efforts of the new, young generation, which is undoubtedly pro-European. And to turn this pro-European energy into energy for reforms, which will lead to the end result – EU membership.

Club Z: Last weekend, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Joseph Borrell announced that he expects the European equivalent of the Magnitsky Act to be approved within a month. As a Member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, what is your opinion? What do you think this law will bring?

Kyuchyuk: The need for this law exists for the simple reason that its effectiveness has been seen in the United States and Canada. Although in another version, it also exists in the UK. It is also present in some EU member states – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia.

On the other hand, the uncoordinated actions of the EU were also visible. Whenever the introduction of a law similar to that in the United States has been on the agenda, the EU has never been able to find unanimity. Because for some countries this turned out to be a delicate issue. I hope that the countries in the Council of the EU will now be able to find this consensus. Following the strong political speech of Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission has been activated and I hope that as soon as possible there will be a proposal that is acceptable to the member states and that it will eventually be accepted.

Club Z: Why do you think there was such a rift between different European countries?

Kyuchyuk: Because of the way foreign policy decisions are made in the EU. This is the familiar mechanism of unanimity. It is very difficult for the Union to reach a unanimous opinion on foreign policy issues. The historical reading is different. Perspectives, economic opportunities in different countries are on a different level. And if Europe wants to play a global role in its relations, it must get rid of this way of decision-making and move to a qualified majority.

There are many examples. In one case, we failed to adopt a common position on the violation of human rights and freedoms in China.

Going back to the Magnitsky Act and its European equivalent, the European Commission rightly left another very important issue before its adoption. This is the removal of the so-called privileged position of investors, better known as “golden passports”. The EC has launched criminal proceedings against Malta and Cyprus. From the very beginning, the position of the European Parliament is clear – to abolish all “golden passports” by 2025. This will also free up the possibility of applying the equivalent of the Magnitsky Act. Because if we have just one piece of legislation and the privileged position of investors is not abolished, the effect sought by the legislation will not be achieved. If we go a little deeper into American law, we will see that there the mechanism is very clear and orderly. There are line committees in Congress that assess who can be sanctioned, which groups, what part of the property should be inspected. Europe is on this path, but in order for the legislation to come to an end and be effective, all other obstacles in the chain must be removed.

Club Z: Certain political forces in the European Parliament both support sanctions against Belarus and do not want sanctions against Russia. Do you consider this fact a threat to the adoption of a European “Magnetic Law”?

Kyuchyuk: I do not want to equate the conversation about Russia, where the EU must undoubtedly make efforts to expand bilateral relations with and be based on principle, and the sanctions imposed on Russia. The idea of ​​the law is that it works equally for all, not limited to a few countries. It must be a European safeguard mechanism for fundamental human rights and freedoms – everything that is enshrined in the treaties must find its legislative application. In this way, the EU will be able to be the true value guarantor of rights and freedoms.

Тази публикация е достъпна и на следните езици: Bulgarian