On this week's Conflict Zone, Nikola Poposki, Foreign Minister of Macedonia, discusses corruption, entry in the EU, the refugee crisis and wiretapping.
Macedonia played a crucial role in the refugee crisis by closing its border with Greece, but politicians there seem less worried about refugees getting into the EU than about getting into the EU themselves.
In an exclusive interview with DW's Michel Friedman, Macedonia's foreign minister, Nikola Poposki said the country's actions in the refugee crisis should be seen as a major gesture and asked how long the EU would keep his country "in limbo."
"The cheapest and the most efficient thing would be simply to open up borders," he said. "Why would we fight the battle of others, unless we wanted to convince them that we are part of the European family?"
Macedonia and the refugee crisis
Macedonia has taken center stage in the politics of the refugee crisis during the last few months. A crucial country on the so-called Balkan Route, thousands of refugees passed through the country from the Greek border, news reports. That was all before Macedonia began closing the border in November of 2015 and thousands of refugees were stranded at camps in Idomeni, repelled by tear gas and fences.
Poposki did not admit to using some of the harsher crowd control measures, like rubber bullets, saying: "Every single refugee that has reached Macedonian territory has been treated humanely."
In March, thousands of refugees waded across a river into Macedonia, only to be forcibly returned to Greece. Poposki sought to frame the incident as "hundreds of young male individuals that used violence to cross illegally a state border." It was a description that contradicted on-the-scene describing families that included women and children. When pressed about the discrepancies and allegations of mistreatment of refugees, Poposki laid the responsibility at the feet of European Union leaders.
"It is very illegitimate to attack Macedonia for doing what it is requested by the European Union," he said.
EU membership and corruption
Thousands of people have been protesting almost nightly in the Macedonian capital since the wiretapping scandal
Macedonia was accepted as a candidate for entry into the EU in 2005, but the process has only crept forward since. Recent developments have unleashed a barrage of international criticism.
A June 5 election was scrapped after European Union officials said the election would not be credible. "This is a renewed opportunity for the country to address a number of serious issues at the heart of the prolonged political crisis," said EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn.
The problems began when a series of wiretap recordings were released by the opposition party last year, revealing manipulation of elections and government control of officials. The former prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, and his intelligence chief were accused of wiretapping some 20,000 politicians and officials.
A special prosecutor was appointed to the wiretap case, but the work was undercut in April, when the President of Macedonia pardoned dozens of high-level politicians facing possible criminal charges. The pardons were a scandal in their own right. And Poposki admitted that the pardons were not positive.
"It would have been better for the country not to have it," he said. "I think it has worsened the political situation."
Poposki said his country should be judged by the efforts of their neighbors rather than on the level of corruption in his country, which had been present during the previous 25 years and "I guess you can say that for the next 25 years, because there will always be these sort of challenges."
It would be a long process and he said he did not see his neighbors taking much of a stand on weeding out corruption, anyway.
"These things are happening pretty much everywhere," he said, "including in the member states of the European Union."
The full Conflict Zone interview will air on May 25, 2016 at 17:30 UTC and is available on demand.