NEWS

Greek investors can rest easy

In Greece, people would like to know what you think about relations between the two countries. During the Georgievski administration, the climate was the best ever. Our relations with Greece will be a high priority for our government. Greece is a member of the European Union and NATO, our border with Greece is a border with Europe and naturally that puts a greater emphasis on our relations. You know that during the previous period certain economic accords were questioned by the public and the media. The difference is that now, under our present government, we will have even better relations. I believe that we will have healthier and more transparent relations, not only between the two governments but between the two peoples. What do you mean exactly when you mention transparent relations and certain agreements that were not so fair? In the past, you made statements giving the impression that for you and your party, Greek investment in your country would not stand up well to closer inspection. I have no prejudices as to whether investments come from Greece. I must say that over 90 percent of Greek investments in our country are transparent and absolutely beneficial. It is unfortunate that these good examples have not been publicized. For example, the Titan company acquisition of a stake in our cement industry was very successful, one of the biggest investments – everyone is satisfied, but unfortunately it was not publicized enough. Also, the National Bank of Greece’s entrance into Stopanska Banka was an excellent investment and we publicly supported it in Parliament. Greek capital investment in the Pivara Skopje brewery and in the tobacco industry in Strumica Tabak were also excellent examples. Unfortunately, one investment cast a shadow over all the others, which was not fair. Here I should mention that my country’s government, above all, had a commitment to transparency; the Greek government’s commitment to transparency was to the Greek public, not to ours. That is why I said that in future, I expect even better relations in the political and economic sectors, and if we set these in a more transparent framework we will have the support of public opinion. These will be more than personal relations or those between two governments. Obviously you are talking about the investment in OKTA. If you are convinced that this investment was harmful to your state, do you now intend to review it? We haven’t even seen the agreement yet. When it was tabled for ratification in Parliament, the deputies did not know what exactly it contained. There are references to various paragraphs that are not even known. All this confusion created the impression of some secrecy and a disadvantageous contract. That is why we must first of all see the entire agreement, in order to see as a government what exactly has been agreed. You also know that there is a clash with Brussels and we know that also within Greece there is a conflict between Hellenic Petroleum and Jet Oil. So, there are many questions that need answering. So can I assume that you will be raising the matter in Parliament? If there is a reason to do so, yes. Meanwhile, OKTA is expanding its investment toward Kosovo and southern Serbia. Will you be supporting these initiatives? What I have said makes it clear that we support any investment which benefits both sides. I repeat that we have no prejudice against Greek investments. I would like to take this opportunity to send a message to present and potential investors from Greece, that there is no reason for concern. Particularly for Greeks who are thinking of investing in my country, I would like to assure them that there is a good climate here. The dispute with Athens over your country’s name is still pending. You had passed it on to the Georgievski government and now it has come back to you. Is resolving this issue a priority for your government? There was a period in the early 1990s when differences over the name had blocked everything, even bilateral relations. Then, after the signing of the interim agreement, there were still differences due to the name, but we had agreed that this would not be an obstacle to relations between us. So both sides’ wishes were respected in the political and economic sector, as well as security, without (the name) being an obstacle. In the period to come, both sides should focus their attention on negotiations or talks, whatever you like to call them, to find a solution that will respect the sensitivities of both sides. With the passage of time, we have seen that from talking about this as enemies, we are now talking about it as friends. I am convinced that the latter is preferable if we want to solve the problem. Investigations into corruption and abuse Are you thinking of prosecuting former government and high-ranking state officials if there are indications that they stole or embezzled public money? We are not about to engage in political revanchism but we are certainly going to act according to the Constitution and the laws, allowing the institutions and the State to do their job. Where criminal acts are found to have been committed, the laws will be implemented and people will be called to answer for their actions. I emphasize there will be no political persecution, but the rule of law will prevail, not only regarding the past but in the functioning of the future government. Everyone who holds office will know that sooner or later, justice will prevail. So you will, in fact, be initiating investigations into the questions of corruption and abuse.