Mr. Nikola Poposki
Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs
On October 29, 2015, Aga Charytoniuk sat down with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nikola Poposki to discuss the outcome from his current visit to Japan.
—Macedonian Embassy was established 1 year ago in Japan, and this year Macedonia and Japan celebrate 21st anniversary of establishment of the diplomatic relations. The Embassy has been putting a lot of efforts to promote Macedonia to Japan in a field of trade, investment and tourism. What would you like to see within the next 21 years to be achieved?
As you rightly mentioned the focus will be business. We have already quite dramatically improved the business environment in Macedonia through the reforms. We are ranked 12th best place in the world and 6th in Europe according to the 2016 World Bank Doing Business survey. And this is something we need to present to Japanese businessmen and investors. We have put a lot of efforts in order to raise a profile of Macedonia to make the business world aware of the possibilities that we are offering.
The other focus is definitely tourism. We feel that Macedonia is full of potentials in this sector. So far, only a limited number of Japanese tourists visited Macedonia so we need to work on country branding strategies directed to the Japanese market. Macedonia i.e the city of Ohrid has been announced as one of the 30 most beautiful cities in Europe as a destinations to visit according to the JATA, which is already a good start.
Another sector that Macedonia will be promoting in the next 10 years is culture and education. One of the programs that Japanese government has been granting to Macedonians is a number of scholarships. Our Ambassador to Japan, Dr. Andrijana Cvetkovik had also benefited from it. She received her doctorate in Japan and now is holding position of the first Ambassador of Macedonia to Japan. We want to see more of such successes. Macedonia offers full scholarships to all Macedonians to enroll to a top hundred universities in the world, and Japan has leading universities at the global scale. So, we will promote studying in Japan even more. At the same time, the exchange program should also include a vocational training of professionals who could transfer Japanese know-how to Macedonian experts. With the signature of memorandum of understanding with one of our universities in Macedonia focused on IT sector, we try to attract some Japanese students to study in Macedonia.
During my official visit to Japan, I had a meeting with JICA representatives and we discussed water management project, irrigation system project and for that we are negotiating with Japan to provide us with sophisticated know-how and unique Japanese technology which will help us keep Lake Ohrid, the oldest lake in Europe clean and safe.
—Also you had a meeting with Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kishida. Can you tell us what was discussed? What are the chances of opening Japanese Embassy in Skopje?
This was one of the topics. Japanese Foreign Ministry gave a positive opinion to the opening of Japanese Embassy in Macedonia. This is now discussed within the Parliament. So we have been waiting for the final confirmation from the Ministry of Finance. Two embassies will strengthen our relations and will raise a profile of both countries with no doubt.
We have also discussed some of our regional challenges and some of the issues that Europe has been facing in recent time, such as the consequences of migrant crisis. The Government of Japan granted assistance in the amount of 2,5 million dollars to Macedonia and Serbia over the migrant crisis, for supporting the existing efforts by the governments of Macedonia and Serbia in addressing the most urgent needs and priorities during the ongoing migrant crisis in the countries.
At the same time, we have discussed several of bilateral projects but also issues concerning the United Nations.
—Last year’s visit of Macedonian Prime Minister, Mr. Nikola Gruevski, to Japan was inter alia to promote favorable investment environment in Macedonia. Which sectors do you think Japanese businesses are in particular interested in investing?
Macedonia has become more and more familiar to business people from US, Germany, Italy and other European countries due to a long history of trade. We feel that the biggest amount of investments took place in sectors of automotive components, electrical devises, IT, services, and pharmaceuticals in the past years. These would be the typical sectors, in which Japanese business community also see potentials. We are not limited to that. We have very competitive agriculture sector and several others. But this would be the one from the first line in terms of Japanese decision makers and business people on what Macedonia would offer on business side.
—Macedonia is a candidate for EU and NATO membership. Do you think that partnering with EU to tackle a current migrants situation in Europe will somehow speed-up the joining?
Macedonia is located on one of the routs from Turkey and other Middle East countries to Northern and Western Europe. All European countries need to integrate sooner rather than later to overcome the crisis, keeping in mind that it has long-term consequences. The process of integration into the European Union for Macedonia has suffered from postponing. However, it has been slowly moving towards successful joining.
We hope that this is going to be communicated at European leadership level in order to wrap up the process that Macedonia has started before other Balkan countries, as we signed the stabilization association in 2001.
In my opinion, there is a high awareness of opportunities that Macedonia offers and that all the reforms that we have implemented within the last years allowed us to rise from 94 position of doing business of the World Bank report to the 12th position. Hence, I think that from Japanese and European perspectives it is obvious that Macedonia is meant to be part of the EU and that our Japanese partners would appreciate it. We have already shown the capacity to act as a responsible actor of the European family. We are an open society for cooperation with other countries and we clearly have an interest to see more of the European-Japanese cooperation developing in coming years.
—This issue of JAPAN and the WORLD magazine is devoted to women. What is your opinion on women in leadership positions? What can be done to promote empowerment of women worldwide?
From a national perspective, as much as I am concerned, women have a critical role to play in our electoral system. We should have at least 1/3 of all electoral representatives in the parliament that are women. But, in reality we have roughly 37 % to 38 %, which makes us one of the leaders in the region but there are many other challenges to be tackled.
Personally, I think we should not look at the quality of women through numbers, because some of the most competitive experts, politicians, economists, and lawyers in Macedonia are women.
We have policies of let’s say positive discrimination but everybody would agree that women are well educated, they are exposed to the public life and generally they are very well integrated to our decision-making processes. Some of our female members of the government are often say we are not here to substitute for a number in a quote but we are here because of our qualifications, and that is very sold argument. Macedonia has a tradition of having woman being in decision making position in both family and society, and in modern times many women were educated abroad and brought other good changes to the existing situation. For example our Ambassador in Japan is a female but she is not chosen because she is a woman, but because she is very competent, speaks Japanese language, knows the culture very well and that’s what comes up at the top at the end of the day.