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Ambassador in workaholic Brussels.

Welcome to workaholic Brussels! Yes, this is how my Austrian colleague, Ambassador Woschnagg, welcomed me in 2006. Shortly after, I realized why he said that and why a day in Brussels has more than 24 hours. I realized immediately that at the seat of the European institutions where dozens of thousands of dignitaries, diplomats, lobbyist and journalists work, diplomacy is not a privilege. On the contrary, it is a great responsibility. I share the view of Carne Ross from Independent Diplomat who believes that the good times for ambassadors are gone, considering the amount of hard work it takes for an ambassador to become appreciated. In addition, an ambassador to Brussels has the job of communicate back to his own country the not always pleasant news from Justus Lipsius, Berlaymont and Rue Wuertz.

Under such complex circumstances, the Macedonian ambassador to the EU, with his small team of diplomats and big aspirations, is responsible to present his country's strategic priorities--primarily starting accession talks after four years of holding a candidate member status, having travel visas lifted and being granted accreditation for using IPA funds--and see to it they are given proper attention. Nine years of the promises in Fiera, and six years of the proclamation of the European perspective in Thessaloniki, only one country of the Western Balkans has commenced membership negotiations and has carved a path through the Schengen Wall. In Macedonia's case starting EU accession talks would prove that this European perspective is not only a promise and the EU membership is not only a dream. Starting accession talks is our top priority in 2009, too, and we are hoping to attain our goal in the autumn in the best interest of the people of the Republic of Macedonia, and also of the European Union itself.

Enlargement is not only a technical issue. Primarily it is a (geo)political matter. If two decades ago enlargement was an EU priority, reflecting the geopolitics following the end of the Cold War, today it is not at the top of the EU agenda. Every year in Brussels has a different issue as its landmark. In my first year, 2006, it was the debate about the European Union's absorption capacity. In my second year, 2007, it was the activities for keeping the European Constitution and in my third year, 2008, it was the incapacity to put into force its "successor"--the Lisbon Treaty--as well as the challenges of the economic crisis and the consequence for the EU from the brief war between Russia and Georgia. This current year, 2009, is marked by the E3 challenges--economy, energy and environment--as well as by the internal institutional and constitutional reform of the Union and the European elections.

Being an ambassador to the EU means knowing not only the secrets of diplomacy, but also having considerable specialized expertise on the European Union. To an ambassador to the EU the dilemma of what, in fact, the EU represents remains. Is it an international organization of an intergovernmental type, a supranational sui generis entity, or just a common market? Are decisions taken in Brussels or in the European capitals? Is it national or community interests that guide the Union? And almost six decades of the post-modern visions of Schumann, Monet, Adenauer and Gaspari, it is evident that the Westphalia spirit has survived for three and a half centuries as a prevalent political model. The sovereignists are still stronger than the unionists. The veto is still the sovereign EU member states' principal tool.

The tendency of putting vetoes started last year at the NATO summit in Bucharest when Greece vetoed Macedonia's accession, giving rise to fears that the same might happen to Macedonia's bid for joining the EU. It was followed by the Slovenian-Croatian dispute and preceded by the long-standing conflict between Turkey and Cyprus, all of which is indicative that in the EU it is the member states that have the final say. Although at first glance it appears that upon joining the EU, the sovereign countries become member states, thus losing some of their sovereignty, from the very instant of their accession the member states impose their national interests on the EU as well. Besides its own principles, the EU takes into consideration its member states' concerns as well. Moreover, national priorities take precedence over those of the community.

The spirits of Machiavelli and Richelieu are still strongly felt in the first decade of the 21st century, too.

Ambassador, Prof. Dr. Blerim Reka

Head of the Mission of the Republic of Macedonia to the EC in Brussels
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Title Annotation:DIPLOMATIC DIARY; Brussels, Belgium
Author:Reka, Blerim
Publication:Macedonian Diplomatic Bulletin
Geographic Code:4EXMA
Date:Apr 1, 2009
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