As a career diplomat Ambassador Ilioski has been entrusted with several different important diplomatic tasks. Throughout his career, he served as a Head of the Permanent Mission for the Republic of Macedonia to NATO, being appointed as a Macedonian Ambassador to the Alliance in April of 2008.
Throughout his career he has been also holding ambassadorial/diplomatic posts at several different important locations, including the Kingdom of Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Serbia, etc. and also served as a non-resident ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia in few important countries. As of February 2014, he is an Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, OSCE and other International Organizations headquartered in Vienna. He was also Macedonia’s Governor for the IAEA Board of Governors (October 2014 – September 2016).
Let’s be global… How do you see Macedonia in the multilateral arena, as an Active Actor and Contributor?
Before I start to elaborate more broadly about our diplomatic undertakings in the multilateral arena, allow me to refer to our achievement to bring more than 200 parliamentarians from 50 countries in Skopje from 30 September to 2 October 2016 during the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Autumn Meeting that aimed to explore avenues to strengthen good governance and confidence-building measures. Hosting this important multilateral gathering related to the parliamentary dimension of OSCE is yet recognition and an excellent opportunity for promotion of the Republic of Macedonia and its affirmation as an active actor within the International Multilateral Arena.
Ever since our independence, we strive to actively contribute to multilateral processes and endeavors. Today’s global risks and phenomena are very complex and cannot be effectively tackled by a particular state or organization. The rapid pace of globalization, besides its evident benefits, brings also many problems that trigger challenging repercussions, worldwide. Practically, there is no country or a region in the world, regardless of its geographical or political size, which is by-passed by threats to their “hard” or “human” security. The ongoing refugee/migrant crises and the various terrorist incidents that have occurred across the globe reaffirm and add weight to the latter claim.
Thus, today’s peculiar challenges require some kind of multistakeholder governance, which by its very definition, depicts the willingness of different stakeholders (governments, NGOs, academic or business institutions) to engage in constructive dialogue, problem-solving and decision-making, all under one umbrella. Conventional wisdom says that such a pattern could be implemented through International and regional organizations, established for pursuing interests, be them, national, regional or global. We aim be part of these processes. Our active participation in multilateral organizations represents a strategic move, to bring greater visibility and pertinence to Macedonia’s foreign policy.
The existence of such International forums for dialogue and collaboration, serving as a platform for common and sustainable solutions, appear instrumental in today’s diverse world of joint threats and conflicting interests. Under these circumstances, effective multilateralism appears as a necessary tool, when it comes to diplomacy and International relations.
How do you see your diplomacy from Vienna?
Participation in such multilateral organizations shall lead toward the accomplishment of a two-fold strategic goal: have a say and a direct or indirect contribution to global policy-making and other related processes and pursue national interests in the International arena.
This is what we basically do here in Vienna, the seat of many International organizations engaged in multilateral issues. Therefore, our visibility and diplomatic activity in Vienna is of great importance.
As one of the Participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), we contribute to the collective decision-making related to the fulfillment of its mandate. The OSCE is the world’s largest security organization, known for its Concept of Comprehensive and Co-operative Security.
Hence, an equal footing with the other 56 participating States is of great importance. Ever since becoming an OSCE Participating State, the Republic of Macedonia has been a proactive actor in many OSCE deliberations and undertakings. In the past, we have assumed leadership roles in several occasions and formats and chaired one of the OSCE decision-making bodies – the Forum for Security Cooperation. We have demonstrated readiness and a capacity to deal with complex issues of importance for our Organization. We established and to date, maintain a constructive cooperation with all relevant OSCE executive bodies on bona fide and partnership basis.
Besides promoting Macedonia’s foreign policy within the OSCE, our mission in Vienna is to look after and promote Macedonia’s national interests in the relations with respective UN agencies, those relating to the UN system and others, headquartered in Vienna.
From October 2014 to September 2016, we were members of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in an important era, related to Iran’s nuclear-related commitments. During this period we were actively engaged in the endeavors of this important body. Concurrently, our technical cooperation with the Agency showed tangible results. In the forthcoming period, we are going to further intensify our collaboration, be it political or expert/technical.
Among others, our relationship with the UN Office at Vienna (UNOV), UN Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA), the Wassenaar Arrangement et al., is of great importance. The number and the relevance of these Organizations, reaffirms the claim on the importance of the multilateral arena. Together with my team from the Macedonian Permanent Mission in Vienna, we work on furthering our visibility within all International Organizations based in Vienna, with a proactive approach, aiming to make best use of the projects and activities undertaken, we focus to fulfill our priorities in the relations with these organizations.
We also strive to ensure broad representation of our Nationals within all International Organizations, given that the Republic of Macedonia possesses human capital that can contribute to the missions of any of them. Many citizens of our country are contracted and seconded at some of these organizations. They are doing a great job in their area of expertise and are our “Ambassadors” to the respective Organizations. We maintain regular communications and stand ready to support their endeavors.
Last but not least, we rely on all available tools of public and cultural diplomacy to spread the word about Macedonia and in parallel to the classic diplomatic channels, to share relevant information with a wider audience. Throughout my current mandate (and my past posts), I delivered several lectures before members of Academia, Think-tanks and students on numerous occasions presenting Macedonia’s political achievements and objectives, cultural heritage, business capacities and potentials for tourism. As one of the tangible examples of such an engagement, I could single out the lecture entitled “Regional Cooperation as Precondition for EU and NATO integration,” which I delivered at the Webster University and the Austro-American Society Distinguished Speakers Series. I have also published articles in relevant magazines and newspapers. We shall spare no efforts in promoting the story of Macedonia.
Tell me about the relations with OSCE, EU and NATO?
More than twenty years ago, on October 12, 1995, the Republic of Macedonia became part of the OSCE. I feel honored to serve as Permanent Representative for the Republic of Macedonia to the OSCE in the year we marked this important anniversary. The past 20 year could be regarded as a success story since we have transformed from a country-beneficiary to certain OSCE conflict prevention mechanisms, to a country that actively contributes to the OSCE arrangements elsewhere.
The Republic of Macedonia respects its International obligations, the ones deriving from OSCE membership inter alia. For us, fulfillment of OSCE commitments and values is truly important, because they, to a large extent, concur with the norms and principles related to our Euro-Atlantic portfolio and our integration into the EU and NATO.
EU integration remains our key foreign-policy priority. As you are aware, we were the first country from the Region to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, more than fifteen years ago. In December 2005 the European Council made a decision to grant Macedonia an EU candidate country status. Ever since 2009, EU Progress Reports speak about sufficient levels of fulfillment of EU membership criteria. Last year, we received the eight in a row recommendation by the EC to kick off accession negotiations. Besides the present challenges, we are devoted and have been working firmly, to implement the reform agenda. I believe that opening of Accession Negotiations would be a decision of great importance for all concerned.
We also remain dedicated to our NATO bid. We have participating in (and regularly presenting) the Membership Action Plan since 1999 and as of 2002 have been part and an active contributor to numerous International operations in different settings, which demonstrates our readiness and capacity to contribute to Regional/Global security and stability. We remain focused on the reform agenda related to our NATO aspirations, as there are both legal and political arguments that justify the entry of Macedonia to NATO.
We cannot neglect the refugee crisis and Macedonia is very seriously involved with it. How do you see future solutions?
As stated at different levels and formats, Macedonia has shown that it is reliable partner in dealing with the crisis. In the following period we will continue to be an ally of the EU and of the member states in preventing illegal migration. Our authorities will continue to work on implementation of the agreed measures at the EU level. In addition, the Republic of Macedonia remains open for cooperation with all relevant international organizations, which invested great efforts in alleviating the troubles of the migrants, as before all this is a humanitarian crisis. We will continue to handle the crisis in a responsible and professional manner, with humanitarian assistance and treatment provided in accordance with all European and international standards.
As for our activity in the OSCE related to the challenges of the migration crisis (and our own particular experience) we have an active say and will continue striving to add quality to the debates/activities of the OSCE Informal Working Group on Migration (IWG). We welcome OSCE’s engagement through the IWG on migration and refugee flows and believe that our Organization has tools to contribute to the parralel efforts aiming to alleviate the serious repercussions.
Three Words: Education, Experience & Family; what are your thoughts?
In the world of diplomacy, education complements experience, and vice versa. Indeed, both are equally important in the conduct of diplomacy. Education served me greatly during my diplomatic endeavors. Couple of years ago, I’ve earned a doctorate degree, which in addition to my other diplomas further strengthened my credentials. In parallel to my “formal” education, I completed programs at the George C. Marshall Center’s College of international and Security Studies based in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy. The process of obtaining relevant education most definitely contributed towards the fulfillment of my career goals.
During my career, I had the rare opportunity to work in different settings, to learn and exchange experience and expertise in different diplomatic settings. Each setting offered different experience. The context of one place is of utmost importance. I grasped new knowledge and experience in Belgrade, Budapest, Brussels (NATO), Stockholm/Helsinki and Vienna, a blend of bilateral and multilateral experience, both evenly rewarding. To date, I remain context-oriented and I bank on my experiences.
To sum up, in the world of diplomacy, experience and education matter. However, there is one thing which is instrumental and represents the generator of my zeal and dedication to my profession – and that is my family. Without the love and support to/of my wife and children, I am afraid that many of my endeavors would have been futile. With my wife, also a successful professional, we are not competitors, but moreover partners. This is a durable and sustainable partnership built on mutual trust and understanding. As in diplomacy, true partnership in real-life really does matter and that fact eases the burden of relocation to different duty stations and adaptation to new settings. I wholeheartedly believe that the family is the backbone of a successful diplomat.