Deputy Ambassador and Head of the Economic Department at the German Embassy Otto Graf answered several questions related to disinformation and propaganda, the support of the German Embassy for civil society and the media, as well as the perspectives of North Macedonia and the support of Germany in that process.
We asked our interlocutor about his opinion on the media situation in the country and how Russian propaganda messages are placed.
“In North Macedonia, because of the particular situation, we have a lot of relatively small media units, especially compared to the size of the country, and even more, people are not only consuming local media, but they are also watching especially TV, we have the internet of all the former Yugoslav countries. That is why the population here is exposed to local media, as well as a variety of the media in the neighboring countries, which means that an opinion or a view of a situation is not exclusively shaped by local media, but also to a big extent by Serbian media, which are considered to be very entertaining. And for this reason we also see Serbian, and indirectly by this, also quite a few of Russian views in this country” – replied Deputy Ambassador Otto Graf.
Germany provides North Macedonia with huge support in many areas, starting from the economic area and up to the defense. The support of the democratic processes is of great importance, and in that sense also of civil society and the media.
“We, through our foreign ministry, are supporting quite a few media dialogue projects. This is where we are in the project work, to support the situation with the media in this country. As an embassy, we are of course in relatively constant contact with the local media, with the journalists in this country, and trying to feed them with the information they need and assist them with specific questions they might have” – said our interlocutor, among else.
In terms of the Macedonian EU perspectives, Deputy Ambassador Otto Graf said that our country is on the right track, but that much work and political will is needed. He also outlined the importance of changing the Constitution, for that process to continues at an even greater speed.
“I think now that we de-blocked the situation with Bulgaria, North Macedonia is really on track of negotiating EU membership. Obviously there are a few things to be done. The big thing will be the change of the constitution that was part of the deal, but I am very confident that this will be managed. Then there are the technical issues, which means that here the ministries have to work through the screening process, to open more of the chapters, to work through the whole list of to do” – pointed out Deputy Ambassador Otto Graf.
In the context of the European integration process and the reforms that must be implemented, Deputy Ambassador Otto Graf emphasized the importance of the rule of law and the fight against corruption.
“And then of course there is this big issue, and this is rule of law, fight of corruption. And this ultimately will take political will to be solved. And this will cannot be generated in Brussels, but this will has to be generated in Skopje, amongst the political parties. So, at the end of the day, the timeframe is in the hands of Macedonian politics, and the key to entering the EU is also in the hands of Macedonian government” – said the German diplomat.
Deputy Ambassador of Germany, Otto Graf, expressed optimism in regards to the chances of a quick EU integration of our country, but outlined that this requires much work and political will.
“We are optimistic and I am sure that if the will is there, it could be one of the really quick EU accessions, but it will not come by itself, it needs the work and this has to be done” – said Otto Graf.
The meeting and interview with Deputy Ambassador Graf was held on December 8 and are part of the project “Resilient journalism in countering disinformation and propaganda”, which is implemented by the Macedonian organization CIVIL in partnership with Youth4Media from Germany, with the support of the Government of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Conversation led by: Dr. Wolfgang Ressmann and Xhabir Deralla
Camera and editing: Samual Debus
Transcript and translation: Natasa Cvetkovska
Text editing: Biljana Jordanovska