LONDON, June 23. /TASS/. Vladimir Putin is getting an opportunity to expand Russia's influence in the Balkans,Bloomberg said on Monday in a recount of the interview it had had with the President of Macedonia, Gjorge Ivanov, in the Slovak capital Bratislava.
He said the EU and NATO's failure to open up the pathway to membership for certain regional countries broadened the scope of opportunities for Moscow.
"Obviously the EU forgot about geography," Ivanov said. "But Russia excels in geography."
"If you create a vacuum, someone will be willing to fill it," he said.
Ivanov did not cite any instances but Macedonia's Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, is known to be a supporter of the plans to build a new gas pipeline by which Russia hopes to supply its natural gas to Europe. This pipeline is supposed to stretch across Macedonian territory and reduce dependence on gas transits via Ukraine
Bloomberg recalled that Macedonia's accession to the EU was impeded by neighboring Greece that objected to the use of the word 'Macedonia" in the former Yugoslav republic's official name. Greece has a namesake northern province.
Ivanov indicated in this connection relations with Greece would unlikely improve in the short term
"We wouldn't have had many of the problems we're now facing if we had started the EU accession process and reformed our society step by step," he said, adding that not a single country was able to transform on its own.