Skopje – 3rd of June 2019

Erolld Musliu for DW: There are no large or small, but efficient services

We will work on strengthening of human resources and technical capacity for identification and response to modern threats, announces the new Director of the Intelligence Agency.

He speaks English, Italian and French, and his professional biography is fully devoted to the language of security. After graduating from the Faculty of Security, he began his professional career at the Ministry of Interior Affairs and continued at the Intelligence Agency (AR), where he has held various positions for the past two decades – Chief Inspector, Assistant to the Director of Operations Directorate, Director of the International Terrorism and Organized Crime Directorate, International operational co-operation adviser, Assistant Director to the Director of AR responsible for coordination of the operational affairs… Ten days ago Erolld Musliu (49), was named Director of the Intelligence Agency, an institution under the authority of the Head of State authorized for collection, analysis and processing of the intelligence information relevant for security, defense, political and economic interests of the Republic of North Macedonia. Musliu, who during his professional career has completed numerous international trainings on operational work, conducting complex intelligence operations, management and leadership, spoke to Deutsche Welle about his plans for the work of AR.

DW: If you were to introduce yourself, what positions in your professional career do you consider to be the strongest asset for the new post?

Erolld Musiu: It is ungrateful for a person to point out their own advantages, especially when it comes to their professional careers, but to let them be recognized by the environment in which they work and act. However, to answer the question, I would like to highlight the following assets for the new post. First – professionalism coupled with the development and advancement in the service. My biography covers all the steps of a real profile of an intelligence officer, who, after hiring, worked as field operative, up to manager, in accordance with professional rules and ethics. Promotion in the service has been gradual, thanks to the merit-based criteria. It has allowed me to fully learn the work processes, grow professionally and have an understanding of the problems faced by employees at all levels. The second asset is – vision and new challenges. Being a leader of an institution is not enough just to be a professional, but to have a vision for the institution. But the vision is not enough by itself, if one does not know the available capacities to strive to reach the goal. In that sense, I see the new function as a motive for overcoming the challenges of building the Agency. The third asset is the non-party affiliation. I am not, and have never been a member of political party. I have always strived to build a professional, not a party career. With this asset I am immune to the control and influence of the parties, on my personality and professional profile of an intelligence officer, working for the good of his state and its citizens.

DW: In the past few years, unfortunately, some AR members have been mentioned as being involved in the events of May 2015, as well as the events of 27th of April, 2017. How would you remove those dark shadows from the institution that you run?

Unfortunately, these are really two extremely unpleasant events that will be remembered by all of us who are going through this period of democracy development in our country. The two events took place at very sensitive political moments and partly stemmed from mismanagement of the security services. It is certainly two dark shadows in the professional work of the security sector to which AR belongs. The mere fact that both events mention the involvement of members of the AR at various stages and levels in the handling and managing of the activities of those involved, indicates that the security sector was out of control and all professional standards. The fact is that neither the AR nor the Republic of North Macedonia, will move forward without clarification of these cases. Some things just aren’t forgotten, now how can I as an individual erase the dark shadows from these two unpleasant events, followed by human casualties, inflicted physical pain and property destruction? I can emphasize that I will be fully available and will work with the Public Prosecutors Office, to clarify all the dilemmas about institutional responsibility in both cases.

DW: Although your name is not among the “disputed“ at all, DUI had remarks about your appointment, explaining that “until the Kumanovo events are fully resolved, no person who was part of Ivanov’s services should be in charge of that institution“. Did you have any connection with those events?

I have to admit that the DUI reaction was a surprise to me, as my name was never mentioned in the context of the “Kumanovo events“. It is also surprise that DUI remained silent about my “responsibility“ until my appointment. But if they have other information and facts than those available to the PPO, I am ready to clarify them. Here is the answer to the question: most responsible I claim that I am not involved in the events in any way, nor was my name mentioned in this context. But, from the position of AR Director, it is my duty to advocate for a full clearance of these events. In addition, Erolld Musliu has never been a part of, nor has he worked and served for personal services and personal interests, has always worked and will continue to serve the country and its citizens.

DW: More laws have been passed to reform the security sector, but not yet for the AR. Are there any reasons why such legislative changes did not come into the same package?

Reforms in the security system of the RNM take place on several stages. According to Priebe’s report, the first steps began in 2017, by the first phase to to enact legislation and set up the Operational Technical Agency (OTA), which began operating on 01.11.2018. The next phase was the law on the new service, National Security Agency (ANB), which was formed after the separation of the UBK from the MIA, for what the law was passed the other day. It remains for the prime minister to appoint the new director, then the process of selecting future staff, and so all other components for the normal functioning of the modern security service. The third phase was the Law on Coordination of Services, also adopted, which set out the ways of defining the strategic requirements of the state leadership, implementing the conclusion of the Security Council and the cooperation of the security and intelligence services in RNM. The fact is that these reforms gave the impression that the AR had been sidelined for some time, but there is nothing ambiguous here, since the Agency has been the only agency that has had a law since 1995. At this stage, from a security-tactical point of view it is good that the AR and UBK were not covered at the same time, since in a situation where the ANB in the coming months will have to conduct a staff selection and recruitment process, the AR will be operational on the field. Reforms are certainly inevitable for the AR as well, so in the coming period, I, as its Director, will advocate for changes to the existing law by clearly defining its competence as an external intelligence service, but equal in the security system of the RNM.

DW: What are the key reforms for professional growth of AR?

With the amendments to the AR Law, many things will improve. First, the role of the AR will be clearly defined, which will make a clear distinction between the responsibilities of the AR, ANB and other bodies in the security sector in the RNM. The law will provide better social security for employees, in order not to be vulnerable, that is, to equate all parameters with those for ANB members, and to adopt the most favorable pension package for employees, with the same conditions as in MIA and ANB. Second, internal reorganization is key for creating a professional service that can meet the challenges, and at the same build a value system, that is compatible with the needs of RNM as future NATO and EU member – state. The current organizational structure has not been changed since 1998. Third, continuation of the already started projects for cooperation of the AR with other institutions in our country. Here, first of all, I mean the project of security briefings for MFA diplomats. The next step will be to apply the same practice to the MP’s, as well as to take an active role in the process of designing and creating prescribed techniques and modalities for successful implementation of parliamentary control over the security services in the RNM, which, unfortunately, currently has only technical character.

DW: In your opinion, what are the key challenges facing AR today, in a multi polar world with a strong dynamics of change, interests, sensitive geopolitical processes and cyber threats?

The question is reminiscent of David’s fight against Goliath. RNM as a geographically small country and AR as a numerically small service face the same security challenges that other countries in the region and beyond face. Given the fact that RNM will soon be a full member of the most powerful military and political alliance in the world – NATO, it means that in addition to pursuing its own strategic state interest, our capabilities will also be put in a place to defend NATO interests. This means that the security sector in the RNM is an equal partner with the NATO counterpart, in which the member-states’ security and intelligence services are members. In terms of key challenges, I would first highlight the asymmetric threats, above all extremism and terrorism of all kinds, as well as transnational organized crime, where we are focused – also illegal migration, drug trafficking and other forms. On the other hand, the multipolar world is characterized by opposing strategies and a fight for influence. The geopolitical processes caused by the fight for influence are characterized by a wide range of less recognized methods of action, often involving the intelligence services of the main actors on the chessboard. Here, first and foremost, I am referring to the global and regional actors that developing strategies for hybrid behavior, in order to influence certain countries and regions of their strategic interest.

DW: What is the AR’s cooperation with partner countries’ intelligence services and what is its professional reputation in this regard?

There is an unwritten rule in the intelligence that there are no large or small services, but efficient and well-placed services that can do something. During my many years of experience working with partner services, AR has proven to be a worthy and recognized partner. Its advantages are recognized by respectable partners with whom we have had important international intelligence operations in different regions. I can freely say that one of the great advantages of AR is the fact that we make the best use of our human capacities, which besides the professionalism, have another very important element of success – above all I think of the multiethnic, multi-confessional and multilingual moment as an important for the intelligence process of collecting information and conducting operations. To maintain our international operational image, we will be working on upgrading and enhancing human potential with the various personality profiles needed for a modern service in the coming period, as well as improving the technical capability for best positioning to identify and respond to contemporary threats.