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Strasbourg, 24 June 2010
Honorable Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Jagland,
Honorable President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr. Cavusoglu,
Distinguished Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me express special pleasure for this opportunity to address you here in the temple of the oldest European organization, our common European home, the Council of Europe.
For the Republic of Macedonia, this is a special honor, recognition and, at the same time, commitment to chair the organization in these turbulent times we live in. This requires maximum engagement and commitment on the key priorities we have jointly set.
Great is the symbolism that the first Macedonian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe is happening on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights. Human rights are one of the three fundamental values of the Council of Europe, along with democracy and the rule of law. These fundamental values should provide balance between freedom and security, balance that is necessary to continue on the path of progress.
Macedonia, by promoting its model of inclusive democracy can contribute to the achievement of these three fundamental values of the Council of Europe. The young Macedonian independent state rests exactly on the foundations of the fundamental values of the Council of Europe. These values are part of the long and deeply-rooted traditions in the Macedonian society. Macedonian democracy, which means integration without assimilation, is complementary to the European values and gives them a new quality.
Respecting ethnic and cultural coexistence is a tradition that makes us proud. And there is a reason why. In Macedonia, ethnic, national and religious communities enjoy all the rights and freedoms known today.
Our model, indeed, contains universal values, and stems from respect for different cultural patterns. In Macedonia there is a functional multi-ethnic coexistence, built for centuries, which is, in my deep conviction, a model for the future.
Macedonian model of democracy can be implemented only when there is an open space. Only the open space enabled us to live in peace, in tolerance, respecting the diversities.
Today, more than ever, our region needs what I prefer to call Pax Europeana, European peace, which means Europe as an open space where there is freedom of movement of people, ideas, capital and products. Open space in which each economy can grow and spread. Where there is tolerance and celebration of diversity, where every one of us can enjoy his rights and identity. An open space in which everyone is respected for what he is, regardless where he lives and where he works. An open space that is fertile soil for building internal trust and confidence among states. Space in which the values can be spread which are highly appraised in the Republic of Macedonia and which are embedded in our unique democratic model.
In moments of crisis, we need to have more and not less Europe. The crisis cannot be an alibi to stop on the path of progress, not to pursue the path traced by the creators of Europe. On the contrary, exactly in moments of crisis we must turn to the basic principles that led the European unification, which were actually the motive to find a way out of the unimaginable crisis of the European countries. The success of such verified and proven principles of solidarity, cooperation, openness, democracy and human rights is the best recommendation in conditions of a new crisis, to go back to the beginnings. If the last crisis was overcome with openness and vision, then there is really no justification for the calls to react to today’s economic, political and moral crisis by closing ourselves inwardly. Fear is understandable reaction in such situation, but fear is not a good policy, fear is not a political vision at a time when decisions are expected. We must not allow the fiscal bankruptcy to lead us to moral bankruptcy.
When I say this, primarily I refer to the process of enlargement. There is no viable alternative for the region and for Macedonia than the European integrations. There is no greater driving force of our societies than the integration process. The capacity of Europe to influence its neighborhood, without any pressure, without force, to attract the neighboring countries to its constellation of democratic and prosperous countries, is one of the greatest strengths of Europe. It is a fortress the strength of which lies not in the high walls that keep strangers away, but in the open institutions that attract well-intentioned passengers. However, unfortunately, this vision of an open Europe is the first sacrifice in times of crisis. The enlargement is a priority of Europe which seems to be forgotten with the emergence of the first dark cloud.
In moments of crisis we expect leaders with vision to emerge. In moments of crisis, visions are being realized. In the present crisis, Europe's leadership should not only see a challenge but also an opportunity. Moreover, here we have to face the old stereotype of which Europe is afraid, that leaders must be the one to make decisions, and to deal with the problems in a non-democratic manner. On the contrary, one can be a leader also in the principled struggle for the ideals of Europe, for freedom and human rights, for personal responsibility and solidarity with those who are in real need. These principles of today really need a leader, a hero, an advocate.
This is my vision for Macedonia, for the South-East Europe region and for Europe. I believe in the wisdom of the European leadership.
The Republic of Macedonia, guided by this vision, set its goals for the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe. We would like to emphasize our readiness for constructiveness in the initiated reforms for strengthening of the role of the Council of Europe, something I have already mentioned to the Secretary General Jagland and the President of the Parliamentary Assembly Chavushoglu.
Strengthening the protection of human rights is our first priority. It is necessary to consolidate and improve the system of human rights on national and European level. The Macedonian Chairmanship, following the Interlaken process, shall work on the reform of the European Court of Human Rights.
The European Court of Human Rights is arguably the most important body of the Council of Europe. It aims to apply and to protect the individual rights of the citizens from the free-will attitude of the state and its non-functioning. However in order for the court to be fully effective, its decision must be respected and implemented in full by all member states. That is the essence of the existence of the Court.
However, we are witnesses that in recent times, the court has issued judgments which were not fully executed by certain member states. The role of the Court and the Committee of Ministers must be strengthened so as to put an end to the continued breach of the European Convention on Human Rights
To this end, we will organize a conference on "Strengthening of subsidiarity: integration of legal court cases into national legislation and practice." Thus, our intention is to give our contribution to the reforming of the European Court of Human Rights.
On the other hand, it should also influence the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law. This, of course, includes principles and attitudes, and particularly mechanisms that guarantee the freedom of the individual and his participation in the social and political life. Everyone can fully enjoy his rights. That is the significance of the rule of law.
We are all equal before the law. But this equality is undermined by corruption. Corruption makes one more equal than others. Corruption is the antithesis of the rule of law.
Thus, corruption infringes fundamental principles of our common home. It is a problem faced by almost all countries, which requires joint response. This notion had a strong unifying effect and was a major impetus for the establishment of the Group of States against Corruption - GRECO. This group, having a pan-European and transatlantic character, is a platform for sharing best practices on preventing and tackling corruption.
Conscious that the fight against corruption is a fight for the protection of human rights, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Macedonia will organize an evaluation conference on the achievements of GRECO. The conference will address the integration of human rights in everyday work of public administration in European countries. The provision of such transparency and effective coordination and cooperation between the authorities will certainly contribute to reducing corruption and consolidating democracy.
Today, human rights and social rights are part of the same formula that results in democratic stability. In this regard, the Macedonian Chairmanship will pay special attention to adequate application of the principle of solidarity and strengthening of the social cohesion in Europe. Our common efforts in this sphere should enable successful addressing of the new challenges related to employment and standard of living of the European citizens. This is particularly important today, when we are all faced with the strong blow of the financial and economic crisis.
All this tells us that, not even for a moment, we may loose sight of the big picture.
Further concrete step in this direction is the European Union accession to the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Not long ago, I talked about the functional multi-ethnic coexistence in my country. Quite naturally, the second priority of the Macedonian Chairmanship is the promotion and enhancement of the integration of the national minorities in the European societies.
Integration without assimilation is the core of our model. The power of this model is its capability to make various communities be exposed and have an opportunity to accept the best and most positive practices of other communities.
My message to all of you is to properly understand the worlds of the different, to respect diversities. Integration by respecting the existing cultural, ethnic, linguistic, religious and other differences.
There are numerous facts which speak for the long history of coexistence. We have lived in several multicultural and multi-ethnic empires, which certainly have left deep traces. Here is the explanation for our centuries-old tradition of coexistence. There are ancient legends and songs that testify to the coexistence of our people from different religions and nations. This coexistence does not change in its essence, and it does get a new shape with the beginning of the new age and every new epoch. Thus, the first television program in Turkish in Macedonia was broadcast on the Macedonian Radio Television, four and a half decades ago, in 1965. The first radio program in Albanian language in Macedonia was broadcast by Radio Skopje back in 1945, and the first television information program in Macedonia in Albanian language was broadcast in 1968, 42 years ago. Already many years, the Macedonian National Radio and Television broadcasts programs in Serbian, Roma, Vlach and Bosniak language.
In this regard, the Macedonian Chairmanship puts special emphasis on the integration of the marginalized groups in the society, immigrants and Roma. Therefore, the Macedonian Chairmanship in Skopje organized a conference on integration of national minorities, and a special conference on the Roma issue. Roma in Macedonia have their own local self-government, schools, media and everything that means normal life of a community. Full integration of this ethnic community and culture is a big task and an important priority, both for my country and for Europe as a whole.
Since independence until today, all our governments have depicted our Macedonian reality. All were multi-ethnic governments. Within the Macedonian government, each community has its representatives, through whom, institutionally, all needs and interests are articulated and channeled. Macedonia is ready to share its contributions with everyone.
But our model should not be seen only at the level of central government. Decentralization is an irreplaceable way to provide internal flexibility and opportunity for renewal of the society from the inside. As this great building is exposed to the pressures of time, the state must be able to withstand the changes. To withstand the storms, and the bad weather, equally as it endures to the sun and the beautiful weather. If in this period we are rigid, inflexible, and if at the gust of the wind and the storm we decide to lock ourselves at home and wait for the storm to pass by, it can happen that we wake up homeless and once again we have to build the foundations of our common Europe.
I would like to make it clear that we update and improve this model on a daily basis. Like in any other real democracy, this is a process, and not a completed project.
The Republic of Macedonia has a long standing tradition of respect for ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity. Understandably, Macedonia is proud to have ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Therefore, the Republic of Macedonia, as a responsible member-state, strongly urges the remaining states who have yet to ratify the Framework Convention to do this without further delay, so that the minorities in their countries can enjoy in full the protection envisaged in this document.
Increasingly, European societies are becoming multicultural. This wealth of diversity should be cherished. Hence is the need to support the inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue. Multi-confessional coexistence is a reality in Macedonia. That is one of the reasons for organizing the First and the Second World Conference on Dialogue among Religions and Civilizations in Ohrid, Macedonia.
Apart from this important Conference, in September, the Macedonian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe will organize an exchange of opinions regarding the religious dimension of the inter-cultural dialogue. Special emphasis will be placed on freedom of expression in media and respect for cultural and religious diversity. It will be a great opportunity to get opinions, impressions and conclusions from the global conference.
We should pass the future to the young generations. We can not build this future without their consent, without their vision and energy. Therefore, the third goal of the Macedonian Chairmanship is to initiate the "Ohrid process".
This process aims to facilitate exchange of views and experiences of young people form South-East Europe and beyond. This will encourage their participation in the political processes and democratic reforms in their societies. Thus, we implement the obligations foreseen in the Kiev Declaration and we adhere to the global celebration of 2010 as the “International Youth Year”, pronounced by the UN General Assembly.
Our existing systems, our Parliaments, our Governments and Ministries, must be open enough and attract democratically young people who will give their contributions in their work. It is not necessary young people to look for alternative ways to be active and transform the society.
In this regard, it is known that the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly is a school of democracy. After the fall of the Berlin wall, many countries of Central and Eastern Europe upgraded their democratic capacity in these seats, in this prestigious forum. Today we have an excellent opportunity to transfer the lessons learned directly to the youth, to the future societal leaders. We should transfer them the knowledge and above all the spirit of the European democratic principles and values. The Council of Europe has always had the leading position in recognizing the needs of the citizens.
I would like to emphasize that achieving these priorities involves the joint efforts of Macedonia, Switzerland and Turkey, the current, former and future chairs of the Council, as well as of Spain and Belgium, the chairs the European Union this year. At the same time, we will closely cooperate with the United Nations and Kazakhstan, the OSCE chair this year.
Together, we can contribute to the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the European open space.
I believe that the European success depends on us all.
This institution, established at the very beginnings of new Europe, with accumulated knowledge of the past European ups-and-downs, is the best protection of our continent in time of crisis. The Council of Europe is called to see the things farther than the other European institutions. To offer solid and inspiring solutions. Strong enough to protect us from the temptation to seek for a way out of the crisis in the old bad solutions, in nationalism, in closeness. The Council of Europe is expected in these days, as an institution, to leave aside the cliche and the current way of thinking and taking actions and come up with fresh solutions in line with democracy, respect for human rights and promotion of human freedom.
At the end, I would like to invite you, the members of the Parliamentary Assembly, in the name of the postulates on which this organization rests, to put your authority and attention, to use the legislative opportunities for promotion and protection of diversity, identity and dignity of all peoples in Europe, including mine, the Mac people.