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Parliamentary Assembly Session: 4 to 8 October 2010

Address by Nikola GRUEVSKI, Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

7 October 2010

(Extract of the verbatim records)

Mr GRUEVSKI (Prime Minister of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – Distinguished Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, distinguished Secretary General of the Council of Europe, distinguished Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, distinguished President of the Committee of Ministers, distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is my special pleasure to have the honour of addressing you at a time when the Republic of Macedonia presides over the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. To preside over the decision-making body of the oldest political organisation in Europe is a great challenge and responsibility for the Republic of Macedonia, especially since this is the first time in its 15-year membership of the Council of Europe.

Each chairmanship endeavours to establish continuity of operations, thereby adding to the achievements of its predecessors, and simultaneously to leave behind visible results on the basis of which the following chairmanship will set its priorities. In this way, consistency is established in the work of the Committee of Ministers. Precisely to that end, the Republic of Macedonia is focused on the fulfilment of the key mission of the Organisation: human rights protection, the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law. Our basic objective is not only to follow the progress of our predecessors, but also to add our own specificities within the aim of developing a multicultural and inclusive European society.

Through being a Council of Europe member state, the Republic of Macedonia has demonstrated its acceptance of the principle of the rule of law and the guaranteeing of fundamental freedoms. The Macedonian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers bears great symbolism since it takes place during the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights through which our efforts for strengthening the efficiency of the system of protecting human rights have become even more relevant.

That important legal instrument of the Council of Europe was the starting point for the priorities of the Macedonian chairmanship. It has envisaged concrete activities in its agenda, aiming towards their realisation.

I avail myself of this opportunity to point once more to a part of the priority objectives included in the integrated approach of the Macedonian chairmanship which, according to my deep conviction, will contribute to democratic stability in Europe. Our priorities are directed towards achieving greater social cohesion by respecting social rights; a Europe founded on the integration of national minorities in society; promotion of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue as a significant instrument of common understanding; and active participation of youth in the democratic processes and policy creation.

Peace, stability and democracy are the basis for good inter-ethnic relations in the spirit of mutual understanding and respect for fundamental freedoms and rights. That is the essential foundation for the establishment of a functional, multi-ethnic and multicultural society, leading towards general progress and development of communities. To build a multicultural society is a challenge for all democratic societies as one of the most complex and sensitive political issues.

The Council of Europe has demonstrated strong political will in the founding of the universal values of a sound and stable society, recognising freedom of expression and the promotion of national culture with all its characteristic features, respecting differences and the establishment of a strong multi-ethnic society. We seek to achieve greater unity among the 47 Council of Europe member states in the protection of individual rights, democratic freedoms and the rule of law, which are the bases of every real democracy. They are the fundamental principles on which the activities and the politics of the Council member states are based.

The Republic of Macedonia respects the European recommendations, and its development is based on the fundamental values of the Council of Europe: peace, stability, democracy and the enhancement of the principles of universal human rights and the rule of law. Human rights are one of the three fundamental values of the Council of Europe, along with democracy and the rule of law. Macedonia, by promoting its model of inclusive democracy, can contribute to their realisation. Respecting ethnic and cultural co-existence is our tradition, developed through the centuries and a model for our future.

Despite the difficult economic circumstances facing Europe, the Macedonian chairmanship considers that it remains of vital importance to maintain the system of human rights protection, determined by the Convention, both at national level and at the level of the Organisation as a whole. Democratic stability arises from a respect of human rights, including social rights. To that end, the Macedonian chairmanship focused its attention on the appropriate application of the principle of solidarity and strengthening social cohesion in Europe. Our efforts in this area should enable us successfully to face the new challenges relating to employment and the standards of living of European citizens, especially as we tackle the economic crisis.

The Republic of Macedonia has a long tradition of respecting ethnic languages and cultural diversity and has ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. From this platform today, I strongly encourage the countries that have not ratified the Framework Convention to do so without further delay. Only in this way will the minorities in those countries be able fully to enjoy the protection that it can provide to them.

The Republic of Macedonia is a multi-ethnic country. The ideas of “unity in diversity”, social inclusion and stronger interconnection in the European Union are inseparable and common goals of Macedonian society. The activities of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia have continuously promoted European values – human rights, democracy and the rule of law – to our citizens, thus enhancing the strong European spirit that exists in our country. Putting national interests aside to achieve higher objectives is part of Macedonian history. Let me mention the KruĊĦevo manifesto of 1903, which states that everyone, regardless of their national and religious affiliation, gender and belief, can fight for their basic human rights – the right to freedom.

Macedonia today is an example in Europe and the world of how in such a small territory a great number of various ethnic groups live equally. It shows how different cultures unite without threatening each other and how they are respected regardless of religious, ethnic or cultural affiliation. Therefore, it is quite natural that one of the priorities of the Macedonian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers is to promote and foster the integration of national minorities in European society. Macedonia continues to enhance its understanding of multi-ethnicity. No matter how big the differences among us are, they cannot exceed the fact that we are all humans with equal rights and freedoms. By respecting each other, we respect ourselves.

The Macedonian chairmanship puts a special emphasis on integrating marginalised groups in society. In this decade of Roma, I want to emphasise that the Government of the Republic of Macedonia remains firmly committed to promoting further inclusion of Roma in all social and economic events, identifying the way in which it should deal with social separation, how it should provide education, decent living conditions, new jobs and education on the cultural rights of children, and how it should promote the language and culture of the Roma community. The use of Roma grammar was recently promoted along with a Romany-Macedonian and Macedonian-Romany dictionary, which is an important step for the culture and education of the Roma community. The Roma population in Macedonia has its own local government, a minister in the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, members of parliament, schools, media and everything that reflects the normal life of a community.

The objective of our chairmanship is to initiate as great as possible inclusion of the Roma population, and certainly of the other marginalised groups of citizens, when making decisions on issues that affect their everyday lives. The effective participation of the Roma population, and also of the other marginalised groups, in our cultural, social and economic life means de facto integration, which is a great task and an important priority both for my country and Europe as a whole.

Cultural diversity in Europe is another of our priorities. The aim is to establish an open and inclusive society that respects the differences in a growing multicultural environment. It is my particular pleasure to emphasise that the Council of Europe has already set standards at this level.

Taking into consideration the long tradition of cultural and religious co-existence in the Republic of Macedonia, we feel it is normal for us to be actively involved in intercultural dialogue. In that context, we organised the ministerial conference on the social value of cultural heritage in Europe at the beginning of which the White Paper on intercultural dialogue was promoted.

Cultural diversity has great creative potential, through which a multicultural dialogue is built. At the same time it leads to political and ethnic consolidation, and a greater confidence among the various entities about their joint futures. The vision for promoting dialogue among various cultures in European countries, by practising intercultural dialogue, is a long-term project. The different dialogue and thoughts contained in the publication are a good basis for developing strategies for the best use of dialogue to strengthen social cohesion, to increase people’s interest in becoming familiar with the cultural specificities of other ethnic groups and representatives of different religious groups, and to create a higher degree of mutual trust and tolerance.

Since the country gained its independence, all Governments of the Republic of Macedonia have reflected the Macedonian multi-ethnic reality. In the Macedonian Government, each community has its representatives through whom it articulates and channels its needs and interests in an institutional form. Macedonia is ready to share its gains with all those who could take advantage of our experience, which I highlight is upgraded and improved every day. Thus, the Macedonian model of democratic multicultural society is a permanent process.

The Republic of Macedonia is a candidate country for membership of the European Union and a country candidate for membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Membership of the European Union and NATO are the highest priorities of Macedonian foreign policy, and they are largely supported and approved by more than 80% of our citizens regardless of any affiliation, including their ethnic, religious and political affiliations. This priority is an additional element of cohesion in our society. We met all the necessary requirements, and implemented all reforms and modernisation proposals. Last year, we received from the European Commission a recommendation to determine a date for the start of EU membership negotiations. However, the EU Council, owing to opposition from one member state because of the dispute over the constitutional name of our country, did not accept the recommendation from us and the Commission. From the Macedonian perspective, we were again obstructed. After Bucharest and the blockage of NATO membership, there was a blockage on EU membership.

Although I do not want to burden you during this address, we are still faced with exceptionally serious, complex and significant challenges in finding a solution to the dispute imposed by our neighbour regarding our name, and in securing the Euro-Atlantic perspective for the country, which is held hostage by this problem. I wish to highlight our firm commitment to overcoming this dispute. I am saying this clearly before you, esteemed ladies and gentlemen, and at this event because of the importance of this institution and because of the principles on which it is based. They are principles of mutual respect and understanding, tolerance and respect of differences, respect of others’ identity and the right to self-identification, respect of the international order and its norms and rules. That is what we are looking for. Therefore, I allow myself to emphasise it here. The Council of Europe is the very institution that protects and promotes those principles and values.

Please allow me to briefly address the issue of youth and its perspectives, which is one of our priorities during this chairmanship. Young people are the vital element of a sound democratic society. Therefore, their active participation in decision-making processes is of exceptional significance. That leads to one of our priorities – participation of the younger generations in European democratic processes, especially in south-east Europe.

Therefore, the Macedonian chairmanship initiated the Ohrid process, the aim of which is greater inclusion of young people from the region in decision making, and in the processes of policy development in your esteemed countries, with the objective of achieving a greater contribution to building a better society. Regional challenges require regional solutions, which is precisely why the commitment of young people to the creation of strong regional partnerships is envisaged in the declaration of the Ohrid process.

Political parties have a significant role in the processes of democratic reforms, which makes them a target group of youth councils in south-east Europe and their branches. Such parties would provide additional support to the active participation of youth in the democratic reforms of their countries, especially in the promotion and introduction of the standards and principles of the Council of Europe. In this context, the activities of the youth councils would be precisely directed towards the support of youth political branches for internal democratic reforms, which would increase the participation of young people in the creation of inter-party policies. That would lead to a strengthening and institutionalisation of the co-operation with the schools of political studies of the Council of Europe that operate in several countries in the region. That could be considered one of the contributions of the Council of Europe to the global marking of 2010, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, as the international year of youth.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, at the end of this address, I would like to emphasise that the Macedonian chairmanship will work hard until the end of its term on the realisation of the set goals, which, I reiterate, were determined on the basis of our long tradition as a multi-ethnic state with strong ties based on the common values and principles of respecting all ethnic groups.

The Government of the Republic of Macedonia will continue to work on building comprehensive relations of co-operation with all countries from the immediate and broader neighbourhood – both in the bilateral area and within the regional initiatives and projects – by participating in existing initiatives for regional co-operation. The Republic of Macedonia supports European integration as a unique model of common creation of the future that has enabled the longest period of peace, stability and economic prosperity on the European continent.

Through foreign policy in the bilateral and multilateral areas, we all promote our national values and interests. By creating comprehensive relations of co-operation with all countries from the immediate and broader neighbourhood – both bilaterally and within the regional initiatives and projects, participating in the existing initiatives for regional co-operation in the whole region – the fundamental values of the Council of Europe are being successfully promoted and built.

Thank you for your attention.