Annual Address by the President of the Republic of Macedonia, Dr. Gjorge Ivanov
Thursday, 29 December 2016 11:15   

PRM29122016Respected citizens of the Republic of Macedonia,

Respected media representatives,

I typically deliver the annual address in the Parliament, but it has not yet been constituted. To fulfill my constitutional duty, I will take this opportunity to inform you about the issues of my competence. I will, however, notify the Parliament about the contents of this speech in writing.

We are counting down the last days of 2016. This was a year of bright anniversaries that were dimmed by huge challenges, both globally and domestically.

In this address I will not speak about the threat of illegal migration that is successfully being dealt with. I will just say that many countries in Europe were grateful for the responsible behavior of Macedonia in dealing with illegal migration. The more courageous even publicly praised us. Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia and the Czech Republic even deployed their police forces at our southern border. I hereby publicly express my appreciation for that.

I will not refer either to the threat of violent extremism and the activities of the returned foreign terrorist fighters because everything that was to be said has already been said.

There is no need to remind you that the foreign policy in 2016 was the most difficult area not only for Macedonia but also for the region, for Europe and the world. I will not inform you of the numerous regional and global forums where I represented the interests of the Republic of Macedonia either.

What I want to talk about is very important for all of us today. And that is the political crisis that has created an ambience of fear and uncertainty.

As 2016 is almost over, many citizens are asking themselves what Macedonia will look like when they wake up in 2017.

I will remind you that a quarter century ago, as a country, we came out of the single-party monism and entered the multi-party pluralism. But, it turned out that, unfortunately, it came down to pluralism in the singular. Instead to overcome it, it seems that we have multiplied the single-mindedness. Instead of adjusting the party to the national interests, some parties reduced the state to their narrow party interests. Because of this irresponsible attitude of individuals, politicians, and thus politics, have lost their reputation.

We have forgotten the truth that by definition, being a politician means being polite. Politeness involves patience to hear the rest, to lead a dialogue and through a dialogue to come to a decision for all the challenges in democracy.

Today, unfortunately, we cannot talk about patience, and even less about politeness on the Macedonian political scene. We cannot talk about polite dialogue.

By rejecting patience, we have allowed intolerance to conquer politics. The excessive politicization has led to an unprecedented polarization of Macedonia.

The personal animosity between the political leaders and elites has spilled over the entire Macedonian society.

Instead through the broad prism of coexistence and respect, the citizens have started to see the things through the narrow and limiting prism of parties and ideologies. We are experiencing an excess of criticism and lack of self-criticism. Journalists, businessmen, artists, athletes ... have become hostages of the political crisis in which each side sees the mistakes of the opponent, but is blind to see its own mistakes and errors.

Moreover, last year we witnessed a prodigious dynamics. Instead of competing with ideas and programs, some political actors started competing first with verbal accusations, then with insults and criminal charges, and eventually with misconduct. They competed in burning pictures and people's offices. These days we see that some have started bidding with state interests.

How all this happened? What this results from? I am deeply convinced that there are two reasons. The first is external and the second is internal.

In 2008, we were on the threshold of NATO membership. In 2009 we received the first positive report and recommendation to start negotiations with the European Union. In such circumstances, the institutions, responsibly and rapidly, were implementing reforms, the politicians voluntarily and decently communicated, and the citizens lived with the expectation that the European future is at hand.

And then, at the height of our efforts, expectations and optimism, we were bitterly disappointed.
Instead of a date for negotiations, we were blocked.
Instead of membership in NATO, we were ignored.
Instead of being rewarded, we were punished.

Since then, Macedonia has become a collector of positive European reports and recommendations and of NATO membership action plans.

Initially, the reason for the blockade was the name of the country and the citizens' identity. This reason is absurd pro se because the individual's identity should not be proven. Identity is an axiom which proves everything else. And yet, we were forced to prove the thing that cannot be proven - our right to human dignity. To prove that we exist and that we are not a nameless nation.

But, this was not enough. Each year they comforted us, saying that soon we would become a member. But we saw that, in the case of Macedonia, their "soon" is not measured by the calendar.

Instead of admitting us immediately and without delay under the temporary reference, they irresponsibly block us indefinitely.

Is the humiliation with that necrophiliac temporary reference not enough? If they are obliged to address us with the temporary reference, then, they are also obliged to respect the Interim Accord and the ruling of the International Court of Justice that regulate the manner of membership of the Republic of Macedonia in international organizations under the same reference.
We are not looking for excuses and we are aware of our shortcomings. But we are also aware of the shortcomings and unfulfilled commitments of NATO and the European Union towards the Republic of Macedonia.

Our partners in Brussels talk about the rule of law in Macedonia. I absolutely agree that we should do a lot in this area.
But, at the same time I ask them - if you have remarks about the situation in the judiciary, then why we are not allowed to open chapters 23 and 24 on judiciary, fundamental rights, justice, freedom and security?

The irresponsible behavior of the European Union and NATO towards Macedonia is inevitably reflected in our internal policies. The reform momentum is lost, the relations between the political parties are tensed and the transforming power of the Union is reduced. The consequences of the blockade became a reason for new blockades of the Republic of Macedonia.

Every problem ignored long enough will turn into a painful symptom. Hence, we come to the second reason, the internal reason for the political crisis.

Many times I have repeated that the solution to the crisis lies in the state institutions. There are no extra-institutional solutions to issues that can be addressed only institutionally.

Blocked on the road to our strategic objectives, we have entered the labyrinth of crises. Seeking to solve the crisis out of the state institutions, certain irresponsible leaders began to circumvent the Parliament and neglected its control mechanisms. Instead of systemic, they decided to act extra-systemic. By circumventing the institutions, we entered into the trap of the Przhino Agreement.

We had a dissolved Parliament, a technical Government to conduct the elections and a declared state of emergency. The security institutions were blocked and paralyzed, with a compromised command system emanating from the Przhino Agreement. There was a high risk of not being able to respond to the threats faced as a country.

These conditions were further complicated in early April 2016.

There was an organized campaign to postpone the elections scheduled in June.

On our southern border, thousands of migrants attempted to violently overthrow the protective fence and reopen the Balkan migrant corridor to Europe.

At the same time, 40 violent extremists and terrorists appeared at our northern border with an intention to carry out vindictive terrorist acts.

There was and there is still a high risk from the threat of the returned foreign terrorist fighters from the battlefields of the Middle East.

In meantime, the Special Public Prosecutor's Office is selective and politicized prosecution which, instead of being an instrument of justice, acts as an instrument of blackmailing political opponents. Signing the Law for the formation of the Special Public Prosecutor's Office, I did not expect selectivity and politicization in its work.
All this that happened to us inevitably led to a civil conflict.

In such complex conditions, as the President of the Republic of Macedonia, I was the only institution with legitimacy and authority to make decisions. And, instead of being a passive observer of the open conflict, I offered a solution to the crisis. I offered reconciliation by pardoning all those who, in one way or another, are involved in the political crisis.

One day, when all the documents will be declassified, the citizens will have full insight into the situation that led to assuming such a measure. But I will say only that in a situation in which the future of the state was concerned, the pardon was the only peaceful way to freeze the hostile intentions between the opposing sides and thus to avoid anarchy.

For that decision, I faced much criticism and accusations.

I was accused that I have violated the Constitution and the laws with the pardoning decision. But the decision did not violate the Constitution and the laws, only the dark scenarios against Macedonia.

They accused me that I have pardoned the crime in Macedonia. But, the pardoning did not include suspension of the procedure for confiscation of illegally acquired property. If someone committed a crime and stole, he will have to return the stolen and pay for what he did. The rule of law means that all people, including me, regardless of their ethnic, religious, political and social background, whether in power or in opposition, are equal before the letter of the law. Such a rule of law I advocate for. And that was the reason why I signed the law on the Special Public Prosecutor's Office. Because, without combating crime and corruption, we cannot build a future for the Republic of Macedonia.

I was accused of protecting irresponsible politicians. But, with the pardoning decision I intended to achieve reconciliation.

However, such a way of resolving the political crisis was not accepted by a part of the public and once the legal conditions were created, I withdrew the given pardons.

Once the risk was reduced and the immediate threats passed us by, the party leaders sat down again and agreed to early parliamentary elections.

Finally, on December 11, we had free, fair and democratic elections.

At the election, the citizens expressed their opinion. By having exercised their democratic right and showing the highest level of responsibility, the citizens have contributed to putting an end to the crisis.

The citizens understood that to get out of the crisis it is not necessary to be outnumbered, but it requires compliance, blackmailing is not needed, but reconciliation.

With the distribution of their votes, the citizens actually forced the parties to a dialogue in the institutions, but not at the expense of the national interests.
The citizens, most responsibly, fulfilled their part of the agreement called democracy, and therefore I congratulate them.

Dear fellow citizens,

The election is over. The re-run and counting are finished too. In the post-election period, let me announce my position on several issues.

I still hear individual party leaders publicly bid with the unitary character of the state, with some kind of a cantonization and federalization, with the name of the country and the citizens' identity. They bid with state interests.

I will remind them that in 1991 Macedonia was constituted as a national state of the Macedonian people, providing for full equality of the citizens and permanent coexistence of the Macedonian people with the Albanians, Turks, Vlachs, Roma and other nationalities living in the Republic of Macedonia.

It is true that 15 years ago, the Ohrid Framework Agreement supplemented our inclusive democratic model. We opened the door for equitable representation of the citizens of all, not just one, community. I repeat - all, not just one.

My position is more than clear.
I will never agree the Republic of Macedonia to be a bi-national state.
I will never agree the Republic of Macedonia to be a federal state.

The Republic of Macedonia is a unitary state of all its citizens with equal rights, Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Serbs, Vlachs, Roma, Bosniaks, Christians, Muslims, Jews and atheists. That is what makes it different from others.

I hear requests for bilingualism on the whole territory of Macedonia. This issue has been closed with Amendment 5 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, which came out of the Ohrid Agreement, which regulates the issue of the official language in the Republic of Macedonia.

The official use of any language in the Republic of Macedonia depends on the statistics, and the only way to get real statistics is the census. The last census in Macedonia was 14 years ago. It is too long period for any state. Without new census, no one can ask for rights that depend on the statistics. I expect the new Government as soon as possible to conduct a census to see how many we are, to see if the reality on the ground corresponds to the claims of some politicians.

I suggest that it is irresponsible to claim rights without undertaking obligations, exactly as stated in Amendment 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia.

Yet, it is duty and responsibility of every citizen of Macedonia, regardless of ethnic, religious, linguistic and ideological affiliation, to take care of the welfare of our only common homeland – the Republic of Macedonia.

It is unacceptable that some leaders of parliamentary parties put to the negotiating table the state interests of the Republic of Macedonia, contrary to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia.

On behalf of the Macedonian citizens, I warn them to be careful in what they do.
On behalf of the Macedonian citizens, I suggest them not even to think in their post-electoral considerations to discuss or negotiate the national interests of Macedonia and the national interests of the Macedonian people. Since national interests are neither discussed nor negotiated.

Nobody has a mandate to reshape the state, nor to change its identity.
Nobody has a mandate to sell what the generations before us dreamed and died for, and that is the freedom and independence of the Republic of Macedonia.
The Republic of Macedonia is not, nor will I agree it to be a bi-national state.
The Republic of Macedonia is not, nor will I agree it to be a federal state.
The Republic of Macedonia is a unitary state with multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual society.

Dear fellow citizens,

Today, when we leave behind the year of the quarter century anniversary of independence, rather than in a stronger and more united, we live in a weaker and estranged Macedonia. Estranged at every possible basis.

It all started with the blockades that have created divisions and the divisions which led to retaliation.

There is nothing more tragic and dangerous than inter-Macedonian conflict. Whenever we were divided, we were occupied by others, dispersed, renamed and left without nationality.

Therefore, I urge the leadership of both major parties VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM to find strength to forgive, reconcile and ultimately unite around the national interests of the Macedonian people and the state interests of the Republic of Macedonia.

If they really love this country and if they really care for the Macedonian people, I call them to respect the will of the people, because there is no future, no hope in hatred.

I call for national reconciliation. Only concerted and with mutual trust we will be everywhere and always stronger and ready for all possible challenges of our time.

Therefore, I expect the new Government in its program to include two key priorities:

First, protection of the state interests of the Republic of Macedonia, which implies preserving and strengthening the unitary character of the state.

Second, systemic reform after the crisis, which will cover the subjects of national security system of the Republic of Macedonia.

These priorities are necessary primarily due to the numerous threats and internal weaknesses we face. The consequences of the conflicts in the region of North Africa and the Middle East, the illegal migration, the activities of the foreign terrorist fighters and their supporters, the transnational criminal networks, violent extremism, radicalism and the interests of various centers of power affect the polarization of the Macedonian society. They can cause future inner-ethnic, inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions in Macedonia. There is a really high risk for the internal security coming from the external threats we face. Not only we, but the whole region, whole Europe.

Because of this ratio between the external threats and the internal weaknesses, such systemic reforms are necessary.

The Intelligence, the Army of the Republic of Macedonia, the border police, the law enforcement services and the prosecution must be transformed in order to protect national security of the state, according to the changes of the challenges and threats we face.

For already 15 months we are in a state of declared crisis because of the threat of illegal migration. The crisis will indeed continue. Therefore, we may not allow the political crisis to grow into an institutional crisis following the elections.

Dear fellow citizens,

The biggest challenge for us is not to know what our goal is and where we want to go. We know that since independence - that is European and Euro-Atlantic Republic of Macedonia. The biggest challenge is to know what we are ready to leave behind us to get where we want to be.

I strongly believe that two things are pulling us back. The first thing is the divisions resulting of the blockades. The second thing is the revenge resulting of the divisions. I urge to leave behind us divisions and revenge. I know that after everything said and done by now, this is a very difficult decision, because we need to forgive each other for some very harsh words, insults, slanders and deeds. We need to acknowledge our own mistakes. This is a difficult decision, because it requires humility, which is characteristic only of great, virtuous and responsible people. Without such a decision by which we will ultimately deny divisions and revenge, we cannot hope for prosperity and success.

Therefore, I urge you to stop using the rhetoric of patriots and traitors. To stop because every word and insult further deepen the divisions in our society. With each word and insult we leave our children in legacy only quarrels and divisions. To stop the attacks to the diplomatic representatives. Let us not always look for the blame elsewhere. Certain political leaders should stop calling and abusing the names of the ambassadors in the Republic of Macedonia to realize their goals. At the same time, I repeat the call to the diplomatic representatives, in the exercise of their powers, to be cautious in their actions and rhetoric and to adhere to the Vienna Conventions.

Yet, to be able to make that step to reconciliation, responsibility is necessary.

"Responsibility establishes identity, but we are not responsible because of our identity; instead, we have identity because we are responsible", Vaclav Havel said. Responsibility is foundation of trust between people and institutions, thus everyone who takes decisions must take personal responsibility for his own steps.

Where there is personal responsibility there is predictability, structure, potential for growth. Only responsibility creates conditions for security, stability and progress.

Responsibility, however, does not float in the air. It must be part of the political culture. Every nation, every country, every institution has its own culture of functioning. Culture can be reduced to what, by accident and without deep thinking, is spontaneously created, or to what is carefully designed and established. While the former is spontaneous and subject to various sorts of influences, the latter is meaningful and resistant to harmful influences. The political crisis has shown that, unfortunately, Macedonia is dominated by culture of irresponsibility.

It is true that the difference between big and small countries is that big countries solve the problems themselves. But the size of a state consists in the strong institutions that responsibly perform their tasks. Responsible institutions are impossible without responsible individuals because only responsible individuals create responsible institutions.

When institutions are allowed to do their job, they do it professionally and provide solutions to the challenges faced. Remember the professionalism of the security institutions in managing the migrant crisis. Think of our Army, police, security forces that professionally and responsibly protect not only our borders, but the borders of Europe. Think of our Army which is always and everywhere helping the citizens in dealing with natural disasters and catastrophes.

For everything done, the Macedonian Army deserves respect, gratitude and recognition.

But also the opposite is true. When institutions are avoided, blocked or paralyzed, rather than being part of the solution, they become part of the problem. I hope that the leaders have finally learned the lesson - we should not seek solutions outside the state institutions. Therefore, I urge once again to restore the power of the institutions.

Today we must be responsible so that tomorrow we can be accountable.

Dear fellow citizens,

It is not accidentally that I constantly refer in my speech to responsibility versus irresponsibility. It is because I strongly believe that, more than ever before, the future of Macedonia depends on only one word - responsibility. And it is not general and impersonal, but concrete and personal responsibility.

Leaving behind the 25th anniversary of independence of the Republic of Macedonia, I urge the 6 leaders of the parliamentary parties to show responsibility and renew their commitment to the European and Euro-Atlantic Macedonia.
I call them to sign as soon as possible a binding declaration of commitment to the European and Euro-Atlantic agenda, as long as the trust of the citizens in the EU and NATO is so high.
I call them to pledge that all laws and decisions from the European agenda will be a priority.

But, at the same time, I urge the European Union to stop blocking our future. The blockade is nothing but a punishment for the Macedonian citizens. By blocking negotiations, the possibility of building responsible European institutions in the Republic of Macedonia is blocked. The blockades deprive our right to prosperity. I repeat, the blockades deprive our right to prosperity. Therefore, it is time for greater responsibility of the Union towards Macedonia.
Dear fellow citizens,

The brightest moments in the history of mankind are the moments when people, courageously and responsibly, step towards addressing the challenges.

Macedonia's future depends not only on our wishes, projections, plans and programs, but on our concrete steps. What we will do now will affect not only our tomorrow, but the thousands tomorrows of the future generations.

You, the citizens of Macedonia, have directly felt the inter-party bickering. You have seen scenes that do not befit a country with 25 years of democratic experience. You have heard poisonous rhetoric. You have witnessed attempts of de-legitimization of the state institutions by solving the problems in the embassies of foreign countries. You, the citizens of Macedonia, have experienced the threat of divisions and the ravine of revenge, which brings into question even the state interests.

Therefore, while it is not too late, I call to forgiveness, reconciliation and unity around the national interests.
Finally, I call for the decisions about Macedonia to be taken in the institutions we have created, by the officials we have elected.
I call for responsible behavior. Responsibility is built with publicity and transparency. The citizens should be the supreme controllers of the responsibility of the leaders, politicians, institutions. Because they all exist for the citizens.

It is the only way to develop the Republic of Macedonia as a state in which instead of individuals, the laws will rule, guaranteeing human rights, civil liberties and equality. A state that will ensure peace and coexistence among its citizens, regardless of ethnic, religious and linguistic background. A state that will provide social justice, economic prosperity and progress of individual and community life.

As President of the Republic of Macedonia and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces I call on my responsibility to do what I am sworn for. I will defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the Republic of Macedonia from internal and external challenges, threats and risks. I will defend the Constitution and the constitutional order of the Republic of Macedonia. I do not even think of making any concessions in this regard.

Thank you.