Address at the Nizami Ganjavi Forum, entitled: Democratic security in times of extremism and violence
Saturday, 14 January 2017 16:06   

Kairo1webDistinguished attendees,

As President of the Republic of Macedonia, it is my honor to address this prestigious forum organized by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the Nizami Ganjavi Internatonal Center. These few days, here in Egypt, one of the cradles of the ancient civilization, we will have the opportunity to discuss the challenges that our modern civilization is facing. By discussing democratic security in a time of extremism and violence in the second decade of the 21st century, we are merely confirming the thought of a great philosopher who once said that the only thing we have learned from history is that we have actually learned nothing.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

"Humanity is in the best condition when it has the greatest degree of liberty", Alighieri once said.

However, liberty has many enemies. The aim of tyrants has always been to limit freedom to the smallest possible space – the space between our two ears, keeping our mouths closed in the process. Therefore, the entire history of human struggle for freedom is consumed by the clash between the passion of ideals and the power of interests; between the higher principles and narrow-minded politics.

Today, as we are spending the second decade of the third millennium, we are facing an old dilemma on the relationship between freedom and security. And yet, there is always something new to be said, no matter how old the subject matter is.

"In a way beset with those that contend, on one side for too great Liberty, and on the other side for too much Authority, 'tis hard to passe between the points of both unwounded", said Hobbes. With that, he exposed his dilemma: if you want security, then you renounce liberty. If, on the other hand, you want liberty, then you renounce security.

Many a mind has fought with this dilemma and has tried to establish what is more important – freedom or security? Can there be freedom without security? Is freedom the price to be paid for living safely?

In the 19th and 20th century, many tried to square that particular circle through liberal democracy as a system capable of establishing a balance between freedom and security. During the Cold War, the limited and controlled government of Western Liberal democracies was supposed to offer an alternative to the unlimited and total power of Eastern popular democracies.

This introduced, in a grand way, the paradigm on democracy, human rights and freedoms in the zenith of political and public debate. However, this paradigm that won in 1989, barely survived for a decade. Right then, when many people believed that Hobbes' dilemma had been successfully resolved, the 21st century threw us back in the hands of the harsh reality.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, many strong social, political, security and technological processes are plotting against freedom.

In a world in which the strong do what they want, and the weak what they must, the rule of law has been reduced to an exception rather than a rule. Instead of international security and order, we have an absence of security and disorder. Instead of respect for diversity, we are increasingly witnessing persecutions and destruction of diversity.

Ever since the beginning of this millennium, we have been in an open fight against global terrorism. We are facing a serious challenge in this area. For every terrorist group and organization destroyed, it seems that two others appear. From a non-state actor, ISIL transformed itself into a quasi-state one, capable of absorbing defeats, withdrawing, regrouping and attacking again - even far from the territory under its direct control.

In conditions of multiplied threats that international organizations are unable to offer solutions against, internationalism is withdrawing before growing nationalism. Extreme threats call for extreme measures. Security seems to have become more important than human rights and freedoms, the latter becoming themselves the first victim of fear of states and their citizens. Or, as Costas Douzinas put it, "The optimistic age of globalised hope has turned into the dark era of fear."

We see the new order arising from two extremes – the wish for lasting peace on one hand, and the threats of constant wars on the other. Fighting against terrorism and extremism, the modern state has been expanding its authorizations and competences, thus shrinking the space of human rights and freedoms.

After every terrorist attack, states declare states of emergency or crises. We know indeed that a state of crisis or emergency is a state of extreme jeopardy, a danger for the very existence of a country. The Sovereign is the one who decides whether there is an extreme state of urgency, and on what needs to be done in order for such a situation to be overcome. But, what is that measure?

The Republic of Macedonia was the first country in Europe to declare a state of crisis due to the threat from illegal migration and deployed the Army at the border. However, we never used this state of crisis or emergency to expand the state's competences and limit human rights, including the rights of migrants.

Still, today our states and societies are facing a new, serious risk. A state of crisis or emergency is an exception suspending part of the rights or freedoms in order to preserve the very order that makes it possible to have those rights and freedoms. However, in conditions of permanent danger, a crisis situation becomes a rule rather than an exception, whereas civil rights and freedoms are reduced to an exception almost by default. If a crisis is an exception from normality, then a permanent state of crisis would mean that crisis has turned into the new normal. The entire system has been turned upside down.

Faced with this condition, some even raise a new dilemma: What is the bigger threat? Is it the unpredictable extremists and terrorists who destroy human lives, or perhaps the powerful governments that know every aspect of the private lives of citizens?

In such circumstances, it appears that democracy is less able to offer security and safety. Throughout the world, democratic societies are in crisis. There is a global feeling of mistrust towards states, which are becoming increasingly bureaucratized, without offering solutions to crises and challenges. One author notes that "in the long run, Western democracies are exclusively moving towards an increased power of the state, greater dependency on the state and bigger public expense and debt."

Globalization only multiplied this effect. In its recent report on global trends, the US National Intelligence Council assesses that globalization and technological development enriched the richest and saved one billion people from living in poverty. However, at the same time they suppressed the middle class, thus creating resistance against globalization.

In this context, we are witnessing the rage of people against the imposed globalist paradigm of elites. Citizens wish to regain their freedom, having in mind that they never really obtained security. And when a state is unable to guarantee the safety of its citizens, one for which they had previously renounced part of their freedoms, then citizens organize themselves in order to achieve security.

I do not wish to be misunderstood. Churchill said that democracy might not be perfect, but is the best thing we have had so far. The problem is not in the democratic ideal, but the bureaucratized system that does not offer solutions.

Therefore, we need a new modus that will enable us to maintain security and respect human rights and freedoms. This looks like a mission impossible at first glance. But only because we tend to see things through the prism of the old paradigm. We need other books and authors. We need a redefinition of concepts.

First. In the fight against terrorism, we must understand that we are not dealing with an organization, but rather a movement driven by an idea that goes way beyond ethnic, linguistic and cultural differences. In order to win the fight against terrorism, military troops and technology are not enough. It is also necessary to fight with ideas. Killing and terror are now a result of religion, but of a perverted interpretation of religion, immorality of individuals with hearts of stone, and arrogant souls with a completely distorted sense of logic. We need to counter radicalization with counter-radicalization programs.

Secondly, there is much talk about human rights and freedoms, but one of the fundamental rights is neglected - the right to freedom of thought, conscience and faith. Persecuting people of different faith and belief has become more emphasized, not only in non-secular, but also in developed secular societies. It is indispensable to guarantee freedom in the true sense of that word. People need to understand that the freedom they desire for themselves should also be allowed to others, and that their own freedom will not be lasting unless others enjoy the same.

Thirdly, overcoming double standards. Who decides what news is and what will be on the cover pages? We are witnessing a selective approach. In the light of media exploited terrorist attacks in Europe, is anyone actually counting the Muslim victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria ...? Has someone stopped to ask themselves how many Muslim men, women and children have been killed these last few years in the Middle East and Northern Africa? But, at the same time, we know about statistics that have been completely ignored by mainstream media. Between 2005 and 2015, in only 10 years, 900.000 Christians tragically lost their lives because of their faith. It makes an average of 90.000 Christians every year. I have never heard global media addressing this subject to this day.

Fourth – an economically fair system. The gap between the rich global North and the poor global South is growing deeper. Out of seven billion people, only one billion is living comfortably. 767 million people are living in a situation of extreme poverty. It is no wonder, then, that millions of economic migrants without any hope for social mobility in their home countries wish to come to Europe. Therefore, we need a sustainable and inclusive order, whose aim will not only be the economic, but also the social and environmental aspect of development.

At the end, I believe that the implementation of these ideas could help us get out of the trap that we fell into by reading the wrong authors. With that, we will enable states to fight against terrorism and extremism in a way consistent to the rights and freedoms of citizens.

Thank you.