President Stevo Pendarovski addressed today the 18th International Youth Conference on “European Values for the Future of the Eastern European Countries”, which, due to the pandemics, is organized and held virtually.
Please find below the integral text of President Pendarovski’s address.
Distinguished participants in the 18th International Youth Conference,
It is my pleasure to participate in this Conference for the third time. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we are forced to meet only virtually, but, I hope that the next conference will bring us together again in the beautiful Krushevo.
This year, the organizers encouraged us to talk about a very important topic: European values for the future of Southeastern European countries. Values determine our decisions and thus determine the direction our countries will go. The politicians are constantly talking of European values and that has become an unavoidable part of the political jargon. Yet, the key question is: what do we mean by European values?
Creating a Europe united in peace is one of the most important political projects of our time. Our continent went through difficult times dominated by nationalisms, totalitarian ideologies, two world wars and millions of victims. And, after all that destruction and suffering, the leaders of the Western European countries chose to build Europe on democratic principles in which the rule of law prevails and human rights and freedoms are protected and promoted.
This idea inspired us to reform and transform the countries in our region in order to provide our citizens a prosperous life. But, if we look for a moment at the current situation in each of our countries, we will notify some worrying trends.
I know that many young people from North Macedonia are not satisfied with the results achieved in the fight against corruption and organized crime, nepotism, or with the effects of the economic and educational policies. The youth dissatisfaction is always a bad news, because it shows that politicians have failed to build an inclusive society, a growing economy and a culture of dialogue. In the same time, as long as young people are dissatisfied, but, ready to voice their dissatisfaction, there is hope for all of us. We should be much more concerned if young people are indifferent which mean they either are accepting the shortcomings of the system, or look for a better life abroad. Unfortunately, many are choosing one or the other alternative every day.
Certainly, the pandemic further complicates the already complex situation. High level of structural unemployment is projected, especially among the young people and, globally, some 180 million of them are employed in the sectors which are the most affected by the pandemic, while one in six young people in the world is unemployed.
In the dire, but, in the regular times, as well, politicians not only have to listen carefully to young people, but, to involve them in policy-making and decision-making processes. With that in mind, few days ago, I launched the Presidential Center for Political Education aiming to deepen the link between youth and institutions. This Center should help educate young people about political culture, democracy, human rights and freedoms, tolerance and solidarity. With our partners from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, and Macedonia 2025 Foundation, we want to connect with organizations at home and abroad which do believe in same ideas. It shall be our contribution to promoting European values in the region.
But, the precondition for the projected positive effects is to start negotiations for membership in the European Union during the German presidency, by the end of this year, of course. Germany is one of the most important investors in our region. But in my view, the most important German investment are the efforts for the region’s integration into the Union. The eventual blockade of the negotiations would be a failure of the Union and will inflict serious damage to its credibility in the eyes of the Macedonian citizens. It goes without saying that it will encourage even more the emigration of our young people.
An integration process on hold has always been a source of frustration and disappointment, a playing field for the nationalists, and an open invitation to malign geopolitical influences. Postponing the process will send a wrong message not only to the Macedonian citizens, but to the entire region – that a country can make even the most difficult decisions and go through the greatest sacrifices and still not get what it deserves.
It will plainly expose whether Europe is only a common market or a community of values in the same time. And whether the political decisions of the Union are based only upon the national interests of the member-states, or, the common European values are taken into consideration, as well.
Nothing speaks more about European values than the symbolism of yesterday and today. On November 9 and 10, 1989, the citizens of Berlin began to tear down the wall that divided not only the city but also Europe in two. That courageous act of freedom was an important step towards the unification of Europe in the spirit of liberty. But, this day should also remind us that before is built of concrete and barbed wire, every wall of division is first built in people’s minds and reflects their values. It all starts with our perception of the other, the different. Are identity, language, collective memory perceived as a threat or as a contribution to the common European future?
Beyond doubt, any unprincipled blockade of the European perspective of any country in the Western Balkans, will be in function of maintaining the remains of the wall that divided Europe.
Here I can envision the role of youth. Far away from the stereotypes of the past, you see the region and Europe from a different perspective – without borders and without prejudices. Your vision, certainly more that the vision of the old generation I belong to, is immune to the virus of nationalism, chauvinism, intolerance not only among states but also within the states. Hence, I encourage you to send messages to your political leaders and to the EU leaders that we need to complete the project of United Europe, but based on humanism and dignity of people.