Wednesday, 17 July 2019, Washington
Address of the President Xhaferi at the Forum of the House Democracy Partnership
Dear chairmen of the House Democracy Partnership, Mr. Price and Mr. Buchanan,
Dear congressional leaders,
Colleagues, participants of this Forum,
Dear representatives of NDI and IRI,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure that these two days we have the opportunity to discuss and exchange knowledge and experiences on topics that I believe affect us as parliamentarians, unite us and most importantly, motivate us for concrete work and actions. At the beginning, I would like to thank you for the invitation and pay tribute to the work of the House Democracy Partnership and their efforts for effective, independent and responsible legislative institutions. The work of the legislator has a wide scope and diversity and therefore, new knowledge and different approaches to addressing everyday challenges is always welcomed. In addition, I would also like to thank the National Democratic Institute for their continuous cooperation and friendship with the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia, to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) which through their projects are active in many spheres of the social development of the Republic of North Macedonia and the International Republican Institute (IRI) with whom we have a long tradition of good cooperation.
The topics foreseen for discussion and exchange of experiences in these two days are of a great importance for the current political life. In my address I will focus on the topic – “Legislative Openness and Transparency to Increase Citizen Trust and Engagement”, however I do not consider other topics less relevant because they are all an integral part of the functioning of a Parliament.
Distinguished, democracy does not come at once, it is a process of mindset changing, transforming towards the better, towards a society that will care and institutions that will be equitable and equal for all. It is then when the citizens will feel them as their own and then their trust in the institutions will be unequivocal. To be so, it is necessary for institutions, particularly the legislature to be inclusive and open to the public. I will be honest and say that in 2017 when I took up this responsible position, namely when I became the President of the legislature, I faced an unnatural situation, that is, the Assembly, the home of citizens, the place where democracy is born and developed, was closed towards the citizens, namely, it was a topic that was not “a topic” for the citizens. The citizens had an idea that behind the doors, secret conspiracies are taking place, away from their eyes and ears. Together with the Presidency of the Assembly, we decided to change, i.e. to reform the way of functioning of the legislature. We opened the doors for the citizens to be able to visit and have a tour in the Assembly by announcement and previous electronic registration. Every Friday, when we have an open day, in the corridors and halls are heard wonderful clamors of curious children, pupils, students and citizens. We adopted amendments to the Law on the Assembly according to which in the work of the parliamentary committees, experts are invited from different areas who give their professional contribution in the relevant area for which they are invited. On the website of the Assembly, citizens have the opportunity to pose questions to the MPs of their constituencies and to give their recommendations and ideas. In addition, we opened the doors for various initiatives and projects that come from international institutions and organizations, domestic NGOs and movements and we intensified and deepened the international cooperation with the parliaments in the neighborhood, the region and the worlds. However, we also came out “on the field” (in quotes), i.e. the MPs of our Assembly have offices for contact with citizens in their constituencies and therefore I insist each Friday to be a day without parliamentary activities, in order for them to be able to realize this activity in the most productive way. My point is that even when we act globally, we should stay connected locally as well, because only when we will be part of the everyday life of our citizens, we can originally get to know their problems that bother them, what causes them and then we`ll be able to transform our knowledge into legal solutions adapted to the current situations, and only then the citizens will gain trust in us and in the functionality of the institutions we represent and they will be sure that their interests and wellbeing will be a priority. Guided by my previous experience of many years in the legislative and the executive power, I have set myself since the beginning a clear and unequivocal goal – I will never allow a non-functional Assembly and I will never allow party or some other interest to be in front of the citizens interest. For this to be so, it is essential to have a constant interaction between institutions and citizens. The work of the Parliaments and Assemblies around the world is not easy at all. It is complex, however, at the same time it is a challenge as well, and we must constantly adapt to the needs of the citizens and the world trends that are constantly changing. It is a huge responsibility, but simultaneously, also a privilege. In my opinion, and it is where our reforms in the legislature are focused as well, it is necessary for parliaments to have financial independence, independent services and learning from the unpleasant events in the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia on 27th April, its own independent security. The firmness of the integrity of the institution, of the MPs, the firmness with which they will stand behind their views will depend on it. Certainly, for this to be so, it is necessary for them to be well informed and prepared by a well-trained professional service that is continuously upgraded and developed. Only this way, we will have strong parliaments that will be independent in building democratic societies with actively involved citizens and effective rule of law and respect for the rights and freedoms of each individual.
Dear, we have the opportunity and privilege to be part of the creation of the history. Whether the history will remember us for creating a better world for everyone or for our destructiveness and selfishness, it is a choice that we will make on our own every day and it is a choice that we will live with on our own also every day.
In the end, I wish to thank the representatives of the United States House of Representatives for organizing this forum, for the opportunity to exchange opinions and knowledge with our esteemed and respected colleagues, which is always welcomed and I personally attach great importance to parliamentary diplomacy.
Also, I want to thank both the United States and the American people for the assistance and support they give to the Republic of North Macedonia since its proclamation of independence, through the years of strengthening its young democracy to the ultimate achievement of our strategic goals, that I believe you are all aware of, namely, the full fledged membership in NATO and EU. You are true strategic partners and confirmed friends of our country!
Thank you for the attention!