Friday, 2 August 2019, Pelince
ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT XHAFERI ON THE OCCASION OF 2 AUGUST – THE DAY OF THE REPUBLIC
Dear Ministers in the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia,
Dear colleagues from the current and previous parliamentary compositions,
Distinguished representatives of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Army of Republic of North Macedonia,
Representatives of the Cabinet of the President of the Republic,
Distinguished representatives of the Main Board of the Association of Veterans of Macedonia from NLAWM 1941-1945 and the citizens followers,
Dear Vice-Governor of the National Bank of the Republic of North Macedonia,
Distinguished representatives of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of the Republic of North Macedonia – MANU,
Representatives of the local self-government,
Representatives of political parties in and outside the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia,
Excellencies, representatives of the diplomatic corps in the Republic of North Macedonia,
Media representatives, Distinguished citizens, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s an honour to stand in front of you today, as President of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia, and it’s a privilege to greet you and wish you welcome on behalf of the Assembly and the deputies in the legislature, here, in front of the ASNOM Memorial Centre in Pelince. We are commemorating today the two events of Ilinden, the 1903 – 116th anniversary of the Krushevo Republic and 1944 – the 75th anniversary of the First Assembly of ASNOM, the two pillars in the foundation of the statehood, and I believe the slogan “We are all children of Ilinden”, which was determined at the meeting of the Organizational Board in the Government in coordination with the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia and the President of the Republic, could not be more appropriate and more convenient, as it is a true concept that depicts common values we all celebrate and honour, values that unite and bind us, make us proud and united citizens of our common state. Our state is a fusion of diversities, a unique mosaic where each unique piece grew and developed from its roots, as a past and present confirmation of the longevity and perseverance of the peoples that lived and were part of this region. Of course, it has not been easy over the years, it is not easy now, nor will it be in future. This piece of land was certainly not exempt from global events and consequently those events had a spillover effect on the development path of the state.
However, there was the guiding star, the desire for a common, free, independent state, a state in which respect for human rights and freedoms is equal for all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or any other affiliation. If we look at the famous Krushevo Manifesto, a document written one hundred and sixteen years ago and still relevant today, I quote, "... come with us brothers, let us melt our souls and hearts together and be saved, so that we and our children and grandchildren live in peace, work in peace and prosper" (end of quote), then if we look at the ASNOM documents of 1944, which clearly define those general and specific human rights and freedoms that establish the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-confessional character of our state, we will see that history, events throughout history have themselves determined the path we need to take. Reason imposed the need to unite towards a single, natural and viable goal – a common home for all who had a clear vision, wisdom and reason, a dream for which they gave the most precious - their life. Many known and unknown heroes, many young lives, mothers' tears, and sorrow and mourning in the hearts. This is evident from the written factographic history but also from the many sad songs and legends that are passed down from generation to generation, so that the dream and the vision continue living and the aspiration endures through all the ordeals.
And that centuries-old dream, that centuries-long desire for a free, independent and sovereign state, came true on September 8, 1991, when the citizens voted at a referendum for an independent, sovereign state, and the basic postulates, which the leaders of both the first and the second Ilinden foresaw as a foundation for the state building and the development of civil society, were incorporated in the highest legislative act - the Constitution of the State. In addition, the strategic goals which are of crucial importance to the country's progress were determined. The goals for which the majority of citizens at the very beginning of our independence shared and still share a common commitment – a full membership and integration to the European Union and NATO.
28 years of an independent, sovereign, free state. Each year with new challenges, many hurdles and new crises. It has not been easy, yet we all managed to overcome and move forward in achieving our strategic goals. Our journey did not always go hand in hand with our ambitions and desires. Certainly the key role was and always is in the hands of those that the state is entrusted to, as is its progress and development, its security and safety. I hereby refer to everyone, both the government and the opposition, since everyone acquired part of the legitimacy and responsibility given by the highest sovereign - the people. It is up to us, our vision and wisdom, to justify that precious confidence, to fulfill the promises and commitments. We are all equally responsible for the ups and downs on the road.
Even though we started very ambitiously, with the eyes of the international community focused on us, as a country that was among the first in the region to become a candidate country, the process has not yet been completed and we have been treading water for a decade. The same applies to our integration into the NATO Alliance. Even though we opted for membership in this alliance with the Resolution of 1993, and were granted a candidate status in 1999, this process is still not completed. I could begin to list the reasons and answers why this is so, or point my finger and blame someone for what they did or maybe didn't do at the right moment, but that would be of no use and it would not bring back the irretrievably lost time in our recent history. However, it is important that we are back on the path we have chosen since the very beginning, the NATO and EU integration.
It wasn't easy, nor simple! The past two and a half years are perhaps the hottest years in the history of this country, and I certainly do not refer to the weather conditions. This was a period of making difficult but state-building decisions that unblocked our path to the Euro-Atlantic integration, a period in which both citizens and the state matured politically; we got back on track with our Euro-Atlantic integration and dedicated ourselves to establishing and building good neighborly relations; we had intensive diplomacy and active participation of the state institutions in the regional and international events; we actively participated and continue to participate in the NATO Alliance's peacekeeping missions, where our representatives are side by side the representatives of the full member states and, among other things, we contributed to the eradication of prejudices and stereotypes such as the Balkans is a 'barrel of gunpowder'.
This is a time of courageous leaders with vision and reason, who see Europe united and whole with all countries that are both geographically and civilizationally a natural part of it. The Republic of North Macedonia is cited as an excellent example of resolving interstate disputes. All institutions, the non-governmental sector, all citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia are unanimously and unwaveringly committed to meeting the requirements for the full membership in NATO and EU, and we all legitimately expect to become part of NATO and the EU.
And today, here in Pelince, and in every corner of the Republic of North Macedonia and everywhere in the world where our citizens live and earn their bread and butter honestly, the day when August 2 - the Day of the Republic is celebrated, I can gladly conclude that all the effort made so far and the utmost commitment of all the political actors in the country have already yielded their concrete positive results.
I will name this section of my address as From Ilinden to NATO, because I believe that the success we have achieved in this area is a third Ilinden to our state, that is, we have cemented its foundations with an additional layer.
Namely, in terms of NATO, I am immensely and personally proud that, with regard to the fact that in the course of my professional engagement as an MP, a Deputy Minister and a Minister of Defense, and now as President of the Legislature where the necessary reform laws are adopted, I have had a personal stake in perhaps achieving a fantastic record. Namely, after the ratification of the Protocol for the membership of the Republic of North Macedonia in NATO in the National Parliament of Greece on February 6 this year, the dynamics of the ratification of the Protocol is proceeding with unprecedented pace. Of the 29 NATO member states, 21 have ratified the Protocol and four are in the process, giving us the right to believe that the process will be completed by the NATO Summit in London in December this year, when we would finally become the 30th full member of this powerful military alliance. I am proud and pleased that the first of the two strategic goals set after the independence of the country will finally be fulfilled and that we will finally be able to come out before our respected citizens with concrete results and say:
Yes - the mission is fulfilled;
Yes - the promise is honoured!
However, it is not over yet. The achievement of the second strategic goal is still just being announced, we do not have the long-awaited concrete date for the start of negotiations with the European Union yet. Could have we been more fulfilling? Of course we could, and we can. We achieved a great deal indeed, but now we need a concrete – not only declarative – will for reforms, and a concrete demonstration of that will by all active policy makers in the country, whether from the government or the opposition. As I said at the beginning, we are all holders of the legitimacy entrusted to us by the citizens and it is high time to deliver a concrete result for that confidence, so that in October this year we receive the exact date for the start of negotiations for full membership in the Union.
Membership in the European Union and NATO implies the rule of law and order in the country, without discrimination, with respect for the rights and freedoms of all citizens equally, regardless of their ethnic, religious, racial, political affiliation and gender. Membership will mean European standards for a dignified life, competitive working and business conditions, quality education opportunities and scientific research for our young enthusiasts and senior professionals who will be able to spread their wings and horizons and then proudly return and apply the learned knowledge in their home country because - we, by this I mean my Albanian community, have a saying - "the stone weighs in its own place", which means that the joy and pride of the success achieved at home has a special beauty and weight to it.
I want to thank you and express my respects to you from this place because, regardless of all the ups and downs, regardless of the turmoil and crises we have been through, you, the citizens, regardless of your ethnic, religious, political or any other affiliation, you did not allow the spirit of togetherness, coexistence and tolerance to be disturbed. These are the values you have upheld throughout our shared history, the values you uphold in everyday life, as you have always known to share the beautiful, and the not so beautiful moments of life. And today, as we celebrate the two Ilinden events and express immense respect and gratitude to all Ilinden participants, I would like to thank all the citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia for their perseverance, their loyalty and for their responsible conveying of the will of the Ilinden participants, you are only confirming what the slogan of this 2nd of August says - "We are all children of Ilinden".
We have one common state and we are all responsible for safeguarding and developing it, for us and for the future generations. It is our debt to all those who fought for such a civil state, a society of all citizens in which our children, grandchildren and future generations will grow, as they deserve to live, grow, be educated and work in an European Republic of North Macedonia, a modern and prosperous state of European citizens.
Thank you for your attention and have a beautiful festive day!