President of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 28 June 2000

Lord Russell- Johnston, members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour for me to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I should like to express my deep condolences for the death of Mr Pierre Pflimlin, a former President of the Council of Europe and former mayor of Strasbourg.

I should like to refer to two broad topics. The first is about the situation in Southeastern Europe and how it relates to the Republic of Macedonia. The second topic is my vision for Europe in the twenty-first century and how we, as Europeans, can achieve it. In a world seemingly always filled with bad news, I bring you good news today. I am pleased to tell you that the situation in Southeastern Europe is improving, despite the existing problems. That is largely due to your efforts, for which we thank you.

In Albania, reforms are moving forward. Relations are constantly improving at a bilateral level. Our government has concluded a number of agreements with our friends there, which will prove beneficial to both peoples. We have intensive and fruitful co-operation through joint regional projects under the Stability Pact. To our south, co-operation with our friends in Greece continues to improve in all areas of mutual interest, especially with regard to new economic initiatives that take place between our two states almost weekly. There is also excellent co-operation with another Nato member country from our region, the Republic of Turkey. My friend President Petar Stojanov from Bulgaria recently visited my country. Our two countries have signed nine different bilateral agreements covering a variety of issues. Those agreements will enhance the positive environment for co-operation between the two countries.

The Serbian regime in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is the main obstacle to stability in the region. We must all redouble our collective efforts to bring Yugoslavia into the family of European nations, where its citizens want to be and where they belong.

In Montenegro, local elections were recently held, which verified the reforms and the democratic path taken by President Djukanovic. That country needs our support and encouragement. It deserves it, and it is the right thing to do.

The position in Kosovo is improving despite the seriousness of the situation. It is necessary to build a democratic and multi-ethnic society, and to respect all human rights and freedoms, including the rights of all ethnic groups. We are concerned about the violence and the large number of inter-ethnic incidents, because tensions may spread out into neighbouring countries. Therefore, we think that Kfor should increase its presence and activities on the border in order to prevent any possibility of a spill-over of the violence into neighbouring countries, and to prevent organised crime and extremism from spreading throughout the region.

How does all this relate to the Republic of Macedonia? Many have called my country an island of stability, and at times that has been true. The Republic of Macedonia is the only country in the former Yugoslavia to have avoided war and bloodshed. However, I do not want my country to be only an island of stability. I want the Republic of Macedonia to be part of a peninsular of stability in Southeastern Europe.

How can we build that peninsular of stability in Southeastern Europe? There are some common ways of doing that to which most freedom-loving states subscribe. In our own countries, good relations with our neighbours, continued economic co-operation, improved political co-operation and enhanced cultural and educational ties will all lead to greater stability. All states and all peoples of the region have a duty to involve themselves in such activities.

Outside our own country, the international community can support the Republic of Macedonia and our neighbours in our efforts to create greater stability and to become exporters of that stability. The Stability Pact is an excellent basis for the development of neighbourly co-operation, but a major effort is needed to give the Stability Pact greater impact.

I cannot go on without mentioning in this context the importance that the Republic of Macedonia places on the construction of corridor No. 8. Its political and cultural importance will be even greater than its economic importance and its importance for communication. It will make communication among people from Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey much easier, and they will get to know each other better. That will eliminate many historical prejudices.

The Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Ministers of Europe, in the recommendation adopted last April, recognised the merit of the Republic of Macedonia in sheltering refugees. It was a great responsibility, but we undertook that task because it was the right thing to do. The Republic of Macedonia deserves international support and encouragement because it has more than two million people who are part of Europe, who want to be part of Euro-Atlantic structures, who love freedom and who embrace free market principles.

Political support from Strasbourg, especially the appeal for economic assistance, has been welcomed. It is necessary and has contributed towards greater stability. I want to say for the record that we all recognise that the key to stability in the region is economic prosperity. That will come through the economic assistance offered to the Republic of Macedonia as well as economic development through foreign direct investment. Therefore, I ask you to encourage foreign direct investment flows to Macedonia. We will meet you in this endeavour as we continue to reform our laws in order to make this work.

The Republic of Macedonia is aware that the countries of the region have an important responsibility in overcoming the difficulties, and it is ready by itself and in co-operation with its neighbours, as has been the case up to now, to pursue its activities so as to ensure the conditions for prosperity in the region. We believe, and expect that in doing so, we will have wide international support. We particularly expect that any tendency to create ethnically pure countries and to promote the concept of “greater states”, by any side, will be fully discouraged, as unfortunately that remains the major threat to peace in the region. Instead of changing the borders, we should open them to the European spirit.

Internally, the Republic of Macedonia is continually working to improve its own stability. One way to do that is through economic prosperity, the rule of law and increased tolerance. My government has undertaken serious economic and political reforms and important laws have been adopted, especially on market economy development and the acceleration of privatisation. At the same time, we are working on education, social policy and local administration reforms. Those are ongoing and painful, but necessary. The results of that process are expected this year and we will need your continued support to let our citizens know that we are on the right course.

In that context, it is a pleasure to inform you that the new law on higher education, which was prepared in cooperation with the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities, Mr Max van der Stoel, and his team of experts, will soon be presented to the parliament. That law will make higher education in the Republic of Macedonia compatible with the European standard and provide a legal framework for the resolution of the issue of higher education for minorities. High Commissioner van der Stoel’s proposal to create a private Albanian- language higher education institute will be implemented as soon as the law is adopted. Also, the elimination of that issue, which for years has created tensions in relations between the majority and the minority, will improve cohesion in Macedonian society. Adopting the law will allow the Republic of Macedonia to ratify the European Charter for Minority or Regional Languages.

Our strong determination to be members of Euro- Atlantic structures such as the European Union and Nato shows our desire to be more stable, more secure and more prosperous. I believe that the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia have shown their willingness to do their part to achieve that, and I know that Brussels recognises that.

Let me share with you my vision for Europe in the twenty-first century and the way in which we, as Europeans, can fulfil it. The unity of our European continent at the very beginning of the twenty-first century is a necessary precondition not only for the development of the continent, but for a lasting peace. European values and fundamental moral principles, to which we all subscribe, must be administered and spread equally and justly. As a great civil rights leader once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Allow me briefly to touch on some issues that I feel are greatly important to us all as we lead and guide Europe into the twenty-first century. My vision for Europe is one in which the rule of law is strengthened through the commitment of all European states to respect for human rights. In that regard, the European Court of Human Rights must remain a symbol of that commitment, continue to be independent and be given the support that it needs.

Our children and our young people – our most important assets – must be given support, encouragement and the tools that they need to excel at leading Europe and, indeed, the world as they mature and come into leadership roles in government, business, education and society. At the same time, however, they must be given discipline and guidance as we teach them values, morals, the importance of hard work and the need to be creative. Our education systems must be strengthened and our children and our young people must be given an excellent education that is second to none. In that regard, I hope that you will support my country’s initiative for the Euro-Balkan youth centre at our own Lake Ohrid.

The Europe of the twenty-first century must be more than a continent free of war. The Europe of the twenty- first century must be more than a continent in which peace reigns. The Europe of the twenty-first century must be a continent in which open borders rule and people are free to travel from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The Europe of the twenty-first century must have a united economy. Some have even suggested that the euro should be extended, even now, to Southeastern Europe to foster stability. The Europe of the twenty-first century must expand new business mechanisms such as e-commerce. The Europe of the twenty-first century must be a pioneer in science, technology, education and health. The Europe of the twenty-first century must be creative and innovative in finding new solutions to the many problems that will face all our people in this brave new world.

Allow me to conclude my address by again turning to the region from which I come. I am deeply convinced that the process of stabilisation of the region will be concluded when the countries of that region are integrated in Nato and the European Union – when Europe becomes a common home for us all. In that context, I stress that the stability and the development of the region will not be complete without the inclusion of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Therefore, all democratic powers and efforts for democratisation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should be encouraged.

We must all work towards the future enhancement and promotion of fundamental values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. The full realisation of those objectives depends, above all, on the complete commitment of each country to those values. The behaviour of the Republic of Macedonia, even in most difficult times, has shown that the realisation of the values promoted by the Council of Europe remains our top priority. I believe that you will agree with that remark. The fact that you have recommended the lifting of the monitoring procedure for the Republic of Macedonia is the best proof of that.

It has been a great pleasure to address you today. Thank you for your time, your attention and your support.


Thank you very much, Mr Trajkovski, for your forward-looking and enlightened address. It is nearly 1.20 p.m., and we have nine questions. We shall do our best to get through them, but we must – absolutely must – stop at 1.30 p.m. I cannot ask the interpreters to go a minute past that. It is very generous of them to have gone this far and I assure you that that is very much appreciated.

The first pair of questions on the Stability Pact come from Mr Jaskiemia and Mr Kirilov. Mr Jaskiernia?


Mr Trajkovski, you spoke interestingly about joint regional projects that you would like to realise within the Stability Pact. Can you tell us a little more about the goals of the project and what support you expect from the Council of Europe and its member states to make it succeed?

Mr KIRILOV (Bulgaria)

Mr Trajkovski, it was a pleasure to hear your speech. You assessed the Stability Pact in general and mentioned corridor No. 8. What other priorities is your country setting for Stability Pact infrastructure projects? Within those priorities, where does the railway link between Bulgaria and Macedonia stand?

Mr Trajkovski, President of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"

As far as the Stability Pact is concerned, I should like to return to history. In the years after the defeat of the Axis powers, the American Secretary of State, George Marshall, reported that the recovery of Europe was less successful than expected and that disintegration was evident. He said that the patient was sinking while the doctors decided what to do. George Marshall warned that it was necessary to rebuild the region and that speed and determination were vital to recovery. I repeat that call: disintegration is evident in the ethnic crisis in the region, and decisions must be taken as soon as possible.

The Stability Pact aims to build a more prosperous, market-oriented democratic country. Macedonia will contribute positively to building prosperity and peace in the region. My vision of the implementation of the Stability Pact is based on the principles of justice, prosperity and tolerant co-existence.

We need the implementation of the Stability Pact. Macedonia has supported the initiative from the beginning and is chairing table No. 2. We have great expectations for the Stability Pact. As I said earlier, realisation of corridor No. 8, along with economic measures, is needed to create an environment in which our people will have greater chances of communication. From the strategic and political points of view, corridor No. 8 is also important. The enhancement of our democracy depends on the economic prosperity of the countries covered by the Stability Pact.

It is most important that we continue to improve electric power connections with Bulgaria and Albania. We are co-operating bilaterally and trilaterally with those two countries, and we can achieve improvement. We expect financial support, and I ask members of the Parliamentary Assembly to lobby their national assemblies to support realisation of the Stability Pact.


Thank you, Mr Trajkovski. Only four minutes remain, so the next three speakers are the only three that we can call. There are three questions on tolerance and minorities. I shall call Mr Begaj, Mr Telek and Mr Toshev. Please be brief, Mr Begaj.

Mr BEGAJ (Albania)

Bearing in mind the desire of our two neighbouring friendly countries to strengthen co-operation and friendship within the framework of the Stability Pact, and bearing in mind your interesting personality as the president of a friendly Macedonia, voted for both by Macedonians and by the majority of Albanians in your country, when is it planned to open the university at Tetova, as promised by your Prime Minister less than a year ago in this Hémicycle?

Mr TELEK (Turkey)

Throughout the war and the crisis that raged in Southeastern Europe, the Republic of Macedonia, under an able leadership and government, successfully steered through instability and continued its determined democratic and pluralistic development. As you are situated at the core of a region most unfavourably affected by ethnic strife, and as your country contains minorities of different ethnicities, including Turks, Albanians, Serbs and Roma, how do you define the factors that preserved, and even strengthened, the unity of the Republic, and do you think that the Macedonian experience cap be an example of, or a case study for, the promotion of peace, harmony and stability in the region?

Mr TOSHEV (Bulgaria)

Welcome to our Assembly, Mr President.

I recall that during your election campaign, you made a statement promoting ethnic tolerance, which is of great importance to your country. You condemned isolated cases of xenophobia against Albanians and those who identify themselves as Bulgarian by origin. Now that you have been elected as president, what role do you plan to play in the fight against xenophobia and in favour of ethnic tolerance?


Thank you, Mr Toshev. Mr President, if you could finish by 1.30 p.m., you may have a medal.

Mr Trajkovski, President of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"

Do I have three minutes?


It would be good of you if we could finish by 1.30 p.m. Brevity is the soul of wit.

Mr Trajkovski, President of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"

Macedonia’s experience during the past ten years provides a good example of interethnic tolerance. Indeed, it is perhaps the most important example of interethnic tolerance. The preservation and development of minorities in our country is one of my priorities as president. We provide a model for co-existence and the establishment of an equilibrium between ethnic groups in our countries, as has been proved over the past year. All ethnic minority groups have proved loyal and co-operative during a most difficult time. Macedonia provides a good example.

I do not wish to generalise too much in case it is felt that there is xenophobia in my country. That word may have been misused during our election campaign, but there is no reason to suggest that there is xenophobia in Macedonia.

I was asked about the point in my speech at which I said that we had proposed a draft law on education, which would incorporate educational rights for minorities. That law is supported by the High Commissioner for National Minorities, Mr Van der Stoel, who has made a great contribution to shaping that law. It provides a good example of how the problems of the past ten years have been solved.


Thank you very much, Mr Trajkovski. I am very sorry that the occasion had to be foreshortened for the reasons that I mentioned. I also thank all present for their patience. I again thank the interpreters very much for staying, and for making our session possible.