By Aleksandar Krzhallovski
Last week offered a few events that may deserve a comment. From the continuing involvement of the leading parties with the fate of the SPO, through the celebration of Independence Day, to international developments with new episodes of Brexit.
For the latter, related to the Brexit drama, I have already written here several times, so this time I would not comment on it much, except to once again say I am impressed by the continued demonstration of functional democracy in the British Parliament. Namely, it thwarted the attempt by the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson to prevent the Parliament from essentially taking part in deciding on the UK’s exit from the EU on October 31 (as a reminder, the deadline after failing to do so on March 29 as originally planned), which he wants to happen even if there is no agreement with the Union. On the contrary, he is now obliged by law to reach an agreement (which would need to be better than what former Prime Minister Theresa May managed to get in order to be passed) or to ask the EU for a new delay on Brexit. In the spirit of traditional British (black) humor, Johnson said “I’d rather be dead in a ditch than seek a new delay”. These two months are going to be interesting, so we might go back to that.
Here I was impressed by the celebration of September 8 – Independence Day, i.e. the absence of the name Macedonia, and even the new name of the country – North Macedonia from the promotional materials for the central event of the celebration, at the Shkolka (Shell) in the City Park in Skopje. I even lacked in the Government’s invitation. President Pendarovski’s 2-minute address only once mentioned Macedonia, which is right – as independent and sovereign, interesting – without the use of the Republic and without North. Only in the rather longer (15 minutes) speech of Prime Minister Zaev, the name of the country – North Macedonia, was mentioned 5-6 times, but also there – the terms: our (beautiful) country, our homeland, our country were used more often. A few years ago we were arguing with the European Union about these things – how much of their progress reports mentioned the name of the country, as well as the adjective “Macedonian”, and now we limit ourselves to avoid saying North Macedonia, we are not saying Macedonia, but our country/ homeland/state. Not that I criticize others, because I too often do (or ‘catch’ myself that I have subconsciously done so). Not the same, right?
But let’s not look too much into the past, as politicians would say, this week (will) have some interesting events. A new leadership meeting is announced (unfortunately this remains the main way of resolving the stalled processes, instead of learning from the oldest democracy – Britain), and we are also looking forward to the new European Commission composition, which Ursula von der Leyen presented, but still without department schedules. It is certainly important for us to see who will be the Enlargement Commissioner – if any. Johannes Hahn is proposed to continue as Euro-Commissioner, but is likely to change his portfolio. Interestingly, the team is fully gender balanced (same number of women and men), and the average age is 56 (a little different from ours…we need to ask why?).
We will see about this as well, but concluding that I least write about what I actually working on most – civil society, I wanted to address a little and announce an upcoming event this Saturday – Civil Society Day. Namely, within the framework of the program of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) Civica Mobilitas, implemented by the Danish Niras and the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC), at the new (or newly-regulated) Square Ibni Pajko (between the Macedonian Opera and ballet, the Macedonian Philharmonics, the Faculty of Music and Daut Pasha Amam) and the plateau near Skenderbeg Square, over 80 CSOs will present their work and activities. In addition to their booths featuring publications, research from various fields, posters and messages from the many campaigns they have organized, some of the organizations will also have demonstrations of some of their activities in front of the citizens who will visit this Civic Mobilitas Festival between 11 am and 2 pm. It will include educational sessions, presentations and promotions, as well as creative workshops (for children and not only for them).
Presence and participation of various CSOs is expected, many from Skopje and all over Macedonia. There will be some activist (politically active, non-partisan) organizations (part of them participants in the Colorful Revolution), but many more organizations dealing with more everyday problems and concerns of citizens in various areas such as the environment, non-formal education, health, culture, sport and recreation, rural development, etc. The festival should be a good opportunity to get acquainted with the diversity of the civil society sector in Macedonia, the activities and achievements of CSOs (at least those that will be present and represented at the event), recognition of common interests and possible inclusion of new citizens in their work, and for exercise of certain rights or purposes. This should also help to reduce some of the stereotypes about CSOs, such as those for “money laundering” and “foreign mercenaries”, since many of them have only small funds or are not funded at all from the government, or from foreign donors (and when they are, those funds are used for the purpose and transparently published in the organizations’ annual reports).
It will probably be too ambitious to expect from the event different debates, alternative models, and even calls for a change in the political situation and the political parties themselves, as a precondition for coming out of the “vicious circle” of polarization and constant sinking in affairs and political crises towards a better society and dynamic development and prosperity…because it is intended as a festival, and no forums/debates on certain topics are projected, but in this case too, many suggestions from CSOs for improving in specific areas such as the fight against corruption, environmental protection, equality and multiculturalism, and so on can be seen/heard.
Of course, the festival will also be an opportunity for (constructive) criticism of the present (and other) organizations, remarks on their work, requests to include specific issues in their further engagements, or suggestions for more effective action in their fields.
So you can also consider this an invitation to attend and attend the festival and a space for direct interaction with many CSOs and their representatives, members, activists and volunteers, including my organization and myself, as a substitute for Facebook comments that is, a little more real than virtual reality. Of course, this does not exclude the possibility of commenting on social media about the role and achievements of CSOs! On the contrary, it is precisely part of civic activism, participation and influence, especially when discussing topics from the columns (not their authors or other commentators).
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