President Stevo Pendarovski took part Friday at the third National Forum of civil society organizations (CSOs), hosted by Civica Mobilitas, a Swiss programme supporting the civil society, implemented by NIRAS from Denmark and the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC).
President Pendarovski said he was honored to be among long-standing civil society activists, who are guided by the vision of a free, just and inclusive society founded on democratic development, equality, rule of law and coexistence.
Pendarovski said the Macedonian society has been highly polarized for a while on all grounds – interethnic, intra-ethnic, political, ideological and economic.
“We are increasingly focused on what separates us while neglecting what brings us together. The political debate has been reduced to degrading the political opponent. Even during the employment process, the candidates’ partisan or ethnic background is taken into account rather than their character, education and skills. This accelerates the brain drain of highly-qualified people,” said Pendarovski.
He added that the Macedonian society could be depolarized only if it tackles several key issues – rule of law, more political accountability and de-politicization of society and de-ethnicization of politics.
Referring to the topic of open society, he said that a society in which hatred is tolerated to any community or individual loses its moral credibility.
“An open, free and just society cannot be built if it is based on intolerance or hatred towards the ones who are different. This should not be reduced only to empty and politically correct rhetoric, but a society in which people sincerely respect themselves,” noted Pendarovski.
According to him, the state institutions must find a way to not only carefully listen to the youth but also involve them in the policy creation and decision-making process.
“This needs to be done through open dialogue on the type of society we want to build not for ourselves but our grandchildren,” concluded President Pendarovski.
Questions by CSOs tackled impunity for high-level corruption, vetting of judges and cleansing of the judiciary, with the President saying that the country has solid legislation but a selective implementation of laws.
“We continue to have a culture of impunity of high officials and the responsibility should not be directed only to the judiciary or judges. Focus should not be turned away from us politicians,” said Pendarovski.
On the importance of CSOs in society, the President said he would like to see more activism on their part.
“I have a feeling that the intensity of the work of the NGO sector has subsided in recent years. I expect more frequent criticism of our work,” noted President Pendarovski.