Almost three decades ago, in 1991, in a referendum, an overwhelming majority of our citizens voted to live in an independent, free and democratic Republic of Macedonia. Since then we have had ups and downs in the fight for democratic values. The path we took then is not easy, says President Stevo Pendarovski in his remarks on Independence Day.

It requires politicians who make decisions in the interests of citizens, transparent institutions, constant dialogue between government and opposition, civil society sector that reviews the work of each government, and free media working for the public interest, not dictated by politics or business. Moreover, democracy does not recognize discrimination on the basis of nationality or ethnicity, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, social origin, religious or political belief, disability or any other basis, he stresses.

This year, Pendarovski adds, was difficult for us and for the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “A crisis that affected all spheres of our lives and left lasting consequences on the way we work, socialize, the way our children study. The pandemic will surely be with us for some time and will make additional pressure on the whole society. But with joint efforts, dedication and hard work we can overcome these problems.”

This year was also a year of our great mutual success. After resolving the decade-long name dispute with Greece and implementing the necessary reforms, we became a full-fledged member of NATO and thus fulfilled one of the two main strategic goals in the foreign policy. This year we expect another success – a formal start of EU membership negotiations. If there is a spoken national consensus on that issue, a real, concrete consensus is needed now between the government and the opposition, the non-governmental sector and the business community to quickly complete the negotiations because they are an extremely important tool for the improvement of the lives of all our citizens, the President says.

Pendarovski urges the citizens to remain vocal and to constantly demand responsibility from the politicians, because ‘we are obliged to work in your interest.’

It is a common imperative in the coming years to live much better than before. With a lot of work and mutual respect we will surely achieve this, President Pendarovski concludes.