The democracy rally held in Skopje yesterday (Sunday 17 May) with at least 50,000 participants shows that the people of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are not satisfied with the situation in the country and want more democracy.
Also the fact the yesterday’s multi-ethnic protests remained peaceful, has been welcomed by the members of the S&D Group of the European Parliament participating in and observing the demonstration.
Speaking at the rally Knut Fleckenstein, S&D vice-chair responsible for foreign affairs, said:
“We came to Skopje to show our solidarity, not only with our social democratic friends, but with all those who are peacefully demonstrating here for democracy and for the respect of fundamental freedoms.
“Macedonia needs to move towards more democracy, towards an independent judiciary, towards an independent media and towards success in the fight against corruption and crime, whether by individual private people or by elected officials.
“These four issues are closely linked. Determined reform is required in these areas now, this is what will bring Macedonia closer to the European Union.”
Richard Howitt MEP, S&D Group’s foreign affairs coordinator, who was present at the protests as an “observer”, said that fundamental questions must be answered if the task of restoring political dialogue is to succeed.
“The absence of repetition of the scenes of last week’s protests suggests the joint call from political leaders against violence has been heeded, at least so far, enabling the European Union to remain engaged in seeking to facilitate political dialogue between the parties, which must address the depth of the current crisis if it is to succeed.
“This was a democracy protest drawing together many elements in society, and there is no doubt that fundamental questions are being debated not just on the streets, but across the country about legitimacy, security and democratic governance.
“Existing EU-inspired reform efforts have clearly been insufficient in addressing those questions, and any new political agreement to restore confidence inside the country and outside it, must prove a willingness to embrace fundamental answers too.”
Earlier Richard Howitt MEP travelled to Kumanovo to meet the Mayor and visit victims of a terror attack a week ago in which 18 people died.
Also S&D MEP, Sergei Stanishev, in his capacity as the president of the Party of European Socialists participated and spoke at the rally.