Dr. Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova is the VMRO-DPMNE candidate for the presidency of N. Macedonia. She is the first woman to run for the presidency, and is a law professor and author at St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje.
Balkan Insider: Thank you for joining us for this interview Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova and congratulations on being the first woman to run for the presidency. Speaking of which, how do you think women could be more engaged in politics, civil society, and academia, and what role do you envision women playing in your cabinet, if elected?
Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova: I have spoken about this at length. Macedonia needs to build a society where women play an active role in politics, civil society, and academia. We need public policies that will promote this. In politics the number of women in leading positions is too low. Well qualified women will be part of my cabinet.
Balkan Insider: What do you pledge within the first 100 days of taking office?
Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova: I will select the members of my cabinet carefully. With my team and other experts I will start discussions on the policies I pledge to change in the future. At the beginning of my mandate, I will establish an expert group composed of top experts in constitutional law from the country and abroad, who will locate the weaknesses of the current constitution and propose solutions in the form of amendments or perhaps a new constitution. According to the Constitution, the President of the Republic is an authorized proposer of constitutional amendments (Article 130). After more than 30 years of scientific research and expert analyzes of the contents and implementation of the Constitution, and in the light of the comparative constitutional systems, I think that the time has come for a review of a series of constitutional solutions that in practice have proved to be the Achilles heel of the Macedonian democracy. I will cite just a few examples: strengthening of the part of the constitution covering human rights with special affirmation of children’s rights, people with disabilities, environmental rights, etc.; strengthening the equality of all individuals; revision of the Constitution in the light of European integration; elimination of the obscurity about the assignment of the mandate for the formation of a new government by the President of the Republic; the dilemmas surrounding the use of the suspension veto by the President; extending the limitation of the competences of the Constitutional Court, especially in the field of human rights protection; removal of all relics from the parliamentary system, especially in terms of individual voting for each minister instead of the prime minister’s team, leading to the inability to replace the minister himself without the consent of the Assembly; the problems regarding the self-dissolution of the Parliament, i.e. introducing a principle according to which the Parliament and the Government come and go together; re-examining the need for a census in the second round of the presidential election in order to avoid paralysis of the system, i.e. eliminate this requirement in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission; redefinition of the military and state of emergency, i.e. creating a constitutional basis for a crisis situation and for crisis management.
Balkan Insider: If elected, what would you want your legacy to be by the end of your first term?
Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova: Macedonia as a country by the end of my first term will be governed by the Law and Justice and Morality, and not the will of corrupt elite. Macedonia becomes a member of NATO and is negotiating EU membership. Macedonia is a country of dignified citizens living in peace, security, harmony and well-being.
Balkan Insider: According to the World Bank, youth unemployment (ages 15-24) is at 47% – how would you engage the Macedonian youth?
Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova: I have a vision that my mandate should lead to social transformation. If rule of law is respected and the best candidates fill in the positions in the public administration then young people will have fewer incentives to leave Macedonia. Rule of law, transparency and meritocracy will also lead to better economy and more job openings for all citizens including the young. I accept the postulates of President Ivanov’s School of Leaders, as well as its institutional and human capacity. In the future, I will transform the School into a project for developing leaders in the field of social innovation and the development of social entrepreneurship through which social problems will be solved.
Balkan Insider: The Prespa Agreement has recently been making news worldwide. What is your opinion on the agreement and what benefits and drawback do you see?
Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova: As one of the founders of the European Movement of Macedonia in the 1990s, I emphasize that the determination for joining the EU and NATO is a commitment not only to all political parties, but also to the majority of the Macedonian citizens. I will work on achieving these strategic goals of Macedonia. However, I must emphasize that the Prespa Agreement, as it was adopted, is a turning point in the history of the Republic of Macedonia. At the moment, it additionally polarizes Macedonian society. The Prespa Agreement, together with the constitutional amendments, was adopted in violation of the national law and is disputable within the international law framework. The citizens are rightly questioning if the Agreement is a violation of the peremptory international norms (jus cogens): the right to self-determination, the principle of equality of states, the interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, and a serious violation of collective and individual human rights. Concerned about the possible course of implementation of the Agreement and the constitutional amendments leading to deepened divisions of the society, I consider the issue to be legally open. I will form an expert group composed of top world authorities in international law, to assess the legal viability of the Prespa Agreement in the light of the Vienna Convention and international law in general. The Macedonian people, with the changes related to the Prespa Agreement, is denied the right to self-determination, which is a jus cogens in the light of international law. Respecting the clearly expressed will of the Macedonian citizens since September 1991, as well as from September 2018, but also as a citizen, I will personally not use the adjective North.
Balkan Insider: The Macedonian diaspora in the United States is increasing politically active. How will you engage them if elected president?
Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova: The Macedonian diaspora is our inseparable part. It is necessary for us to develop a special relationship with the Macedonian Diaspora. These are people who left Macedonia, not because they wanted, but because they had to. A lot of them want to return to Macedonia at some stage of their life and start their business here. Realizing that a huge part of our GDP is precisely donations from our natives abroad, I will initiate active cooperation with the Macedonian Diaspora in order to find a model and special conditions that will enable their investments, transfer of knowledge and skills in Macedonia. Hence, one of the key priorities will be the support of the annual international conference on the role of the diaspora in the development of Macedonia. In addition, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, I will support the renovation of the Macedonian language schools. Furthermore, I propose the creation of a National Council for Cooperation with the Diaspora that will work on deepening the relations with the Diaspora in seeking the best solutions for its increased involvement in the strategic development of Macedonia.
Balkan Insider: This year marks 25 years since the United States recognized your country. If elected, what are your plans to commemorate this anniversary. What is your vision for enhancing the next 25 years of bilateral relations?
Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova: USA has been supporter of Macedonia throughout these 25 years. We have many American friends and supporters. We will commemorate 25 years since the United States recognized Macedonia with a high level event where our friends and high level diplomats will participate. I would like to deepen the partnership with the United States in the next 25 years.
Balkan Insider: What would be your first international trip if elected?
Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova: Ideally Brussels, as the center for the European Union and NATO, two international organizations we seek to join in the future. It is a strategic goal of Macedonia to become member of the Euro-Atlantic community. Among others, my mandate will be dedicated to progressing in this goal. We need reforms, but we also need vision, leadership and active support with expertise over the process as well. President’s functional responsibility encompasses signing all laws, including those that pass in the Assembly with a European flag. It is these laws that are crucial for the future of the Republic of Macedonia in the EU, and can have widespread consequences for different target groups, primarily the business community, the consumers and citizens in general. No such law must pass without a broad societal consensus. The accession process in the EU is much longer, more comprehensive and more significant than a government, its mandate and its short term swayed outlook of 4 years. This process should not be influenced by populism and cross-party bargaining. In my tenure, Macedonia will become a NATO member. However, that does not mean that the reforms have been fully completed. In two areas, according to my estimates, we can and need to upgrade in order to achieve NATO standards. I will dedicate the mandate to raising capacities for electronic and non-linear warfare and cyber defense (on the Internet), and establishing Center of Excellence for Women, Peace and Security.
Regarding the first, in recent years, the Army of the Republic of Macedonia with its participation in numerous combat and non-combat international missions, has received high marks for exercises. With qualified military personnel, the Army has proven to be a worthy partner alongside NATO countries. However, the priority in my mandate is capacity building to identify sources of threat and defense of communication and information systems, as well as the protection of critical infrastructure in future non-linear and electronic warfare. In doing so, I will work on creating an institutional mechanism and a defense policy against attacks on the Internet, of communication and information networks by hackers. In this sense, I will support trainings, exercises, research and development of technology as well as civil-military cooperation in the field of defense on the Internet. The international cooperation will be instrumental to strengthen cyber security with the EU and to promote EU principles and values in this area.
When we talk about Women, Peace and Security I note that Macedonia has not yet adopted a national plan for the implementation of the UN Convention 1325. The country and the region have very little research, awareness and knowledge as well as procedures for women’s involvement in the peace and security of the countries. All theoretical and practical experiences show that countries that have included women in their security and defense systems are stable and have the least risk of military conflict. Therefore, during my presidential term, through the establishment of a Center for Excellence for Women, Peace and Security in cooperation with NATO, I will work to promote women in the security and defense of Macedonia and the region.
Balkan Insider: The Holocaust Museum opened in Skopje in March in grand fashion and Macedonians played a major role in protecting Jews during World War II. Furthermore, the Prime Minister of Romania Viorica Dăncilă was in Washington and announced the movement of their Embassy to Jerusalem. The same week Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic was in Israel. What is your vision for work with Israel and the Macedonian Jewish community?
Dr. Siljanovska-Davkova: True, The Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia in Skopje is one of the few such Museums in the world. We respect the Jews from Macedonia very much. The Jewish community has roots and long history in Macedonia. We firmly appreciate the support we have had from Israel throughout the years. Jews from Macedonia and Jews from Israel with roots from Macedonia, are important groups that build bridges between the two countries. We would like to enhance trade with Israel. Israel is a leader in business, science and education in the region and beyond. Macedonia can learn much from Israel.