Balkan Insider interviewed United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) President Meto Koloski on the recent homophobic slur from Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and the Special Prosecutor’s Office “raket” scandal.

What is UMD’s response to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev using a homophobic slur while talking to the media on Tuesday and his apology on Twitter saying he used the word as a “character trait and not sexual orientation?”

It’s unprecedented to hear a high ranking government official, let alone a sitting Prime Minister, to use such a homophobic slur. Irresponsible and unacceptable. Instead of being a role model in society, he chose to demean the LGBT community in Macedonia. His apology did not help improve the situation either as he stated that the slur he used was to reference a “character trait” and not “sexual orientation.” Thus, if someone is LGBT immediately it means they have a negative “character trait” is how I understand the message.

We hope leaders in the country will show real statesmanship in the future and not use offensive words, which further homophobia, and hatred and discrimination against individuals or groups.

How does UMD hope the US Embassy and State Department respond to PM Zaev?

They should issue a statement expressing their disappointment without a doubt.

The first Pride Parade was successfully held in Skopje on June 29, 2019  – how does UMD hope LGBTQ+ rights advance in N. Macedonia?

We are pleased that the Pride Parade occurred without any attacks or chaos, like we have seen in places like Serbia. The rights of any minority should be protected under law and appropriate course of action taken should those rights be jeopardized. Freedom of assembly and expression is a key human right. Macedonians particularly know how it is to be a marginalized discriminated community, such as in places like Bulgaria, and Greece. I fear as a result of the Prespa Agreement, the human rights situation of ethnic Macedonians is at greater risk, even within the Republic of Macedonia. Equal human rights must be achieved for all.

As you well know, just one Senator can hold up a vote on NATO enlargement. Many Senators have taken a stand for the LGBTQ+ community. Do you see this incident delaying a Senate vote this fall?

Macedonia has met the requirements for NATO membership. Neither the country nor the people should be put in jeopardy because of Zoran Zaev’s insulting comments. We do not foresee delay of a Senate vote.

How do you think Washington will respond to the most recent allegations?

The recent racketeering scandal has been rocking Macedonian society for a couple months at the very least. The fact that the Special Prosecutor, whose mandate to tackle corruption and gross violations of power was strongly supported by the U.S. and the EU, is allegedly involved in the scandal puts rule of law gravely at jeopardy, and faith in institutions at greater risk. Instead of insisting there be a Special Prosecutor’s Office, the U.S. and the EU should help advance the constitutional court system in the country to be able to tackle such cases, without fear of political pressure, bribes, and the like. Rushing a new law on the Special Prosecutor’s Office is not the proper route, and only checks a box and does nothing to rectify the situation.

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