Skopje, 24 August 2019 (MIA) – We support North Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic accession and are hopeful that a date will be announced at October’s European council, British Ambassador Rachel Galloway says in an interview with MIA.
Ambassador Galloway told MIA about the importance of the rule of law, the need for reform in judiciary and adopting a new public prosecution law in terms of Euro-Atlantic accession, London’s position towards the Western Balkans and the status of Macedonian citizens living in the UK after Brexit, about the UK support to a number of projects in North Macedonia in the area of education and culture, as well as about the significance of the Chevening Scholarship and Fellowship whose scholars from across the world have become leaders and agents of change in their home countries.
UK is supporting North Macedonia for its NATO membership and opening of negotiations with the EU. Do you think that the country will receive a date to start negotiations in October when the European Council will address this issue?
We support North Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic accession and are hopeful that a date will be announced at October’s European council.
North Macedonia has shown leadership and courage when approaching the name issue and has also made important progress in a number of reforms.
The overall trend is positive, but real change requires time and sustained efforts by all stakeholders in society. EU accession process should intensity these reforms.
Officially, London is getting ready for Brexit within the planned timeframe. How will the UK exiting EU reflect on the relations between UK and the countries in the Western Balkans region, especially our country?
The UK will be leaving the EU on 31st October and we are working to secure a deal with the EU. If not possible, we will have to leave with no deal. We will make all necessary preparations to do so.
After we leave the EU, the UK will be the same country it has been in the past: dependable, open and fair. The UK will remain engaged in North Macedonia and the wider Balkans region. We are clear that the Western Balkans matter to the UK, this has been demonstrated with our quadrupled programme support, increased staffing, visits including from the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, to Skopje and the visit by Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov to the UK last month.
I believe that our already strong bilateral relationship will continue to grow in the coming years.
Will Brexit affect the rights of Macedonia citizens living in the UK?
We are working closely with the Government of North Macedonia to ensure continuity for trade, services and people. The status of Macedonian citizens living in the UK is unlikely to change.
EU and U.S. gave a clear message that in relation to the starting date for negotiations and in context of fight against crime and corruption, especially the high corruption of the ‘white collars’ who have been seen as quite important locally, the law on the public prosecution is needed to be introduced, where the SPO status will also be regulated. What if the law is not introduced, is this only a requirement or an obligation?
Political parties must put the interest of the country above all. Prosecution reform is part of the wider Rule of Law reform that is a priority of the EU, NATO and the citizens of North Macedonia. The effectiveness and integrity of the overall judiciary is a prerequisite for national stability and prosperity.
The EU Council has always been clear that legal accountability for the wrong-doings brought to the fore by the 2015 wiretaps need to be established.
The ‘Racket’ case is the top news story in the Macedonian public and has also triggered reactions from the international community. In your message that you’ve sent you highlighted that rule of law is of crucial importance for the country and possibility for the independent institutions to show dedication towards the law for all citizens. Does this mean that the ‘Racket’ case is becoming in some informal way a requirement for starting date for EU negotiations?
A quality legal framework is important, but Rule of Law depends on implementation. The Racket case is an opportunity to demonstrate an effective, timely and non-selective enforcement of the laws. Most importantly the citizens need to see that there is equal access to Rule of Law.
UK in our country gives support to a big number of projects in the area of education, culture, mostly done through the British Council. Are there any announcements for new projects?
We fund over 30 projects in addition to British Council projects you mention. Our projects range across the economy, education and good governance, which are some of the major issues people raise with me on a regular basis.
One of the most important issues they raise is the economy, which is why we are working with the World Bank to support the government in improving regulation through new budget laws and developing strategic objectives in the energy sector through the Energy Development Strategy.
We are also working with the UNDP on a project to address core issues in unemployment and bridge the ‘skills gap’ in the key industries of textile and construction.
However, economic growth is only possible if businesses have the workforce to innovate and access different markets. That is why I am looking forward to our new MladiHUB/Youth Hub programme. Which will establish a place where young people and students can get digital skills to prepare them for the demands of the increasingly digitalised labour market.
This project is great because young people who will go through the programme will also have to deliver back to the community by working to support the elderly, helping with environmental projects, providing support to local schools or helping with homework assistance.
Our projects are looking long term; this is why we are working with UNICEF to provide a programme to strengthen delivery of quality pre-school education, embedding diversity values, social and emotional competencies and cross-cultural skills in children.
One of the key projects we are working on is the 21st Century Schools programme implemented by the British Council, which works with all primary schools in North Macedonia in guiding young brains through critical thinking.
The programme will engage 1M 10-15 year olds across the Western Balkans by 2022.
And finally we continue to support good governance in the country, through a variety of projects, monitoring the work of institutions and parliament, or working directly with institutions.
We are extensively working on rule of law, helping the public prosecutor and judiciary through different projects, designing tools for improving their knowledge, organisational, administrative, technical, and resource management effectiveness and efficiency.
One of the most prestigious projects is the Chevening Award who is currently open for applications. Are you satisfied from the number of applicants from our country in the last period, what are the trends?
Since 1983, Chevening has brought over 50,000 exceptional professionals from around the world to study in the UK through scholarships and fellowships funded by the UK government.
This unique opportunity has helped to elevate careers, transform communities, shift and deepen perspectives, and build intercontinental bridges.
The number of applicants from North Macedonia is different every year and we welcome citizens from North Macedonia to submit more applications as the Chevening Scholarship and Fellowship is a unique opportunity for professionals who see themselves as future leaders in various areas of expertise.
The Chevening Alumni are highly educated individuals. What are the experiences from around the world? How are these people used by their countries and what is there status?
This year marked 35 years of global impact of the Chevening Award, during this time we have seen a range of scholars from across the world who have become leaders and agents of change in their home countries.
Some of them have become presidents, prime ministers, global business leaders, drivers for positive change, innovators, peacebuilders, empowering young people and the most disadvantaged communities.
Do you think that North Macedonia knows its professionals such as the Chevening Alumni, and does the country know how to integrate them in the system?
We have a great Chevening Alumni network in North Macedonia that is a diverse group of positive change-makers, working in various fields such as academia, public and private sector, NGOs and think tanks.
They apply their UK knowledge locally working on important areas such as gender equity, human rights, economy, finance, environment, law, business, media, cyber security, innovation, public policy, civil society, youth and others.
One good example of the Alumni network is an environmental project they are working on an with Chevening alumni in the region.
This project is funded from the Chevening Alumni Programme fund and our embassy team is providing support to the project.
We continue to support their integration back into the country after their studies and help them use their UK gained experiences and knowledge locally but we always looking at ways that we can increase they cooperation and integration.
What are the areas of expertise that the last group of Chevening Scholars should transfer their knowledge locally?
The British Embassy has welcomed 7 scholars from North Macedonia back into the country and they are working in areas such as communications, business psychology, social policy and development of non-governmental organisations, media, gender and development and environmental law.
We’ve also just received confirmation of our 6 scholars that we will bid farewell to study in the UK this September. They are going to study in areas of comparative politics; gender, violence and conflict; film postproduction; healthcare operational management and public policy. North Macedonia should use the returned scholars locally for future benefit and support of development of the country in important areas.
Photo: Frosina Naskovikj