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Evoking Churchill at the Macedonian Parliament

Ambassador Charles Garrett delivers remarks about the importance of the role of Parliament in a democracy.

On 31 August the Macedonian Parliament along with the Westminster Foundation and the British Embassy organised an event to reflect the past cooperation with the Macedonian Parliament and look into prospects for future cooperation. The event comes a day before the official return of the Macedonian opposition to the Parliament as part of working towards exiting the political crisis in the country. Our ambassador Charles Garrett used the opportunity to share few thoughts on the work of Parliament, serving the interest of the citizens, the Parliament being at the heart of Macedonia’s democracy. In his remarks ambassador Garrett said:

Почитуван Претседател на Парламентот, почитувани пратеници, колеги дипломати, претставници на медиумите, Добар ден на сите и ви благодарам на топлото добредојде.

I nderuar Kryetar i Parlamentit, Të nderuar Deputetë, kolegë Diplomatë dhe pjesmarës të mediumeve, Mirdita gjithve dhe faliminderit për mikpritjen.

I would like to invoke the spirit of one of the giants of the twentieth century. This man’s achievements have been honoured in statues and street names around the world, including right here in Skopje. If you stand on the banks of the Vardar and look up at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you will see the unmistakable figure of Winston Churchill, cigar in hand, staring down over central Skopje. In fact he seems to be looking across the Centre in the direction of this building.

And that is entirely appropriate. Churchill was first elected to Parliament in Westminster in 1900. He gave up his seat in 1964. This man, with a parliamentary career spanning 64 years, had a famously robust view of democracy. Democracy, he said, is the worst form of government…except for all the others.

That quotation could have been created for Macedonia’s parliament today. Despite the difficulties, despite the problems, it is always worth persevering because democracy is the best there is.

This Parliament lies at the heart of Macedonia’s democracy. It is, in fact, the heart of Macedonia’s democracy. It is what pumps the blood around the system, bringing oxygen to all the vital organs. It is where laws are made; where ideas are proposed and good ones passed, and bad ones amended or rejected; it is where the executive should be held to account and kept in check; it is where the country must come together, regardless of background. Above all, it is where the people are represented.

And it is that last point that is in the spot-light today. Members of Parliament, just like Ministers, diplomats and other officials, are servants of the people. It is vital that we don’t forget that point. We are here to serve the people. As an Ambassador I am paid by the British tax-payer to work for the interests of the British people. As MPs, you are paid by the Macedonian tax-payer to work for the interests of the Macedonian people. I do not think there is a greater responsibility.

I would like to quote a contemporary of Winston Churchill here. I don’t think his statue is on the roof of the Ministry. But Charles de Gaulle also played an important role in shaping Europe and had strong views on democracy. In his view, “one does not elect a man to open flower shows”. Quite right: in electing a man, or of course a woman, one is expecting them to do all they can in the interests of the people.

So tomorrow is an important day. With Parliament’s return to its full strength, the blood of democracy can start pumping again. That is good news for Macedonia. But there is no magic button to deliver success.

The Przino political agreement which brought us to this point demanded great courage and flexibility from this country’s political leaders. A successful return to Parliament tomorrow, and successful regeneration of parliamentary democracy in this building, will demand the same courage and flexibility from you as members whichever party you represent, and from all involved here. But it will also demand stamina: you will need to keep this up for the long term.

I wish you all the very best. Ви посакувам успешна работа. Ju uroj punë të mbarë.

Thank you. Ви благодарам. Faliminderit.

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