Interview with Stefan Bogoev (Social Democratic Youth of Macedonia)

Our President Laura Slimani interviewed the leader of the Social Democratic Youth of Macedonia. Check it out!

Stefan, you are the President of the Social democratic youth of Macedonia. Can you please tell us more about the political events that have shaken your country over the past year?

In the past ten years, Macedonia has been under the regime of Nikola Gruevski and right-wing VMRO-DPMNE. In 2006, when they came into power, they found an EU candidate country (candidate status gained when Social Democratic Union of Macedonia was in power) and the country had stability and economic growth. However, the past 10 years were filled with crime and corruption which escalated with brutal expulsion of the opposition MPs and journalists from the plenary session of the Parliament where the budget was discussed on December 24th, 2012. Two years after in 2014, a big wiretapping scandal happened in the country. We as a party, published dozens of conversations between government officials, MPs, mayors, the Prime Minister Gruevski etc. The secret police wiretapped around 26 000 people in the country including journalists, judges, diplomats, politicians, representatives of the NGOs as well as ordinary citizens. They also wiretapped their ministers, mayors, MPs. However, what turned out to be even more scandalous is the content of these conversations. From criminal election of judges, electoral fraud, corruption of politicians and media to concealment of murder of a young man on the city square in Skopje, on a rally of Gruevski’s party.
On the other hand, we as an opposition demanded, and with the help of the people of Macedonia and of the international community managed to force the ruling party on forming a Special Prosecutor Office to investigate the wiretapping scandal as well as transitional government, clearance of the voters list, regulation of the media, resignations of the Prime minister, ministers which were part of the scandal and of the chief of the secret police. In the meantime, the president of the country, who is close to the ruling party, misused his right for pardoning and pardoned all government officials who were part of crime, corruption, electoral fraud or wiretapping. With the enormous pressure of the citizens of Macedonia, of the opposition and of the international community, after months he withdrew this decision. We now see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we are going to win the early parliamentary elections, scheduled for 11th of December.

Are you hopeful about the upcoming elections?

Definitely yes! People in Macedonia are already aware of the situation in the country and this can be best seen on the protests on the streets and in the polls. Especially youngsters recognise that our coalition is the only solution for the situation and that it is the only option that can get thighs done in this country. The hard part of our struggle comes after the elections, we will need to restore democratic institutions that are occupied by the regime of Gruevski, as well as to create stable economic growth and open new job places, especially for young people. We will also need to move the country forward towards NATO and the EU. When we were in power we showed to the people that we can, and I’m sure that we will do it once again. Macedonia’s place is in the EU, there is no other option for our country!

What are the main messages that you are campaigning on?

Returning back freedom and democracy in the country , as they were completely abolished by the regime, by implementing the rule of law and restoring democratic, state institutions.
Returning the middle class in the society because right now we have only 1% that are extremely rich because of being close to the ruling party on the back of 99% working for them. We stand for progressive taxation, higher minimum wage, and protection of workers’ rights; higher average wage and higher social transfers in order to combat the high level of poverty in the country; opening of new job places and creating higher economic growth for higher living standards in order to prevent massive migration from the country.
Finally, the last but not the least important, we stand for building one society for all ethnicities which live in Macedonia. The ruling parties have divided the people from Macedonia on every basis. The multicultural character of the society must be prevented in order to have stability and economic prosperity in the country.

What are the main issues young people face in your country?

As I already previously stated, young people in Macedonia are in a really bad situation. Even though we are in the heart of Europe we still have substandard living conditions in the student dormitories and very poor student standard.
The educational system must be reformed because it is mainly focused on grading the memorising of facts instead of practical implementation of the learned by the students.
However, the main issues young people in Macedonia are facing is the enormous rate of youth unemployment (52%), which together with the above-mentioned issues is forcing youngsters to leave the country. 75% of the young people in a recent survey said that they see their future in some other country.
This is the main reason why we as a youth organisation and the party as a whole put the focus in our political program on youth issues and policies to overcome them. We focused on measures to improve student standards by engaging students in part-time jobs while they are on studies, as well as building new student dormitories and reconstruction of the existing ones.
We also stand for implementing European Youth Guarantee as the best way to overcome the high levels of youth unemployment and prevent young people from leaving the country.

How can we, as Young European Socialists, help?

You are already helping. You helped us a lot by constantly supporting us, especially during the pick of the severe political crisis in which a key role for the country and for resolving the crisis played the international community especially the EU.
Also, one of the best ways to help us is by presenting successful practices from the EU (like the Youth guarantee) by which we can help young people in Macedonia and improve their living standard. We also always need fresh ideas for youth campaigns in order to engage even more young people in politics as well as good experiences from your countries for our educational system.
However, sometimes, even just being part of the YES family and knowing that we are not alone is enough 🙂

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