25th June 2015 Skopje, North Macedonia

Events and memories – Farewell from Christine

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I leave Macedonia today after a fascinating three years as Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Skopje. There have been many developments across the political and economic spectrum during that time. I have had the pleasure of working with a dynamic team within this Embassy, and developed our cooperation in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs, Environment, Strengthening Civil Society, Social Inclusion and many more. I have made many friends amongst Macedonian colleagues and external stakeholders. Between us, we have done some excellent work built on impressive collaboration.

The UK has always supported Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, and follows Macedonia’s progress closely. The last year has seen many changes on the domestic political scene, and raised some serious challenges which will need to be addressed. Although I am leaving before that task nears completion, the last week does at least represent an important milestone in Macedonia’s journey marked by two particularly important documents. These documents, which should form the basis for future discussion on reform here, are the EU Commission’s paper on Urgent Reform Priorities, and the General Affairs Council Conclusions approved by all 28 EU Member States on 23 June.

In the Conclusions, the Council ‘calls upon all parties to honour their 2 June agreement and implement all recommendations of the Commission, starting with the Urgent Reform Priorities, in relation to systemic rule of law issues confirmed by or arising out of the current crisis, including in relation to breaches of fundamental rights, judicial freedom, media freedom, elections, corruption, politicisation of state institutions and state/party blurring and failures of oversight.’

It is a big challenge, but it is also an opportunity: get it right, and Macedonia will take a big step forward.

I shall miss Macedonia and the Euro-Atlantic challenge, but shall continue to follow the country’s progress from the other side of the continent.

Christine Winterburn