With the purpose of contributing to the political dialogue in the society, prior to early parliamentary elections to be held in 2016, CIVIL – Center for Freedom launched a series of interviews with members of the Government. Within the framework of these activities, in the second round of interviews with ministers, the team of CIVIL Media interviewed Minister of Interior, Oliver Spasovski.
CIVIL Media: Recently, you announced that 35.000 false identity cards had been discovered, printed and ready to be issued. How many of these identity cards have been issued, and how many have you managed to seize?
SPASOVSKI: From the very beginning when I first came to the Ministry of Interior, after conducting some internal investigations, we shared information with the public that personal documents, identity cards, had been issued illegally. The 35.000 identity cards that were discovered and that were also part of the action called “Titanic” – a case conducted by the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPPO), are actually identity cards that have been printed, but have not yet been picked up by anyone. They are currently kept in the offices as unissued personal documents. In this regard, they have no legal status and therefore cannot be used. This is part of the investigation that is led by the SPPO, and I cannot give all the details of the case, for obvious reasons, as the investigation does not allow for such thing.
SPASOVSKI: When I first arrived to the Ministry, I said that I would give the professionals a chance, so that through the positions they have they can primarily help the Republic of Macedonia, to help restore citizens’ trust in this Ministry. Of course there are obstructions, given how politicized this institution is. Therefore, departization, depolitization and decriminalization of this institution should be one of the top priorities, which cannot be realized in a month or two, or within a short period of time. There are many professionals, there are many people that help and understand this moment that is so important for Macedonia, and for the future. There are some people that are behaving rather differently, that are setting obstacles. However, my team and I are putting a lot of efforts in realizing the tasks and goals that are ahead of us. That means to work nicely within the Ministry, in order to realize the interests of the citizens, something for which the Ministry actually exists.
CIVIL Media: CIVIL – Center for Freedom, published information about political party initiated pressure from police officers. Are you familiar with this information, and what is the Ministry doing in regards to this issue?
SPASOVSKI: It is not only through CIVIL, but also through the project “The truth about Macedonia” that we have had the opportunity to hear about how the Ministry of Interior, along with other ministries and state institutions, have been acting in the electoral process, and how they pressure citizens. I would not like to repeat again how the Ministry was called in that period, and how it was put in the function of the ruling political parties, of VMRO-DPMNE and of DUI. This is something that needs to be a lesson to all of us. My position is that the Ministry has to be a Ministry of the Republic of Macedonia, which will realize the interests of the citizens. Because, except to the citizens that are financing this Ministry, and except to the citizens who through taxes are providing the salaries of its employees, there is not one policeman that owes anyone else. Certainly they put pressure, and there are certainly some structures, party installations within the Ministry, that even now would want to conduct certain abuses of the police. We had some information that the newly employed police officers within the Sectors for Interior in Ohrid and Bitola, who are currently practitioners, had been abused and forced at some point to conduct certain party tasks.
We immediately responded through the Internal Control and pointed out that the police should be conducting work that is specified by the law, and that the police should not be intimidating the citizens, but that the work of the police is to protect the interests and safety of the citizens.
I would like to convey the message that every member of the Ministry of Interior needs to strictly and professionally adhere to the laws, and must not succumb to any pressure from any political party. Because if such behavior is confirmed, it will be sanctioned and there will be penalties, there will be no dilemma in this respect. If any member of this Ministry, based on the authorizations it has within the police, shall implement any such party interests, then we all have a problem, and so does this country. And this is how trust in the country, especially in the Ministry of Interior, is lost.
SPASOVSKI: Firstly, the highest priority of the Ministry is the task to protect the citizens and to ensure the safety and security of citizens, regardless of their position and profession. It is true that in this past period there have been too many attacks, primarily verbally, against journalists and media companies. That is why the media needs to be regulated, that is why there has to be a systematic solution, which will allow journalists to freely do their work, which will free the media from the pressure made by authorities or certain influential circles in the country for realizing some kind of personal goals, individual interests… Having in consideration that the media create public opinion and are of national interest, they need to primarily take into account the interests of the citizens, to know that by realizing their efforts they directly participate in the democratization of society.
We are seriously working on this matter, to also clear other cases of attacks against journalists. We are working, and to some extent have already resolved some of the attacks and their offenders. We are still working on some other attacks, because a long period of time has passed and there are some faults. Nevertheless, at this point, the Ministry is prepared to provide protection to anyone in Macedonia who is facing some kind of serious attack. At the same time, I urge the citizens to leave the media and the journalists to freely perform their functions. First of all, every citizen needs to know and to take into account, especially public figures, that they are subject to both criticism and praise, and that is a basic democratic principle. The journalists and media outlets are not to blame for how you behave in public. We must all together, including the citizens, help the police, so that we can realize the activities. However, the police needs to respond accordingly, in order to leave the impression that they are realizing the interests of the citizens.
Camera and photography: Atanas Petrovski and Nikola Ugrinovski
Editing: Nikola Ugrinovki
CIVIL – Center for Freedom in its second round of interviews, addressed four ministers in the Government who were given questions relating to their scope of work. We requested to have interviews with Minister of Interior Oliver Spasovski, Minister of Labor and Social Policy Dr. Frosina Tasevska – Remenski, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy Mihail Cvetkov and Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Fatmir Besimi. In the second round, we spoke to Minister Tasevska – Remenski on February 10, with Minister Cvetkov on February 17, and with Minister Spasovski on February 18. We are still waiting confirmation from Deputy Prime Minister Besimi.