4.2.7 Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes
The FYR of Macedonia is a multi-cultural, multi-confessional and multi-linguistic country where intercultural dialogue is one of the most important issues. In fact, the whole political system is designed on these bases.
In strictly cultural terms, the main authority responsible for programmes and policies addressing the issue of intercultural dialogue at national level is the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry has also established an Office for the Promotion and Advancement of the Cultures of Nationalities.
However, having in mind that the whole system is based on a kind of intercultural (or interethnic) dialogue, then this dialogue is a priority issue and the main public actors responsible for implementing the programmes and policies to promote intercultural dialogue are the parliament and the government. The main policy document identifying intercultural (interethnic) dialogue as an objective or priority of the government is the Ohrid Framework Agreement from 2001. In that context, the general intercultural dialogue has been fostered, especially after the Ohrid Framework Agreement. ICD has been on the agenda of all the ministries and government agencies, especially the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Secretariat for European Affairs, the Agency for Youth and Sport, the Agency for the rights of the communities etc. ICD is an important part of several national strategies including the National Strategy for Culture; the National Strategy for Education; the National Strategy for Youth etc.
In 2003, the Parliament established the Committee on the Political System and Ethnic Relations. It consists of 19 members, including seven seats reserved for ethnic Macedonian legislators and seven for ethnic Albanian deputies. The Serbian, Vlach, Turk, Romany, and Bosnian minorities have one member each. The interests of minorities are not represented within the Parliament, but are instead represented by the national ombudsman. The formation of the committee is part of the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement.
Within the Government's General Secretariat, there was originally a Section for Implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement; since 2007 a Secretariat for Implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement has been in place.
The new government (July 2011) established a position of Vice Prime Minister for implementation of the Ohrid agreement.
The NGO sector is a big promoter of intercultural dialogue, especially the Foundation Open Society Institute Macedonia which has several programmes for intercultural dialogue. In 2005, the Foundation Open Society Institute Macedonia held a regional conference on "Multiculturalism in Macedonia: an emerging model".
Some examples of good practice in participation in ICD related to international and EU programmes are: the International Festival "Roma and the Roma Culture"; World Conference "The contribution of religion and culture to peace, mutual respect and cohabitation" (October 2007); "Rehabilitation of Education" (with Switzerland); "Modernisation of Education" (with the World Bank and the government of the Netherlands) etc.
One of the burning public intercultural issues in 2011 was the open ethnic conflict between groups of young Albanians and Macedonians on the Skopje city fortress. Namely, groups of young Albanians protested against the building of a church / museum within the fortress' walls. The protest turned into an interethnic fight, involving also the police force. The works were stopped and the fortress has been closed to visitors since the incident (February 2011). The idea to build a church-museum within the fortress' walls came from the Office for Protection of the Cultural Heritage. However, the Albanian political parties also opposed this plan. The final solution was to build a church-museum within the fortress walls, but also a kind of a mosque-museum nearby.