Monday, 10 May 2021
ADDRESS OF PRESIDENT XHAFERI AT THE CONFERENCE OF SPEAKERS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION PARLIAMENTS ON THE TOPIC “DIGITALISATION AND THE CHANGING PUBLIC SPHERE – RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY“
Dear Dr Wolfgang Schäuble,
President of the German Bundestag,
Dear Dr Reiner Haseloff, President of the Bundesrat,
Speakers of Parliaments of the region,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me greet you from the premises of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia, as we are unable to meet in person due to the pandemic, which unfortunately still imposes precautionary measures and compliance with protocols. However, regardless of the way this Conference is held, we have received valuable introductory information from our hosts and the respected experts, and during the session we will be able to exchange experiences from our national parliaments in the current discourse, we will follow good presentations and gain a clearer image of how the digitalisation and the changing public sphere affect representative democracy, what are the challenges it poses and the opportunities it offers. I can confirm a concrete benefit for the Republic of North Macedonia, namely, thanks to digitalisation, the Protocol for our accession to the NATO Alliance was ratified in a virtual format in the Spanish Senate, which completed the procedure for our full membership, for which we are extremely grateful.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The digitalisation would have happened sooner or later, given the accelerated technological development, globalization, the need for unlimited space for research, work, participation in the global labor market, education, services and the formation of public opinion on certain specific and general issues as well. The digital space offers uncensored space for expressing opinions while taking into account the freedom of speech, but at the same time, it is a fertile ground for spreading hate speech, fake news aimed at creating wrong and false images for specific issues and manipulating the thought of people who are susceptible to influences, who do not check facts and news sources and believe everything that is served on the net and thus become part of destructive and manipulative actions and forces that have blurry and vague backgrounds. The prevention of these negative phenomena is the responsibility of the competent national authorities, of course, in close cooperation with the international authorities. However, it is no less of a duty of all institutions, non-governmental organizations and, ultimately, of every citizen to give their individual valued contribution. The Assembly, the House of Representatives of the citizens has an extremely important dimension in this context, having in mind the diverse forum of political representatives from different backgrounds, with different programmes and starting points and ideologies.
With the onset of the pandemic, we, like the entire democratic world, were faced the impossibility of the legislature functioning normally. The necessity of respecting the health protocols on the one hand, the urgency of adopting amendments to the Rules of Procedure, the situations of absences of MPs due to illness with COVID-19, have imposed difficult, sometimes impossible working conditions. We made an attempt to adapt to online functioning of the Assembly, but unfortunately, we did not find understanding from the opposition. A view is still present among certain political representatives that only with a physical presence in the plenary hall, it is possible to truly reach to the citizens, something with which I do not agree. Part of the activities of the Assembly, such as cooperation with non-governmental organizations, workshops, participation in conferences take place online without any obstacles. In the meantime, the MPs and the Staff have been vaccinated and already the second dose was applied, so I believe that by the end of May we will be in full composition and able to normalize the work of the legislature. However, I want to emphasize that, regardless of the way, it is our duty to always be an example of conducting a well-argued cultured dialogue, of expressing verified facts and truths that we know affect our citizens and their perception and trust in the institution.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me express my gratitude to our virtual host, the German Bundestag and the Bundesrat, for the successfully organised Conference, with the sincere belief that parliaments will continue to play a key role in advancing our societies, supporting regional cooperation and addressing the challenges of the future, in order to open the path for our citizens and facilitate their integration into the family of the European Union.
Thank you for your attention!