Ambassador Neil Bush responds to the report presentation by Ambassador Kilian Wahl, Head of the OSCE Mission to Skopje.

Neil Bush

Thank you, Mr Chair.

Firstly, I would like to welcome Ambassador Wahl to the Permanent Council for the first time since taking on the role as Head of Mission in November. Thank you for the work of your team over the last year, and for this comprehensive report.

The United Kingdom highly appreciates the work and added value of the OSCE Mission to Skopje – in particular the Mission’s support to government reforms, monitoring of security-related developments, and your early action to address emerging issues. I was delighted to be able to visit the Mission in February and hear first-hand about your programme activity and engagement with civil society in North Macedonia.

We positively note the achievements of the Mission over the past 12 months, set out in detail in your report. In particular, we welcome your continued activity to promote social cohesion – including your assistance in implementation of the government’s ‘National Strategy for One Society and Inter-culturalism’. We similarly appreciate your connected work on integrated education, particularly in supporting the city of Skopje in implementing joint curricula classes in different languages, and in assisting the drafting of the government’s Concept for General Secondary Education – which incorporates the principles of anti-discrimination, gender equality, inclusion and inter-ethnic integration. These are essential principles in any society.

The UK welcomes the Mission’s achievements this year on anti-corruption, including the training of municipal integrity officers, and engagement in regional trial monitoring to combat organised crime and corruption in the wider Western Balkans region. We also highly value the Mission’s continued engagement on countering terrorism, including your capacity building on conducting effective online monitoring – helping to safeguard North Macedonia’s national security interests.

Ambassador Wahl, we are again pleased to see the Mission’s continued focus on gender, and welcome the Mission’s progress on mainstreaming a gender perspective into programmatic work. Your report highlights some excellent initiatives, such as training and mentorship programmes for female police officers to strengthen their skills for future leadership roles, the Mission’s efforts to analyse the gender aspects of corruption, and your support to the drafting of North Macedonia’s new Gender Equality Law. We commend the Mission’s continued engagement on gender issues, and encourage a sustained focus in the coming year.

Mr Chair, I would like to take this opportunity to also recognise the role of the Mission to Skopje in supporting North Macedonia in delivering its priorities as OSCE Chair-in-Office in 2023, including in the delivery of events such as the Skopje Conference on Addressing Anti-Semitism, in February.

The UK reiterates our strong support for North Macedonia’s priorities and continued efforts as Chair, including towards agreeing a Unified Budget for 2023 – which remains essential to the effective running of all field operations and institutions. You can rely on the continued support of the UK in addressing these shared challenges.

Thank you, Ambassador Wahl. Thank you, Mr Chair.

Published 20 April 2023