By Goran Trajkov
SETimes: How did you become a Macedonian MP?
Pavle Sazdov: VMRO-DPMNE, the party that I am a member of for over ten years, had an internal announcement open to all members. Having lived in Canada for ten years, I understand the needs and challenges of the Macedonian community in North America, so I decided to apply. I submitted a proposed platform, resume, short biography and motivational letter to a party panel. Once all interviews were finalised — the last one with the party president — I was notified that my candidacy was accepted.
SETimes: What does it mean for the diaspora to be included in shaping the politics of Macedonia?
Sazdov: The [June] elections were historical because Macedonians living abroad were given a chance to vote for a candidate to represent them, and also because they were conducted without one incident. For many, this is a chance to directly influence Macedonia’s national and foreign policy as well as propose changes in legislation. The diaspora already influences the national budget through arrears. A small number has returned to invest in a variety of businesses. Having members of parliament from the diaspora who view legislation through the prism of the diaspora’s needs is definitely beneficial to all Macedonians living abroad.
SETimes: What is the diaspora’s interest in their native land?
Sazdov: Many Macedonians living abroad have family members, property or business ties in Macedonia, so they are highly interested in the country’s social and political life. Even those without any ties are still interested in “stari kraj” or the old country’s happenings.
Diaspora organisations organise classes — usually for children — to learn the Macedonian language. They also organise social events like concerts and theatre plays performed by Macedonian artists. At Macedonian-owned restaurants, people socialise and talk about developments in stari kraj.
SETimes: What are the most common issues discussed with the diaspora?
Sazdov: One issue that came up in all of my campaign meetings is the name issue with Greece. Almost all Macedonians I met strongly suggest that we stop the negotiations. They demand that the country is admitted in the UN under its name — Macedonia. I am very glad that my view regarding this issue is close to the Macedonian electorate which supported me.
Also discussed is improving consular services and the opportunity to obtain abroad Macedonian citizenship, passports and other documents. Similarly, improving the procedures for people who want to return to Macedonia; improving procedures for investments; better co-ordinating diaspora organisations and institutions in Macedonia; and more Macedonian government officials visiting our communities to discuss matters of national interest.
SETimes: What is your agenda for the next four years as an MP?
Sazdov: To realise my pre-election programme and the Macedonian government’s new programme. I will work closely with government officials from all ministries to improve administrative procedures; create a one-stop-shop system for foreign investors; a better environment to return to Macedonia; partnerships with other parliaments and officials from countries where there are Macedonian communities; and co-ordinate our Macedonian diaspora organisations to act unified in matters of national interest.