DMWC Honorary PresidentsDMWC Interview with the Honorary President

Interview with Ambassador David Geer, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, in the Republic of North Macedonia and Honorary President of 2023 DMWC Diplomatic Charity Bazaar

You have served as the EU Ambassador in North Macedonia for over three years now. Could you share three particularly memorable experiences or places you've encountered during your tenure?
It is very difficult to select only the three most memorable experiences or three places in North Macedonia as there are so many of them. When I leave the country in August, the biggest memory that I will take with me is the kindness of people and their readiness to speak openly about various issues.
Young people have been my biggest inspiration over the years. I am convinced that their energy and talent will help North Macedonia reform and progress on the European path. It is crucial to give them adequate space to raise their voice about issues that are of concern to society as a whole. That is precisely why we have invested in our network of Europe Houses which is “the place of the new generation” – a place where young people can express their vision and creativity. In addition to Skopje, Kriva Palanka, Strumica, Veles and Bitola, our network of Europe Houses will soon include Struga and Tetovo.
As someone who appreciates the cultural richness of North Macedonia and has supported numerous cultural events, how would you compare the cultural scene here with that of other EU member states? Additionally, what strategies do you suggest for enhancing cultural development in North Macedonia and fostering collaboration with the EU in this endeavor? How might EU accession negotiations contribute to this effort?
I’ve had the chance to encounter amazing artists from all cultural fields, some of them at the music gatherings in the EU residence. Together with my partner, we are also organizing exhibitions in the EU residence to promote the rich cultural heritage and also to help new upcoming artists. The latest exhibition, which opens at the end of March, will be devoted to mental health and how important it is to talk openly about mental conditions, especially with young people.
As EU Delegation, we have tried over the years to support cultural exchange between North Macedonia and the EU Member States. We invest significantly in the development of the cultural sector via the EU-funded Creative Europe Programme, but also under the cultural diplomacy actions of the Delegation and our network of Europe Houses. Our support ranges from events across the country celebrating past and contemporary artists, musicians, and writers, the EU evenings at the Ohrid Summer Festival to book clubs, traveling film festivals, and promoting the mobility of artists, etc. I would also like to highlight our considerable support for Macedonian literature and the Macedonian language through the translation of numerous works of European literature for Macedonian-speaking audiences, the Babylon Award for translation prize, the celebration of great writers such as Goran Stefanovski, Kocho Racin, and Aco Shopov through exhibitions and events.
North Macedonia possesses remarkable potential as a tourist destination. What measures do you believe should be taken to further promote and cultivate tourism in the country? Moreover, what unique attractions or experiences do you think could entice visitors from the EU?
Nature in this country is captivating with amazing mountains, luscious forests, and beautiful lakes. According to statistical data, the number of tourists is increasing every year. Still, there is a great to do to increase understanding of what is on offer. This begins, I believe, by developing a concept for tourism in the country – one based on sustainability and respect for the extraordinary assets this country has from Ohrid Lake to Shar Planina, from Bitola in the South to Skopje in the North. This should be matched by investments in infrastructure and in developing a clean environment as well as well-conceptualized tourism promotion abroad. As your partner, the EU is helping you in achieving this via numerous projects and activities. The EU has funded projects that directly increase the tourist offer in the country, such as the restoration of great monuments in the country including the Officers’ House and the Museum in Bitola, the City of Skopje Museum, the Adrenaline Park in Skopje, the park near the lake in Veles, support for wineries, bicycle and hiking trails, etc.
Considering the challenges and hardships faced by North Macedonia on its path to EU membership, what advice or insights would you offer to the country's authorities regarding negotiation strategies and the pursuit of full membership? How can North Macedonia effectively navigate this process while avoiding potential pitfalls?
The best and the certain way towards EU membership is through the implementation of the necessary reforms and agreed steps for the gradual transformation of the country. In addition to bringing the country closer to the EU membership, such reforms will be beneficial for the citizens and improve their daily lives. After all, improved lives and opportunities for citizens are one of the main reasons for North Macedonia’s aspirations for EU membership. The EU will support the country every step of the way, politically, through our tremendous financial, economic, and technical assistance as well as through the accession process itself.
The Dobredojde Macedonia Welcome Centre plays a pivotal role in cultural diplomacy. From your perspective, what significance do its mission and activities hold in promoting cross-cultural understanding and cooperation? Furthermore, could you elaborate on the importance of cultural diplomacy within the EU accession process?
I was introduced to the work of the “Dobredojde Macedonia Welcome Centre” by being the patron of the 2023 Diplomatic Charity Bazaar. It united representatives of the EU Member States embassies as “Team Europe” and other international partners in the noble cause of raising funds to help people with disabilities. The event was an excellent opportunity for networking and discovering the cultural traditions of many countries. I was impressed by the high number of visitors who gave their donations to help the more disadvantaged.
When it comes to cultural diplomacy, the EU Delegation is continuously supporting cultural exchange between North Macedonia and the EU, which helps us to bring people and countries closer to each other. We also support local cultural heritage, including through significant financial assistance, which we treasure as an integral part of the European cultural heritage.
It is often said that culture is the heart of a nation and the soul of its people. It is a wealth of knowledge, creativity, and customs passed on across the generations. And it is an integral part of one’s identity. On numerous occasions, I have underlined that the EU accession process will only contribute to strengthening your identity, culture, and language as it has for every country that has completed the process of joining the EU.