Vladimir Milcin
Vladimir MilcinAsmet Elezovski

Would you like to briefly describe your background and your current position?

I was born in Skopje in 1947. I completed the theater play director course at the Theater, Film, Radio and Television Academy in Belgrade in 1970. I am currently working as a full-time professor of acting at the Dramatic Arts Faculty in Skopje. Since 1992 I have been the executive manager of the Foundation Open Society Institute Macedonia (FOSIM). I am proud of my contribution to the beginnings of the Pralipe theater. Specifically, I have selected Rahim Burhan’s first play (it was staged in Macedonian) for the Amateurish Dramatic Reviews, I held a small seminar in the Sutka warehouses and I suggested they stage the second play in the Roma language. As a professor, I am proud to have two talented Roma female students, Sanela (she has already graduated) and Emran (she is second year now).

What is your view on the current situation in the Republic of Macedonia regarding the state’s attitude toward and treatment (certainly following the numerous and lengthy reforms of the institutions and the state’s systematic changes) of the minorities and sensitive groups?

On the one hand, I feel somewhat pleased because Macedonia is ahead of all the surrounding countries in a number of things when it comes to the non-majority communities. On the other hand, I am dissatisfied because I thought and hoped that Macedonia would advance faster in a number of things, including the minorities and the vulnerable groups. It becomes clear straight away that, just like in many other states, the Roma are the most marginalized non-majority community in every aspect. There are numerous reasons for this, which the state and the politicians may use as an explanation, but not as an excuse.

What has been the role of FOSIM and the nongovernmental sector in promoting the minority communities during this whole period? What have been the effects of the functioning of this sector?

The minority communities have been in the focus of the FOSIM programs from the very outset. When it comes to the Roma, this may be substantiated with the fact that, over the past 15 years, more than $12 million have been invested in the programs aimed at promoting the Roma’s position. FOSIM has been the first donator to heed the Roma’s needs. The Roma’s education, the Roma media, the Roma’s culture and the Roma’s nongovernmental sectors have been the FOSIM’s long-term priorities. FOSIM has had a special advisory committee for the Roma programs, in which Roma have prevailed for years. There have been Roma members in the last two Steering Boards, as well. There are eight Roma working in FOSIM now. I will not comment on the contribution of the nongovernmental sector, merely because I do not want to be interpreted as (and accused of being) a patron of this sector in our country.

FOSIM has had one of the most extensive programs envisioned for the Roma community. What are your views on the effects of this program? Do you think that such program patterns will be applicable for the Roma in the future, as well, or this requires a completely new concept?

The FOSIM programs envisioned for the Roma have been transformed all of these years. For example, the humanitarian assistance was prevailing in the beginning, but it is gone now. The Roma televisions BTR and Sutel were our long-term granters, but they no longer are. Major priority nowadays is the education, which is one of the four priorities of the Roma Decade. The effects here have also been visible and tangible. If you look how many young Roma are studying at the universities in Macedonia now, one of the effects will be notable immediately. Just look how many Roma are now publicly expressing the Roma community’s views in our country and you will see the effects of the assistance for the development of the Roma civic organizations. Some time ago I had the pleasure to listen to the Darhija youth orchestra. I am especially happy about the activities of Romaverzitas, and so on, and so forth. I meet Roma in reputable national and international institutions (the European Parliament, OSCE, the European Reconstruction Agency, the Education Ministry) who used to work with FOSIM or who cooperated with this foundation. Diversity is the treasure of the conspicuous things.

Is the Roma’s salvation seen in such and similar programs as a road through which they should be integrated into the society? What do the parameters of your researches (if you have them) show and what does your experience indicate?

The activities by the foundations and the nongovernmental organizations can merely partially supplement the government’s inactivity. It is indicative that some Roma politicians are seeking an alibi for their inactivity by denouncing the nongovernmental sector and aggressively trying to put it under their control. As for the foundation programs envisioned for the Roma, the preparation of an independent evaluation, which I expect to provide a fresh critical review of the effects and recommendations for the future, is drawing to a close. One thing is certain: the Roma in our country need allies, rather than patrons, regardless of whether they are Roma or non-Roma.

Where do you think the problem lies? Are the institutions or the Roma themselves responsible for their situation, because some recent “studies” audaciously claim that the Roma are incapable of being integrated in the society, so the programs and the efforts of all the NGOs ad foundations are to no avail. What is your comment on this?

I am not aware of these “studies”, but I regard this stand as discriminatory and racists, notwithstanding its provenance. I have always felt repulsion toward the theories that proclaim some nations to be “sublime” and superior and others “criminal” and inferior. Such resurrected neo-Fascist claims are actually instruments in the struggle for unlimited power.

Will FOSIM support the Roma in the Republic of Macedonia in the future, too? Has it envisioned Roma-related programs in its strategy?

Yes. The Roma’s integration is one of the five priorities in the FOSIM’s 2007 strategy and budget. The Roma are a priority for the entire Soros foundation network. At the Venice Biennale (the most reputable manifestation of painters worldwide) this year there will be a Roma pavilion for the first time and this is an initiative of the Soros network.

Your institution has funded a number of Roma nongovernmental organizations, the capacities of which has developed simultaneously with the FOSIM’s support. After such lengthy cooperation, can you already see mature leaders in these nongovernmental organizations who may lead the Roma movement? Can you distinguish between some NGOs?

Certainly! In my view, the Roma section of the nongovernmental sector has experienced the greatest progress over the past decade. This was also notable at the proclamation of the Decade in Budapest and the preparations for the action plans, as well. The Macedonian Roma may boast of their 15 nongovernmental organizations and their expertise and dedication.

What is your view of the current situation of the Roma in the Republic of Macedonia? Do you think that the Roma are still on the verge of the society, or are the positive steps for their integration into society visible?

I have already said a few things about this in my previous answers. However, repetition can sometimes be useful. Yes, the vast majority of Roma are still living on the sidelines of the society. The exceptions to date only confirm this rule.

How do you see the Roma in the Republic of Macedonia 10 years from now?

Ten years is both a long and a small period of time. I am sure that the number of 100 Roma students will be increased to 1,000. I am certain that the Roma entrepreneurship will be enforced significantly and that the number of Roma employed at the state and private sector will be increased. The living conditions (the infrastructure) in the Roma settlements will be improved. We will have a new generation of Roma leaders with university education, which, I hope, will lead the community ahead. Is there too much or too little optimism in my predictions? Deep inside I hope that there will be major development, but I am afraid to define it. This depends on where we see Macedonia in 10 years.