State, Orthodoxy and the EU

Nikola Popovski

Within the framework of its edition of Working Research papers, the World Bank has recently published a very interesting paper by the authors S. Djankov and E. Nikolova, otherwise Bulgarian researchers that have long been working at universities and research institutes in the UK. Britain and Germany. The work, originally entitled “Communism as the Unhappy Coming” explores the connection between the three major Christian faiths – Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism of one and the happiness and life satisfaction, political preferences and ideas, the attitude towards the state and the market, and finally the attitude towards ownership on the other. The survey uses data from a series of several years of research covering over 100 countries worldwide and systematically uses them through its own model. The results can be very interesting for Macedonia, which, as a country where Christian population lives, is certainly covered in the research. The main results of the survey are briefly the following:
– compared with Catholics and Protestants, the Orthodox are less fortunate and satisfied with life and have fewer children;
– compared with Catholics and Protestants, the Orthodox have less social capital, have greater risk aversion and give priority and appreciate old ideas more;
– compared with Catholics and Protestants, the Orthodox give priority to secure jobs;
– Orthodox, unlike Catholics and Protestants, are more bound to left-wing political preferences;

– Orthodox, unlike Catholics and Protestants, give greater support for the state’s involvement in the economy;
– Catholics and Protestants are less inclined than the Orthodox to agree that state property is a good thing; and
– Protestants are less inclined to agree that one’s enrichment can only occur at the expense of others.

The conclusions are presented in a substantiated and quantified manner.
What can we draw as a conclusion from the research, and to benefit us for Macedonia, which, according to official statistical surveys, dominates the Orthodox population with about 2/3 of the total population? It is obvious that new and advanced ideas will hardly pass the filter of Orthodox believers in Macedonia who are not at the same time prone to social capital and life risk, so they believe in their reliable and stable jobs, that is, they have some kind of anti-entrepreneur affection. They will give more support to the state’s involvement in the economy and will therefore more closely connect to the left-wing political parties (as if they were to call themselves, which proved precisely at the time when Macedonia’s ruling right dominated the country’s involvement in the economy) that will promise more state property that they consider to be a good thing, and naturally will be skeptical about private property and that’s why they will want to have as little as possible. Finally, they will oppose the wealth of individuals as a phenomenon in society because they will think that this happens only at the expense of others in the society, that is, on themselves.

In such circumstances it is not at all easy to make a modern state prone to constant change, with moderate but efficient state interventionism in the economy and with a dominant private sector and market freedoms that will ensure prosperity and the creation of a large number of medium-wealthy and wealthy individuals who enjoy in their freedoms and wealth. Hence, if this is done, they will be more happy and satisfied with life and will have more children. But it is obvious that such an opportunity is not very sympathetic to us. Against us, the EU rests, or at least should rest on the typical Catholic-Protestant characteristics of the aforementioned research. Its foundations are built precisely on the need for life satisfaction, constant innovation and acceptance of new ideas and risk taking to achieve more, disbelief in the state’s superiority in terms of market freedoms and the propensity to develop the private sector and the wealth of individuals.

Our adaptation to the EU and its key values seems to have been inadequate in this very prolonged transition phase, and in the future it will also depend on our understanding of the issues that Macedonian Christians (probably the country’s large Islamic population as well) are seriously different of the predominant Catholic and Protestant population in the EU. We never seriously understood the EU’s principles and the freedoms we need to have, whether they are political, legal, economic or personal. We have been calculating with them over all these three decades of the breakup of socialism. Therefore, even when we get the so-called unambiguous recommendation to start EU membership negotiations, as is the case now, our report is full of essential remarks that we find difficult to find a suitable effective response. Progress on the ground exists and it is obvious, but it is also obvious that major problems are still almost unmanageable. Some of the serious problems that the EU Report on which the EU Report is difficult to address is the following:
– “The country is modestly prepared with the reforms of its public administration”;
– “Corruption remains prevalent in many areas and continues to be a serious problem.”;
– “The key weaknesses of the economy remain. This includes shortcomings in the business environment, such as the poor implementation of contracts and the large gray economy. Structural problems on the labor market are reflected by low activity rates and high unemployment.”;

– “Fiscal policy is aimed at short-term measures and lacking a lasting consolidation plan.”;
– “The economy still suffers from weaknesses in educational curricula, low innovation rates and significant investment gaps including, in particular, public infrastructure.”;
– “As regards the ability to fulfill the obligations of membership, the country is modestly prepared in most of the areas.”

This is not something we should be proud of, but something we should immediately grasp in the grips if there is serious and sincere political readiness, as well as knowledge to solve the problems. Otherwise, we can remain in the “swamp” of traditional Orthodox beliefs and the impasse of the “captured” state.