Macedonia is a liberal democratic state. We are to join the European Union and share certain values and norms. One of the basic values that underline the EU, or any liberal state is the protection of the individual rights of the minority citizens. Macedonian Albanians, Roms and ‘others’ cannot be refused entrance in public localities such as bars, cafes, and restaurants on the basis of their ethnic or cultural belonging.
The right to refuse association is the subject of our commentary. Let us explain when an association can exclude individuals from entry. Obviously, individuals should be free to associate in pursuit of some shared idea and should be free to exclude from this specific association those who do not share their distinctive beliefs. But what are the limits to exclusion. Three interests are crucial when excluding membership in an association: expressive interest, opportunity interest, and dignity interest. Expressive interest is when an individual’s beliefs are similar to other people with whom he associates. A person has an opportunity interest when he has interest in having equal access to associations that help him obtain income and wealth. Dignity interest is about individuals not being denied entry to associations and being stigmatized, losing their dignity. Public policies should only tolerate the right to refuse entry only if a person does not share the opinion of the association.
A Muslim, for example, cannot become member of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. The beliefs of the Orthodox Church are specific and unique. A chess player cannot join the association of wrestlers, or art lovers. When he starts wrestling or painting then he will be able to join. Then, if he is forbidden entry, the state should react.
Night clubs and associations that refuse entry to given individuals must not do so, if their decisions, in the specific social context, symbolize the supposed inferiority of the excluded group. A night club that prohibits Macedonian Albanians to enter stigmatizes them and cannot be allowed such policy. This is also true vice-versa. A women fitness club, although exclusive of men, would obviously not fall under this category since there are not reasons to believe that the exclusion rule stigmatizes men.
By and large, it is clear that the state needs to observe certain standards for communities, associations and other types of non-state organizations. Admittedly, freedom for association is a core liberal value. Equality under the law is another major value. If we think about them and the principle not to leave a person stigmatized we can understand why Roms cannot be stopped when entering clubs, cafes or restaurants because of their ethnicity. EU laws confirm such a position. Macedonia is a liberal democratic state, an EU candidate. It respects certain principles. Macedonia regulates the work of cafes and clubs. They are given licences to operate. These cannot discriminate on the basis of nationality. The state must interfere when minorities are not allowed entry. The Macedonian state must have an active role promoting equal respect of all citizens and to fight discrimination.