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A Nation at a Crossroads
Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
Editing and Design:
A Narcissus Publications Imprint, Skopje 2009
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© 2002, 2009 Copyright Lidija Rangelovska.
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World in Conflict and Transition
Created by: LIDIJA RANGELOVSKA
REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA
C O N T E N T S
POLITICS, CULTURE, SOCIETY
Macedonia is not Bosnia (Edward Joseph)
XLVI. Interview with Boris Trajkovski
Macedonian Snapshot 2008-2009
Written June 3, 2009
The Republic of North Macedonia and Palestine: Obama Loses Patience with Bush Allies
I. "The Republic of North Macedonia" and Greece
On August 26, 2008, I published an article titled Greek-American Plan to Resolve Macedonia's Name Issue?. In it, I described an American plan to resolve the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece (see note at the bottom of the first section of this article).
The Plan included five elements: (1) Macedonia will change its constitutional name to Northern Macedonia ("The Republic of North Macedonia"); (2) Macedonia will be granted a transition period to amend its constitution and to alter its registered name with various international and multilateral institutions; (3) Macedonia will be issued an invitation to join NATO; (4) Both countries will be allowed to use the adjective "Macedonian" (both commercially and non-commercially); (5) The parties will renounce any and all claims to each other's territory.
Sure enough, weeks later, Matthew Nimetz, the UN mediator in the name issue published essentially the very same plan. It was promptly rejected by both parties.
Macedonia has hitherto been literally invisible on the Obama's Administration's list of priorities. But this is fast changing. Obama and Clinton still regard the Balkans as essentially a European problem. But, as they tackle the Middle-East head-on, the last thing they need is a "second front" with restive minorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, or Macedonia. Additionally, countries like Macedonia and Israel are now bound to pay the price for having been staunch supporters of Republican administrations in general, and George Bush in particular.
The Obama Administration will shortly appoint a Balkans Envoy, a person well-known and little-liked in Macedonia for his coarse interference in its internal affairs. His job will be twofold: to calm passions down in Bosnia, if necessary through well-timed and much-publicized arrests and to force both Macedonia and Greece to accept the above-mentioned five-points plan. The USA will not take "no" for an answer and will set a strict timetable for the resolution of the name issue and a NATO invitation by yearend.
Macedonia doesn't stand a chance of resisting such an onslaught. It will be forced into a humiliating retreat. Prime Minister Gruevski can use the country's new President, Gjorge Ivanov, as a scapegoat and "blame" him for any painful compromises Macedonia may be forced to make. But this gimmick won't work: Macedonian s widely (and wrongly) perceive Ivanov to be Gruevski's puppet.
Gruevski will go to a referendum on any compromise struck with Greece. It would be an unwise move, though: If the citizenry rejects the suggested deal, Gruevski will be faced with two stark alternatives: (1) To be the Prime Minister of a disintegrating country (as the Albanians will surely seek to secede from Macedonia or to federalize it, one way or the other); or (2) To lose his job altogether (as the Americans will surely seek to change the regime and depose him, as they have done in 2001-2 when it actively and successfully sought to unseat Ljupco Georgievski).
Following the country's ill-advised early elections in June, 2008, the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE was coerced by the international community (read: the EU and the USA) into joining forces with DUI, the political incarnation of erstwhile Albanian insurgents in the northwest of Macedonia, hitherto an anathema as far as Gruevski was concerned.
Hopping to bed with DUI will likely restrain the government's freedom of action. Every concession to Greece will be portrayed by jingoistic nationalists in Macedonia as capitulation and the consequence of blackmail by the Albanian parties. To the great consternation of the Macedonians, Albania, Macedonia's neighbor, has been invited to join NATO and its economy is growing even in the face of the global crisis. The restive Albanians of Macedonia would like to accede to the Alliance as soon as practicable and at all costs. Understandably, they are less attached to the country's constitutional name than the non-Albanian (Macedonian) majority.
Note: The "Name Issue" between Greece and Macedonia
The "name issue" involves a protracted dispute over the last 17 years between the two Balkan polities over Macedonia's right to use its constitutional name, "The Republic of Macedonia". The Greeks claim that Macedonia is a region in Greece and that, therefore, the country Macedonia has no right to monopolize the name and its derivatives ("Macedonian").
The Greeks feel that Macedonians have designs on the part of Greece that borders the tiny, landlocked country and that the use of Macedonia's constitutional name internationally will only serve to enhance irredentist and secessionist tendencies, thus
adversely affecting the entire region's stability.
Macedonia retorts that it has publicly renounced any claims to any territory of any of its neighbors. Greece is Macedonia's second largest foreign investor. The disparities in size, military power and geopolitical and economic prowess between the two countries make Greek "fears" appear to be ridiculous. Macedonians have a right to decide how they are to be called, say exasperated Macedonian officials.
The Greek demands are without precedent either in history or in international law. Many countries bear variants of the same name (Yemen, Korea, Germany until 1990, Russia and Byelorussia, Mongolia). Others share their name with a region in another country (Brittany in France and Great Britain across the channel, for instance).
In the alliance's Bucharest Summit, in April 2008, Macedonia was not invited to join NATO. Macedonia was rejected because it would not succumb to Greek intransigence: Greece insisted that Macedonia should change its constitutional name to cater to Greek domestic political sensitivities.
Written June 5, 2009
Macedonians in Denial about the Name Issue Dispute with Greece
Faced with an unprecedented choice between their identity and their future, Macedonians resort to a classic psychological defense mechanism: denial. Greece demands that the Republic of Macedonia change its name, or else forget about its Euro-Atlantic aspirations: NATO membership and EU accession. Macedonians react with horror and revulsion to such truly unprecedented bullying. Unable to face reality, they collectively retreat to fantasy.
FANTASY NUMBER 1: Macedonia will not be asked to change its Constitutional name
Macedonian intellectuals and politicians like to pretend (and usually succeed in convincing themselves) that Greece will demand only the change of Macedonia's name in international settings, bilateral relations, and multilateral organizations.
REALITY: Macedonia will be required to change its constitutional name.
FANTASY NUMBER 2: Macedonia is actually negotiating with Greece
REALITY: Greece is negotiating this issue with the United States and, to a lesser extent, with certain members of the European Union. Macedonia is not a party to the negotiations and is completely irrelevant in this context. It will be presented with a "take it or leave it" solution. If it doesn't take it, it will pay a heavy price, both internally (as its restive minorities rebel) and externally (as it is further excluded from the mainstream of the international community).
Thus, Macedonia was utterly shocked by the Greek veto that prevented its accession to the alliance in the NATO Bucharest Summit in April 2008. But this move was coordinated well in advance with both the USA and the EU (they were not happy about it, but they were fully informed and apprised of the Greek decision). They simply did not bother to keep Macedonia in the picture.
On March 30, 2008 (days before the NATO summit took place), I published this text in the Long Beach Chronicle:
"High-placed NATO officials informed the Chronicle a few weeks ago that, if the negotiations between Macedonia and Greece regarding what has come to be known as "the name issue" fail, NATO will invite Macedonia to join the alliance, effective June 30, 2009, and conditioned upon a resolution of its bilateral bone of contention with its much larger neighbor by said date."
FANTASY NUMBER 3: America and many European countries are friends of Macedonia and regard Greek behavior and demands as atrocious.
REALITY: While the United States and the majority of the member-countries of the European Union indeed regard Greek conduct as inexcusable and disruptive, they will all, without exception, side with Greece against Macedonia. This is because Greece is richer, a key member of NATO's ever-more-crucial southern plank, and an important trading partner of many countries. Macedonia, by comparison, is of very limited importance. Hence, it has no leverage.
Macedonia's only hope is to influence American decision-makers through international public opinion; to act against the Greek position in a variety of multilateral and judicial institutions; and to cooperate with core constituencies in the United States in order to change the minds of legislators and bring them to its side.
FANTASY NUMBER 4: Even if there is a referendum in Macedonia on a proposed solution, the West will make sure that it succeeds
REALITY: Nikola Gruevski and his government will not publicly support any solution that they (secretly) find unacceptable. At best, Gruevski will remain neutral and leave it to the people to decide. Gruevski will not collaborate with the International Community in perpetrating what he regards as the coerced abrogation of Macedonian's natural rights.
FANTASY NUMBER 5: The name issue is very important to the ruling coalition.
REALITY: The name issue is a distraction. Gruevski's main priorities are economic growth and prosperity and nation-building, based on history, both modern and ancient. The name issue is not as important to him as it is to many of his detractors. He is willing to wait out the storm, even if it means belated NATO and EU accession. He does regard the name issue as a failure and does take it personally. But he will not let his emotions affect his policies.
FANTASY NUMBER 6: Gruevski is using the name issue to gain political points
REALITY: Gruevski feels very deeply and authentically about this issue. As a person, he reacts badly to injustice and pressure. He hates being blackmailed. He becomes very stubborn when subjected to arm-twisting. On the other hand, it is true that he is overly-sensitive to his rating and popularity and is, indeed, doing everything he can to evade the name issue and put it on the back-burner because he believes that the problem cannot be solved without utterly unacceptable Macedonian concessions. He is a pragmatist, so he concentrates on the here and now and on what can be achieved in the sphere of the economy.
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