WASHINGTON, D.C. – United Macedonian Diaspora attended a briefing in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 9th, 2006 organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Macedonia with the help and support of the Office of Congressman Mark Souder (R-IN). In his last Ambassadorial efforts to solidify U.S.-Macedonian relations, His Excellency, Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov briefed various Congressional staffers, members of the media, and Greek and Macedonian émigré organizations, respectively on the topic of The right to an identity: Republic of Macedonia and Resolutions H. Res. 521 and H. Con. Res. 306.
Ambassador Dimitrov started his elaboration by providing a brief overview on the contemporary history of Macedonia from the time of the Balkan Wars to present day. Prior to the Balkan Wars Macedonia was a large governing unit under the former Ottoman Empire, however through the Treaty of Bucharest, which ended the Balkan Wars, Macedonia was divided and split into four parts amongst Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Albania. The part of Macedonia that was awarded to Serbia gained peaceful independence in 1991, shortly upon the breakup of Yugoslavia. It is known today as the sovereign country, Republic of Macedonia. From the turn of the 19th century to present day, Macedonians have been subject to many negations and challenges; particularly, their name, their identity, and discrimination against their ethnic origin.
According to the Ambassador, Greece referred to its northern province as “Northern Greece” for 50 years until the 1980s when it changed its position. Macedonia’s foreign policy for the last 15 years has been to maintain good relations with its neighbors. “In an unprecedented manner,” after a three year trade embargo imposed by Greece against Macedonia, “in 1995 Macedonia made an effort to accommodate Greece by changing its national flag and by reinforcing the no-change of borders provision of the Constitution adding that it “has no territorial claims against neighboring states’.”
Ambassador Dimitrov highlighted how Greece’s position underlying, H. Res. 521 and H. Con. Res. 306, was unfounded and discriminatory, because it is virtually impossible for a small country of two million people with a fledgling economy, such as Macedonia, to be an adversarial threat to Greece, or any other country in the region. Specifically, Macedonia has received over 850 million euros of Greek investment capital, which in turn created over 20,000 jobs in Macedonia according to the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister during his recent visit to Macedonia. Thus, when posed with the question of whether Macedonia was really a threat to Greece, the answer was clear; why would so many Greek investors invest their money in Macedonia if there was any real threat of any kind? His Excellency’s quote, “they do not invest because of politics, but because of profit” seems to shed light on the issue, as Macedonia, with a fledgling economy, clearly has no territorial aspirations upon its larger and economically developed neighbor, Greece. To argue that Macedonia’s name is a threat to anyone, seems to be a mere failed attempt of unfounded racially prejudicial regimentation by the Greek government against it’s neighboring country, Macedonia.
As a result of the national origin discrimination against people of Macedonian ethnicity, today Macedonia is the only country in the world which is still forced to use the name Yugoslavia; not even Serbia, who was Yugoslavia’s successor, uses this name any longer. Macedonia’s request is simple and elementary, “let us be as we are,” Macedonian! In response to a question from a representative of the American Hellenic Institute who asked “how can Macedonians claim they are Macedonians when they are not..,” the Ambassador stated that he does not understand this Greek position “you are not this, you are this.” The Ambassador made it simple as he said, “I am Nikola Dimitrov and I am a Macedonian.” How hard can this be to understand? One does not choose his identity. Imposition of the ethnically derogatory designation, “FYROM” or Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is insulting to all Macedonians as it is an artificially created racial epithet intended to be defamatory. According to the Ambassador, it is both very hard to understand and to explain to his country’s citizens why Congressional representatives would use the discriminatory designation and epithet, especially after the United States recognized Macedonia in November 2004 by its constitutional name.
“The objection of our neighbor Greece to our name since our independence in 1991,” says Ambassador Dimitrov, “is a serious interference to Macedonia’s right to exist.” Every country has the right to self-determination, and Macedonia has the right to its name. Macedonia does not hold a trademark or “exclusive rights to the name Macedonia in geographic, cultural, historic and commercial terms.” Furthermore, Ambassador Dimitrov stated that Macedonia “does not demand change, nor does it object to the use of the name Macedonia to designate the Greek Northern province. However, Greece does not have such exclusive rights either.”
Ambassador Dimitrov expressed his belief that the U.S. House of Representatives – one of the greatest champions of freedom throughout history – will not interfere with the right, of a friendly nation of two million people, to have an independent national identity and to be called who they ethnically are. As such, it was overwhelmingly important to present evidence of the race-based discriminatory purpose behind Resolutions 521 and 306. To further clarify the Ambassador’s points, the participants were provided two documents regarding the facts and arguments about the two Resolutions and their contents, which may be read by clicking HERE.
Ambassador Dimitrov concluded his presentation by quoting the great American Woodrow Wilson, a champion of human rights by stating “Just what is it that America stands for? If she stands for one thing more than another it is for the sovereignty of self-governing people.”
The United Macedonian Diaspora commends Ambassador Dimitrov in his successful efforts while undertaking a four year mandate of representing the Republic of Macedonia in the United States. The United Macedonian Diaspora was proud to collaborate with such a noble individual, and our organization wishes Ambassador Dimitrov prosperity in all future endeavors.
Founded in 2004, United Macedonian Diaspora is an international membership organization based in Washington, D.C. addressing the interests and needs of Macedonians and Macedonian communities throughout the world.
For more information about United Macedonian Diaspora the public is invited to contact the D.C. office at (202) 294-3400, or e-mail at [email protected]