Last week, UMD sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to reiterate America’s recognition of Macedonia’s constitutional name, support for Macedonia’s NATO admission, and position that the “name dispute” between Greece and Macedonia is immaterial to Macedonia’s NATO bid during her upcoming meeting with the Greek Foreign Minister on February 14, 2008.
Dear Secretary Rice:
The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) urges you to reiterate America’s recognition of Macedonia’s constitutional name, support for Macedonia’s NATO admission, and position that the “name dispute” between Greece and Macedonia is immaterial to Macedonia’s NATO bid during your upcoming meeting with the Greek Foreign Minister on February 14, 2008.
The United States of America, as well as NATO members Turkey, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Canada, and approximately 120 other nations, including China and Russia, all recognize Macedonia by its constitutional name.
In keeping with its petulant stance towards Macedonia, Greece promises a veto of Macedonia’s NATO bid unless Macedonia capitulates to Greece in the “dispute.” A veto of Macedonia’s NATO admission on such a scurrilous basis is contrary to American and NATO interests, will diminish NATO’s prestige in southeastern Europe, and will impede regional stability.
America does not have one ally in southeastern Europe but several and neither American nor NATO interests can be advanced in the area without Macedonia in NATO. Every state in the Balkans is crucial to regional stability and any claim that one state is more important than another in securing such stability is dangerous and naïve. Macedonia’s admission to NATO, along with its fellow candidates Croatia and Albania, will further integrate southeastern Europe with NATO and will enable the maintenance of lasting regional peace.
Macedonia has been and is at the forefront of NATO efforts in the Balkans and has earned its place in NATO. Macedonia served as the key staging area for NATO’s 1999 Kosovo intervention and provided refuge to hundreds of thousands of Kosovars during said intervention. Macedonian forces are now deployed alongside American troops in American-led efforts in Iraq and in NATO operations in Afghanistan; Macedonia is also home to logistical support operations for KFOR forces in Kosovo and is participating in international missions in Bosnia and Lebanon.
acedonian soldiers have proudly served, and some have even lost their lives, for the advancement of peace, stability and freedom in NATO and other international missions. Most importantly, Macedonia enacted and implemented the necessary reforms required for NATO membership. Macedonia’s military is a professional all-volunteer force equipped with the latest military technology that meets or exceeds NATO standards and is ready for rapid deployment.
On the political front, in an amazingly short time Macedonia has risen from the failed communist country of Yugoslavia to an independent democratic nation. Macedonia’s meteoric progress even caused U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia Gillian Milovanovic and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Kurt D. Volker to refer to Macedonia as an “exporter of security” around the world.
In setting forth American policy regarding Macedonia’s potential NATO membership, Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns asserted in testimony before the Subcommittee on Europe of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on November 14, 2007 that Greece cannot veto Macedonia’s accession to NATO or any international organization as long as Macedonia joins under the Provisional Reference, and that Macedonia’s NATO admission must be based on the merits of its application and not the “dispute” with Greece. It is quite clear that America does not view Greece as Macedonia’s “passport” to NATO.
American policy on Macedonia’s NATO admission is in alignment with Article 11 of the Interim Accord, which bars Greece from impeding Macedonia’s accession to international bodies, including NATO, as long as Macedonia accedes under the Provisional Reference. A veto of Macedonia’s NATO admission based on Greece’s objection to Macedonia’s name would nullify the Interim Accord. Such a pernicious outcome is contrary to American and NATO interests as the final status of Kosovo looms over the region.
As you know, Greece instigated the “dispute” over Macedonia’s name in 1991. The 1995 Interim Accord between Macedonia and Greece normalized relations, ended an illegal Greek trade embargo, and allowed Macedonia’s admission to the United Nations under the provisional reference term, “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (the “Provisional Reference”).
Macedonia has made several concessions since 1991 and simply cannot be asked to concede more. Macedonia changed its flag, amended its constitution, agreed to the Provisional Reference, and even proposed a “Double Formula” to resolve the “dispute” under which the international community would use Macedonia’s real name and Greece would use its own term for bilateral relations. In recent weeks, Macedonia again assured Greece that it does not harbor territorial claims against Greece and proposed a joint declaration by both nations affirming their commitment for neighborly relations. The proposed declaration also called for the formation of a joint Macedonian/Greek commission to examine historical matters with due regard for the sensitivities of both nations. Macedonia’s most recent efforts, just like all of its past concessions, were rebuffed and belittled by Greece.
Greece, however, has not made a single compromise to resolve the “dispute.” Greece rejected the “Double Formula,” will not atone for its illegal embargo, misrepresents the nature of the Provisional Reference by creating a derogatory acronym for referring to Macedonia, and will not forswear territorial claims against Macedonia. This is most disconcerting given recent irredentist calls by Greek Orthodox Church leaders for the annexation of portions of the Republic of Macedonia to Greece. While claiming that Greece wants good relations with Macedonia, Greek border police harass Macedonian citizens and refer to them with racial epithets. Greece will not even allow American citizens who were born in Greece but are ethnic Macedonians to enter Greece and visit their birthplaces. Greece’s actions belie its disingenuous words and demonstrate which nation is truly “intransigent” in this “dispute.”
Claims that Greece is now willing to compromise by adding a modifier to the Republic of Macedonia’s name distinguishing it from parts of geographic Macedonia within Greece only reflect Greece’s desire to save face in a diplomatic debacle of its own creation. Moreover, those other nations that include parts of geographic Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Serbia, do not object to Macedonia’s name and do not seek any “compound name” for the Republic of Macedonia.
Some in this nation, along with the Greek government, seek a reversal of America’s recognition of Macedonia’s name. These groups are advancing baseless claims to American officials including that the proper name for Macedonia is “Vardarska Banovina,” that the communist dictator Tito “invented” Macedonians, and that the Republic of Macedonia cannot use the term “Macedonia.”
“Vardarska Banovina” is not a proper name for the Republic of Macedonia’s territory. This term was instituted during the reign of Serbian King Alexander I in the 1929 administrative reorganization of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. This reorganization changed 33 “oblasts” (provinces) into 9 “banovinas,” all named after rivers and geographic features, of the newly-named “Kingdom of Yugoslavia.” If Macedonia is “Vardarska Banovina,” then Croatia is “Sava Banovina,” and Slovenia is “Drava Banovina,” as they were called then.
Macedonian national consciousness and identity were well established long before Tito was even born, as reflected in the Macedonian revolutionaries working to free Macedonia from Ottoman rule in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and by the descendents of those Macedonians who immigrated to America well before Tito’s communist state was formed. According to Ellis Island records, approximately 15,000 Macedonians entered the United States of America between 1895 and 1925. Furthermore, in the 1920 U.S. Census the Macedonian language was one of the options to the principal foreign language question.
The myth that Tito “invented” the Macedonians seemingly fits with a statement by former Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., regarding Macedonia. Secretary Stettinius’ statement is understandable given the time in which he served – the beginning of the Cold War and the Greek Civil War. However, the world today is not the world faced by Secretary Stettinius and those who cite to his statement would truly honor his legacy by encouraging Macedonia and Greece to work within the UN framework that he worked to build.
Finally, some claim it is improper for a country that is part of a geographic region to define itself in an official manner as representing the whole region; therefore, no nation can be called the “Republic of Macedonia” or the “United States of America.” Under this theory, Belgium, which includes a province of Luxembourg, can force its independent neighbor, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, to change its name. Likewise, all the nations in North, Central and South America should have objections to the name of the United States of America.
The frenetic arguments against Macedonia’s name and Macedonian identity are best understood as what they truly are: distractions masking Greece’s mistreatment of its ethnic Macedonian minority. Greece’s horrendous treatment of its minorities, including Macedonians, Albanians, Roma, and Turks, is well documented by such bodies as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Greek Helsinki Monitor, and the State Department. The European Court of Human Rights has even entered judgments against Greece for denying human and civil rights to ethnic Macedonians in Greece.
Greece can redeem itself by recognizing the Republic of Macedonia’s name, affording its minorities the human and civil rights that all people deserve, and by welcoming the Republic of Macedonia into NATO.
Again, UMD urges you to clearly inform the Greek Foreign Minister that (1) the United States of America recognizes the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name, (2) the United States of America supports the Republic of Macedonia’s NATO membership, and (3) a resolution of the “name dispute” between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia is not a condition for Macedonia’s NATO accession.
Thank you for taking the time to consider UMD’s concerns and for your service to our great nation and to the American people.
Metodija A. Koloski
cc: Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns
Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Daniel Fried
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Kurt Volker
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Matthew Bryza
Director of Southern European Affairs Kathy Fitzpatrick
U.S. Ambassador to NATO
U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia
U.S. Ambassador to Greece
Macedonian Desk Officer
Greek Desk Officer
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