On December 11, 2012, the EU Council put the nationalist agendas of Bulgaria and Greece before EU enlargement, damaged regional stability in the Western Balkans, and undermined the credibility of the EU enlargement process. The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) believes that the EU should be the bridge that unites Europe; instead it has become the divider that deepens inter-regional differences, especially between member-states, which blackmail non-member states.
Since the last round of new members in 2007 and the worldwide financial crisis of 2008, the EU enlargement process has stalled, especially for Macedonia. In its December 11 decision, the EU Council decided to add new membership prerequisites for Macedonia to fulfill, including the rather ambiguous criteria of maintaining “good neighborly relations.” Clearly, this is not a measurable, objective concept, but rather, it is a political tool, which will allow Bulgaria and Greece to maintain the status quo indefinitely.
The EU Council’s actions are self-defeating and irresponsible, especially considering how the European Commission has already recommended opening accession talks with Macedonia for four years in a row. Those recommendations, based on the democratic will of EU member-states, have been disregarded, and instead, Macedonia’s future status in the EU is now going to be determined based on the 19th-century foreign policies of Bulgaria and Greece.
Despite the obvious double standard, Macedonians should be proud of the progress the country has made in terms of institutional reforms and economic development. Since peaceful independence in 1991, Macedonia has built a vibrant free market economy with a stable currency and solid macroeconomics. The country has preserved its centuries-old respect for multiculturalism and religious tolerance. Despite setbacks, Macedonia has emerged as a net exporter of security, making key contributions to international security, such as the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.
By further delaying the opening of negotiations with Macedonia, the EU has once again signaled its inability to live up to its own stated principles. Therefore, Macedonia may need to shift its focus, and concentrate on developing its economy and strengthening its democratic institutions, instead of concerning itself with the aggressive rhetoric of Bulgaria and Greece.
What Brussels does not acknowledge is that the Macedonians have endured systematic discrimination in Bulgaria and Greece for over a century, and, even to this day, these countries deny human rights and religious freedom to their significant Macedonian populations. Rewarding this behavior, the EU is now prepared to grant Bulgaria’s and Greece’s governments the status of gatekeepers, to determine Macedonia’s EU future based on how “neighborly” Macedonian society is to these countries. Instead, UMD believes the EU should promote a higher standard for Southeastern Europe in terms of fiscal responsibility and democratic freedom.
UMD calls on all EU member-states who have not recognized Macedonia by her constitutional name, including countries such as France and Germany, to do so in the very near future in order to bring back EU credibility to Macedonian society. Furthermore, UMD calls on the EU to stress that Athens and Sofia need to come to terms with modern reality that a distinct Macedonian nation, with its own language, heritage, and identity exists and will continue to exist in Southeast Europe.
It is UMD’s strong belief that Macedonia should not member in any international bodies who do not respect Macedonia’s right to self-determination and do not recognize Macedonia’s constitutional name.