Macedonian Embassy’s Reaction to House Resolutions 521 and 306

The Embassy of the Republic of Macedonia to Washington presented a document regarding its objections to H. Res. 521 and H. Con. Res. 306 at a briefing it organized in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, March 9th, 2006.

Resolutions H. Res. 521 (House Resolution 521) and H. Con. Res. 306 (Resolution 306) in the United States House of Representatives deal with an issue of paramount importance for the Republic of Macedonia – its name.

Regrettably, the reference “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is used as a name for the country in both resolutions, even though in November 2004 the United States – as 119 countries already did – recognized it under its constitutional name – the Republic of Macedonia.

Both resolutions are based on inaccurate premises. As regards to the provisions of the House Resolution 521, there is neither negative and nationalist propaganda, including in school text books, nor the students are being taught that parts of Greece belong to the Republic of Macedonia. Furthermore, it has to be underlined that even during the most difficult years of trade embargo imposed by Greece, Macedonians have never harbored hostile sentiments towards its neighbor. In an unprecedented manner, 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”.

This is a rather unique dispute in the history of international relations when one free democratic country requests from another free democratic country – their neighbor – to change its name. The Republic of Macedonia has always emphasized that it does not hold exclusive rights over the name Macedonia in geographic, cultural, historic or commercial terms. It 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.

Macedonia fully observes its obligations under the 1995 Interim Accord with Greece. It remains committed to promote good relations with Greece and is determined to “resolve the differences over the name” as stipulated in the UN Security Council Resolution 817 in 1993. In spite of the controversy and the political risk involved, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia accepted the latest proposal to resolve the name differences, put forward by the UN mediator Mr. Nimetz on October 7, 2005, described by him as a basis that “meets the minimum requirements of both sides, and thus should be the basis of an honorable and acceptable solution”. Regrettably, it was Greece that immediately rejected this proposal.

The continuous challenge of its name since the independence of the Republic of Macedonia in 1991 has indeed become a security issue for the country. This denial has sent the wrong message to a nation of 2 million people focused on consolidating their multi-ethnic democracy in the heart of the Balkans in turbulent times: that the future of their country is not certain. At the same time it encourages and excuses radicals to work towards its disintegration because “the country is not fully recognized by the international community”.

By pursuing a constructive policy and by undertaking concrete steps, the Republic of Macedonia has become a steadfast partner and ally of the United States and a factor of stability in the Balkans and beyond:

– It has acquired its independence without armed conflicts;
– It respected the UN sanctions towards Serbia and Montenegro in conditions of several year- embargo imposed by Greece, suffering huge economic damage;
– Facing enormous risks for its economy and the delicate ethnic balance, in the course of the 1999 NATO intervention, it accepted more than 360.000 refugees from Kosovo, or 18% of the total population of the country;
– It resolved the 2001 crisis in Macedonia by applying political means and implemented the Ohrid Framework Agreement;
– It successfully develops multiethnic democracy in an extremely complex environment;
– It has an active role and contributes to the efforts of the international community for democratization and stabilization of other countries and regions.

The people of the Republic of Macedonia are tolerant and peace loving people. As President Bush said in October, they “…have showed the world that it’s possible for people of different backgrounds to live together in peace”. Once its internal stability was consolidated, the Republic of Macedonia was among the first countries to send troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan, contributing to their historic fight for freedom. However, the readiness for a compromise on the name issue cannot include its freedom; freedom for its citizens to say who they are and freedom to expect respect from other free nations.

It is very difficult for the people of Macedonia to comprehend that in a time when Macedonian and American young men and women are in harms way, fighting shoulder to shoulder in Iraq and Afghanistan, some members of the U.S. House of Representatives are engaged in sponsoring one sided resolutions that do not correspond with current developments in the UN talks.

Therefore, we believe that the esteemed members of the U.S. House of Representatives should take these arguments into consideration, if and when they deliberate upon these resolutions.

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