UMD Applauds Luke Simpkins on Urging Change of Australian Policy on Macedonia Name

The United Macedonian Diaspora (Australia) applauds last night’s speech by Australian Member of Parliament Luke Simpkins for Cowan, and a recipient of UMD’s Macedonia Friendship Award in 2013, calling on Australia’s government to recognise Macedonia.

UMD Australia has long held the position that Australia’s policy is outdated and the government must change this and recognise Macedonia by her rightful and constitutional name.

UMD Australia and the entire Australian-Macedonian community express heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Simpkins for his not letting go of this issue and for consistently standing up for human rights of Macedonia and Macedonians since taking office.

Source: Parliament of Australia

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (21:14): Tonight I wish to raise a matter of great importance to many of my constituents and in fact many people around the country. It is rare that I take exception to our government’s foreign policy because I think that on all the big issues the foreign minister and the executive as a whole have gotten the calls right.

The issue I speak of is that of the failure of successive federal governments to call the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name. On every occasion when the name issue comes up for those Australians of Macedonian heritage-and there are more than 100,000-they feel insulted by this country’s continued use of the term ‘Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.’ Yugoslavia itself ceased to exist some 20 years ago and our country continues to be locked in the past.

Why? There is no doubt that both sides of politics are ultimately fearful that this one issue will somehow galvanise the Australian Greek community into a block vote against whoever makes this change to recognise the Republic of Macedonia. Both sides are wrong. Those of Greek heritage are pretty much like every other ethnic community of second generation or more heritage in this country. They are not locked into some false and paranoiac belief that Australia officially uttering the words ‘Republic of Macedonia’ will somehow lose territory of the Hellenic Republic. Australians of Greek heritage have bigger issues in their lives than this and they vote like any other Australians on issues that really affect them, such as the economy and opportunities for them and their families. There are a handful of Australians of Greek heritage who do contact members of parliament and talk about how many votes would be lost by whoever made such a change. But it remains a handful and, despite the talking, there are not enough people who would vote only on this issue to affect the result in a single electorate. It is tragic that literally a handful of nationalists can exert such power as to control the foreign policy of this nation.

Of course, that is not the reason given as to why Australia is against doing the right thing on the name issue. Officially, our biased position is to stand with a very small group of nations, a group that does not include our traditional allies of the United States, the United Kingdom or Canada. This small group excuses their biased pro-Greek position by talking about the need to remain committed to the UN-sponsored process that aims to achieve a mutually accepted agreement over the name issue. This is of course a smokescreen that is good for hiding behind for a perceived domestic political advantage.

Our position is wrong on many counts. Firstly, that stated objective can be achieved by maintaining the reference to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at the UN and in multilateral fora. Secondly, it does not take any notice of the outcomes over the last almost 20 years. Those outcomes have been minimal and, despite very big concessions on the Macedonian side regarding borders and even changing their flag, the Greek side insists that the name ‘Macedonia’ cannot be in the name of the country at all. Former Greek Prime Minister Samaras said in the past that all they have to do is to ensure there is no agreement at these UN sponsored talks and Albanian nationalism and other economic instability resulting from economic problems will see Macedonia fall apart.

I would remind the parliament that in vetoing Macedonia’s entry to the EU and NATO, the International Court of Justice found against Greece in 2011. The ICJ said that Greece, in vetoing Macedonia, had broken the original agreement to not bar the way for their neighbour. I find it disappointing that DFAT does not acknowledge this and, overall, provides advice that is biased.

As I have said before in my report, following a visit to Greece and the Republic of Macedonia in 2011, I believe that there is a real reason why Greece bars the economic future of the Republic of Macedonia by locking them out of the EU and NATO. That reason is that if they were allowed into the EU, then EU laws would allow those who lost houses and land, after the civil war in the 1940s, to claim restitution and the cost would be highly challenging for Greece to bear.

Our Prime Minister said late last year that the Macedonia request for bilateral name recognition was ‘fair enough’. Yes, it is fair enough that Australia should do the right thing and recognise the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name. This would actually help the UN-sponsored process by increasing pressure to end the intransigence and get real negotiation happening. Our duty should be to change to an unbiased position by providing bilateral recognition and increasing pressure to end the economic siege provided by the vetoing of entry to the EU. Bureaucrats who excuse our biased position by talking about freedom of the press and independence of the judiciary should know that Macedonia has already met the standards for entry to the EU.

Australia has so far taken a biased position and, through our unwillingness to seek progress, we are helping to hurt the economy of a small nation in Europe. The Greek government wants instability in the region and our support of one side aids them. Over the terms of successive governments Australia has held back the homeland of some 100,000 immigrants to our country and it is no surprise that they are not happy about it. The time to do the right thing has come.


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