Further thoughts on sovereignty
I have just returned from a ten-day vacation to Estonia, a wonderful country I have been visiting regularly for a quarter of a century; to be honest, I’ve been involved in Estonia longer than Macedonia, but that’s another story. Of note from this most recent trip was that I found Pelisterka bottled water for sale. And not just that, but the bottles where labeled in Estonian meaning Pelisterka is doing some major exporting. Which leads me to this next interesting fact: 80 percent of Macedonia’s exports go to EU countries and Macedonia is not part of the EU. I’ll just wait a moment for that fact to sink in while Macedonia contemplates giving up much of its sovereignty, its name, its identity, its history, its culture, and much else in return for membership in the EU so that it can….what, export more than 80 percent to the EU?
We all know, by now, that joining the EU means giving up some sovereignty. Actually, for at least the past two decades EU and other politicians have told Europeans that joining the EU means “pooling sovereignty” and that to get into the EU, a country must give up a bit of its sovereignty. Speaking for myself I have a problem with a nation giving up its sovereignty, especially handing it over to unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in a faraway place like Brussels, to men and women who have never even been to Macedonia, much less care about Macedonia or her people. These unelected and unaccountable men and women are only interested in furthering their own careers, positions, prestige, etc. As Nile Gardiner, a former aide to UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has said, “Unelected European Commission bureaucrats are not accountable to European publics. They will care little about job losses or rising consumer prices.”
The other day I listened to my favorite podcast, The Remnant, with Jonah Goldberg, an American writer and analyst with the conservation publication, National Review, founded by one of the most respected conservatives on the American scene, William F. Buckley, in 1955. In the latest episode, Jonah brought on Charlie Cooke, the National Review dot com online editor, for a solid hour of robust intellectual discussion. Because Charlie is British by birth, but became an American citizen last year, Jonah asked him about Brexit and why Charlie supports it. I would highly recommend listening to the whole thing (and would also recommend you listen to every single episode), but my main point here focuses on sovereignty. Charlie says he was for Brexit on “Lockean grounds” and because he believes “that legislatures (the parliament) can make laws and not other legislatures” and that “powers are loaned to parliamentarians by the people and cannot be given away.” In other words, and relating this to Macedonia, the people of Macedonia have elected the parliament of Macedonia to make laws. The Macedonian people have loaned the Macedonian parliament the powers to make those laws and those powers cannot be transferred to anyone else, be it the European parliament or other EU officials. Regarding the EU project Cooke states that what started off as a trade idea was transmuted into a pan-European political project. And that is the trouble with the EU that so many Europeans are realizing. It is no longer an idea about trading and commerce, it is now a supranational project sucking sovereignty, the very life blood of the European countries, and demanding fealty to it.
Oddly, it is the Greeks who believe they can dictate demands to another country while demanding that everyone else respect their sovereignty. On Monday, July 23, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias said, regarding the so-called Russian interference in Greece and Macedonia, “Russia must realise that it cannot disrespect the national interests of another state because it feels it is stronger,” and that “Greece has decided to send a message to the east and the west, towards all its friends and others, that regardless of who is violating the principles of national sovereignty and respect toward us, measures will be taken.” In other words, Kotzias is defending, correctly, Greece’s national sovereignty. But at the same time, he and his government have completely violated Macedonia’s national sovereignty by breaking numerous international rules and accords — from basic membership in the UN, to the ICJ decision, to NATO’s own criteria for membership. There’s a word for this and it, ironically, has its origins in ancient Greek: hypocrisy.
Not that anyone in the international community really cares. But there’s the rub: when countries start violating international norms, they can’t expect every other country to continue to respect those and then cry foul when they aren’t respected. Actions have consequences. And the full consequences of Greece’s behavior, and the international community’s behavior, toward Macedonia have yet to be fully played out.
One final thought for today going back now to the Tsipras/Zaev agreement and some further thoughts from Greek foreign minister Kotzias, this time on the issue of commercial and other usage of the terms “Macedonia” and “Macedonian.” In a recent interview he said that “a necessary period of time to resolve this issue” would be needed. One problem with this is that, assuming that the necessary changes are made by Macedonia and the agreement implemented, the Greeks will demand that Macedonian businesses, private entities, civil society organizations, faith institutions, cultural groups, etc. change their names because the Greeks will have plenty of time and leverage to deny Macedonia entrance into the EU if Greek demands are not met. If you think that will not happen, you are a fool.