This week in the fight for Macedonia
Much is now going on with respect to the fight to keep Macedonia’s name and identity intact but it is going to become more difficult to find out exactly what is going on. Why? To begin with, the Prime Minister of (what still is) Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, wants to shut down what remaining free media is still left in the country. Last week vice primer for European Affairs, Bujar Osmani came out and basically said there’s too much debate in the media over the name and identity issue. According to MIA, he said “The key for the process to be a success is to avoid debate over media…we need to keep this debate within the negotiating teams and ask for the opinion of people and society once we have a principled agreement.” Frankly, that is just Orwellian and astounding. Last year the government said the people would be consulted and involved in deciding about their own suicide (my word), and here now we learn that the little people need not be involved. George Soros would be proud.
In other news, foreign minister Nikola Dimitrov told the public that the government wants to give the people “visionary patriotism.” According to this report Dimitrov says “nationalism is weak in Macedonia and that the current government is trying to replace it with ‘visionary patriotism.’” Where does he come up with this garbage? First of all, if “nationalism” is “weak” why do you need to replace it? Second, and probably more importantly, how does he define “nationalism” since today it is a catchall word for anything you don’t like. And third, how the bloody hell does he define “visionary patriotism?” Isn’t that what Tito called for? Again, 1984 and very Orwellian.
Not to be left out, in an interview with a Greek TV station, defense minister Radmila Sekerinska pledged not only to change the name, but hinted that she would be just fine with changing the Macedonian identity as well stating that what is needed is a “…certain kind of composite…adjectives or additions.” All of that would certainly make Macedonians…not Macedonian.
And finally, there is this: Zaev is putting a tremendous amount of his political capital on the line with the so-called name negotiations. Ever since assuming office in early June of last year, his SDSM-led government, together with his Albanian partners, primarily DUI, the former guerillas, has put an immense amount of effort into reaching out to the Greeks, primarily, but others also, notably the Bulgarians. But it is with the issue of the name — and identity — with the Greeks that he and his government have place almost all of their political capital.
But here is the problem, for him and for Macedonia: a “solution” is not guaranteed. While his government has said that they have agreed to place a modifier in the name, presumably “Upper” or “North” (perhaps even in the Macedonian language but transliterated into the Latin alphabet and perhaps fused onto the word “Macedonia” but in the Macedonian language and transliterated into the Latin alphabet), he has also, at least verbally, said the Macedonian identity must not be “harmed” or changed. He seems — “seems” is the key word here — to be resisting calls from the Greeks to change the Macedonian Constitution, which Greece is — at least publicly — insisting on. If so, why doesn’t Zaev come out and say that? A simple “I will not change nor will I support any change of the Macedonian Constitution” would be a good start.
This brings us back to the issue of political capital. Assume, for a moment, that he will actually say that — “I will not change nor will I support any change of the Macedonian Constitution” and that the Greeks will continue to insist that the Macedonian Constitution be changed. He will have come a long way and spent a great deal of political capital for — nothing. But at this point the pressure from the outside — the US, the EU, and NATO — will become enormous. They are demanding a solution. Whichever side will bend first — and they believe it is the Macedonian side — they will pressure the most. After all, they had a huge part in putting him in power and, damn it all, they will want to make sure that they are paid what they are owed for putting him there — a change to Macedonia’s name and identity so that Greece can lift its veto and Macedonia can be allowed into NATO, at the least. That is what his handlers and minders demand. But what will Zaev do? What will his partners — Ali Ahmeti and his DUI — do and demand? For that matter, what will those who pushed him into power — the civil society organizations — do? We have heard their many voices recently basically stating that the name, Macedonia, and the identity, Macedonian, mean nothing to them. Although they are few in number, they demand that the country acquiesce to their demands. They will accept nothing less. All of these groups demand payment.
Again — and just to review — if the government of Macedonia wants to change the name within in the UN (meaning nearly every country around the world will also adopt it along with organizations such as NATO, the EU, WHO, IOC, IMF, etc.) but keep it internally, the only thing necessary is for the government to tell the UN that, from now on, the temporary and provisional reference, “the former Yugoslav Provence of Macedonia” will now be known by, the Republic of Gorna Makedonija (for instance). This does not require a change to the Macedonian Constitution (though the Greeks are still demanding this in order to lift their veto). However, it still will change the identity.
Do you want to continue to be Macedonia? Do you want to continue to be Macedonians? Then your voices need to be raised, loudly and often.