Zaev’s song remains the same: a change of Macedonia’s name and identity
The news coming from the EU-Western Balkans Summit of May 17 was a bit confusing: Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his public relations spin machine were out in full force stating that, essentially, the two sides reached a deal telling reporters “We were discussing many options and we agreed on one that is acceptable for both sides.” For his part, however, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said, essentially, not so fast, telling reporters that the two governments are “not in a position yet to talk about an agreement.” The international chattering class, pundits who self-style themselves as “experts” on the Balkans, were quick to Tweet their congratulatory remarks after Zaev’s comments, only to dial them back hours later.
Despite this ineptitude on the part of Zaev and his government in announcing something that was not, at the end of the day, Zaev’s song is still the same: change Macedonia’s constitution, along with the name and identity of Macedonia and everything that is called “Macedonian,” so that Macedonia becomes a member of NATO and the EU and so that he, Zaev, receives international acclaim, glory, and praise.
The following weeks therefore become critical, something everyone agrees on. For now, both prime ministers will, according to media reports, go back to their countries and talk to their presidents, parliaments (including the opposition) and perhaps the public (probably not in Macedonia’s case as Zaev, despite his insistence on transparency, is not transparent). In the meantime, the foreign ministries of both governments will, in all likelihood, continue discussing options, looking for that “final solution” as the Soros-funded Balkan Insight calls it, a regrettable choice of words.
Such talks will center not only on the so-called “new name,” but also on scope of use (Greece wants Macedonia to change its constitution so that the “new name” is used domestically as well as internationally), implementation of any agreement (a binding “international treaty” has been discussed as a path for Macedonia to change its constitution), but also such things as what the language is called (an AFP report noted that “Macedonia government sources on Tuesday confirmed that the main remaining difficulty was over the official name of the landlocked Balkan country’s language.”). While most of the world recognizes a separate and distinct Macedonian language, the European Union, to which Macedonia aspires to be a member, apparently does not. The declaration of the Sofia Summit released by the European Council, refers to the Macedonian language as the “language of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” This should merely point to the fact that the Greek government, in its negotiations with the Zaev government, will attempt to remove any references to a Macedonian language or Macedonian identity. It is worth pointing out that Greek government officials, the media, the Church, institutions, academia, and most of the Greek population do “not recognize that there is a Macedonian ethnicity and language.”
So, again, Zaev’s song will remain the same: he wants a deal — badly — and is willing to sell out Macedonia’s name, identity, language, history, culture, everything — to get it. But since he cannot arbitrarily change Macedonia’s constitution on his own and in fact needs the opposition VMRO-DPMNE and the president, here’s what will happen in the coming weeks and/or months:
The Government of Zoran Zaev (and especially his toady Ali Ahmeti), together with the Greek Government and (most) Western governments and institutions (NATO, EU, UN, media, think-tanks, CSOs, academia, etc.) will, 1) attempt to convince, persuade, and cajole the Macedonians that a Constitutional change of the name for international and domestic use is necessary, 2) threaten (both through direct and indirect statements) the Macedonians that if this does not happen, “Armageddon” will come and Macedonia will cease to exist (this is where Ahmeti will come in handy and this method is an age-old argument of simple fear-mongering), and 3) try to sell the Macedonians on the joys and virtues of NATO/EU membership, spinning the story that, essentially, peace, sweetness, and light eternal will be theirs once they enter the Promised Land, despite the fact that this is a lie as witnessed by the fact that Bulgarians (in NATO and the EU now for many years) are fleeing the country in record numbers because NATO and EU membership have not brought about the spin offered.
As all of the above actors are attempting to do this, here’s what could also happen: they will create a great deal of anger and pushback not just from the center-right in Macedonia (both independents who lean that way as well as VMRO-DPMNE supporters) but they will also create anger and pushback from SDSM and government supporters. Depending on how long all of this takes, there are elections coming up in Greece (parliamentary, by October 20, 2019) and Macedonia (presidential, by April 2019) that could affect everything. And if the talks go completely belly-up, and if the Macedonian people reject, through referendum and/or parliament, a Constitutional change, then the West will have a great big black eye and deservedly so for having embarked on such an ill thought-out path in the first place.
IF, somehow, Macedonia does change its constitution and a “new name, language, and identity” for Macedonia and the Macedonian people is adopted and enshrined in international law, a longer-term danger will take hold: the eradication of the Macedonian people and Macedonia itself.