Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bulgaria prevents Macedonian organizations from entering country

The World Macedonian Congress, Alliance of Muslim Macedonians, Ancient Macedonians Alliance as well as hundreds of other Macedonians were prevented from entering Bulgaria earlier today.


The trip was organized to pay respect to famous Macedonian revolutionary Jane Sandanski at the Rozen Monastery who today marked 95th anniversary of his death.


The Zlatarevo border crossing was beefed up by Bulgarian police who were expecting a wave of Macedonian tourists for Sandanski's anniversary.


Despite the 'no visa' policy, not a single Macedonian was allowed entry, even the ones who were not going to Sandanski's anniversary. The Bulgarian police and customs officials cited "no health insurance" as the reason for not allowing the Macedonians an entry. When their demands defied logic, Bulgarian police changed to "no invitation" as the reason for not allowing entry.


Head of the World Macedonian Congress, Todor Petrov said this is not new, Bulgarian Government's discrimination towards Macedonians is rampant and this surely was a great example of it.

Yes to NATO, but only as Macedonia

Sixty-five percent of the Macedonian citizens consider that Macedonia should not change the name to join NATO, show results of public opinion poll conducted by “Societas Civilis” Institute for Democracy at Ministry of Defence’s request.


Out of respondents who negatively answered on change of name in exchange for NATO admission, 84% are Macedonians, 7.1% are Albanians and 8.9% are other communities.


Regarding question how would you vote if referendum on Macedonia’s admission to NATO were held next week, 80.2% of the respondents answered positively and 10.8 answered negatively.


The largest number of respondents positively assessed the work of the Ministry of Defence and role of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia in peacekeeping missions.


The public opinion poll was conducted in the period from April 2 to 10, 2010.

Macedonia's ethnic Albanians call protest rally

Ethnic Albanian groups said Thursday they will hold a major rally next month to protest what they called discrimination by the Macedonian majority, nine years after a power-sharing deal saved the country from civil war.


Protest organizer Ibrahim Kocha said he expects tens of thousands to protest outside the Supreme Court in Skopje on May 10.


He claimed that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's conservative government discriminates "on ethnic and religious grounds." Kocha told the AP that 40 ethnic Albanian organizations want Albanian to be recognized as the small Balkan country's second official language.


Ethnic Albanians make up a quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million population. An armed uprising by ethnic Albanians in 2001 left about 80 people dead, and ended after international mediation secured more rights for the minority.


But ethnic Albanian leaders say government guarantees have been set aside.


Arben Xhaferi, an influential former leader and now honorary president of the Democratic Party of Albanians said he would revoke his signature from the peace deal in protest.


"(The deal) has become a mockery of agreed rights for Albanians, something over which they decided to take up arms in 2001," Xhaferi told The Associated Press in an interview.


"Both communities, Macedonian and Albanian, have failed to reconcile after 10 years and they are moving increasingly apart every day," he added.


The European Union, a main sponsor of the peace deal, insists on its full implementation.


The EU delegation in Macedonia said in a statement implementation of the deal "in letter and in spirit (is) the best means of supporting the stability and the multiethnic character of the country."

Gruevski expects proposal in May for surpassing name dispute, acceptable for both parties

PM Nikola Gruevski expects UN mediator Matthew Nimetz in May to give concrete proposal or set of ideas for surpassing the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia.


- We are ready for active participation in all preparations because as far as I know the mediator is listened with two negotiators and exchanges opinions and ideas. I hope that in May he will give proposal which will be acceptable for both parties and mainly for the Republic of Macedonia, the party which is mostly pressured and is in most unfavorable situation with this problem, PM Gruevski said in Krusevo at cornerstone laying ceremony of power transformer station for electrification of “St. Preobrazenie” monastery in Krusevo.


Asked to comment the latest public opinion poll conducted by “Societas Civilis” Institute for Democracy at Ministry of Defence’s request, which showed that over 80% of citizens oppose change of name for NATO membership, Gruevski said that he had no special comment and that the situation is not new because it was repeated several times so far.


- As government we remain fully committed in finding resolution to name dispute, which will unblock EU and NATO membership talks, but in a way, which will be acceptable for all citizens in the Republic of Macedonia and mainly for the Macedonians who are mostly concerned, Gruevski said.


- It means that it is about fundamental issue for the citizens and it is hard to sell something that endangers national and state interests. Because of this as government and as political party we are strongly focusing on finding solution that will not endanger national and state interests and citizens to be able to accept it on a referendum, Gruevski said.


He said that regardless if someone considers the solution acceptable or not, and whether it is good or bad, the citizens will have the final word at the referendum. That’s why in the negotiations and talks we are trying to obtain better proposal which will be acceptable and we are not looking for a solution at any price aimed at causing unnecessary expenses with the possible referendum, Gruevski said.

PM Gruevski Dislikes 'Republic of Northern Macedonia'

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has declared himself against renaming his state “Republic of Northern Macedonia.


Gruevski has expressed his position with respect to the latest solution put forth by Greece to the dispute between Greece and Macedonia about the name of the latter.


“If there is a proposal in favor of “Republic of Northern Macedonia,” if this name is presented to the UN envoy Matthew Nimetz, I am going to hold a referendum on it. If you are asking about my personal opinion, I am going to vote against it,” said Macedonian PM Gruevski in an interview for the Macedonian TV channel Sitel as cited by BTA.


The notorious name dispute between FYROM and Greece has pushed the latter to block Macedonia’s accession to NATO and the EU. Greece is uneasy about its northern neighbor using the name “Republic of Macedonia” because much of Northern Greece is an administrative region called Macedonia after the historic and geographic region where it is located.

Greeks and Bulgarians -Yesterday's bitter enemies today's best friends

Just recently someone handed me a Bulgarian newspaper and pointed to the headline; "Bulgarian-Greek Cultural event" with the Bulgarian flag on the left and the Greek flag on the right. Wow! I never thought that in my lifetime I would see the words "Bulgarian", "Greek" and "together" in a friendly way in the same sentence. The world is indeed changing and from what I gather, for the better. I hope!


The article went on to say:


"The event was organized by Cosmos Translations Inc and the Marketing Department of the OTN Greek Television Network, from the Greek side, and by the newspaper ´Bulgarian Flame´ and ´Balkanto´ from the Bulgarian side.


The two groups of Canadian-Bulgarians and Greek-Canadians had the opportunity to discuss ways and means to enhance their cultural presence in the Greater Toronto area.


The event was attended also by the Consul of the Republic of Bulgaria in Toronto Mr. Kamen Dikov and his wife and by some other prominent business personalities. Between them we discerned Tom Michalopoulos, (president of Coffee Time and other franchises) and his wife, Loui Masouras, as well as a representative of the Canadian Bulgarian Business Alliance (CBBA).


We hope that this meeting will be followed by many more, for the purpose of enhancing and enriching the cultural presence of both communities in Toronto and beyond."


(The story appeared in the January 22, 2010 issue of the "Bulgarian Flame" Toronto based Bulgarian newspaper.


I know a lot of you are saying, "What´s the big deal?" So a bunch of Greeks got together with a bunch of Bulgarians and had a good time. So what!


Well I grew up in Greece and as far as I am concerned the Greek educational system and Greek society in general taught me not to trust Bulgarians. Bulgarians, according to some Greeks, are allegedly the worst kind of humans to exist on this planet. I even heard from older generations that the Bulgarians are terrible "one-eyed" monsters to be avoided at any cost. So, for me at least, to see this kind of acceptance and friendship between Greeks and Bulgarians is somewhat of a miracle. If this is possible then perhaps there is hope that there will be acceptance of Macedonians and they too will have friendly relations with the Greeks and Bulgarians because, after all, they are a common link between Greeks and Bulgarians. Greece and Bulgaria became "worst enemies" over Macedonia, so what´s wrong with them becoming "best friends" because of Macedonia?


Greece and Bulgaria were indifferent to each other for many years, that is, until they both began looking to annex Macedonian territories. Then in 1913 they fought one another in pitch battles over who was going to get more of Macedonia. That fight continued all through the Second Balkan War, World Wars I and II and by the 1950´s they became fanatic bitter enemies. In fact, if I remember my history correctly, when Bulgaria capitulated in 1913, after fighting Romania, Ottoman Turkey, Serbia and Greece, it handed Sofia over to Romania because it did not want the Greeks to set foot on it fearing the Greeks would slaughter the entire population to the last man, woman and child. And now you tell me they are best friends? Who would have thought?


There is no rhyme or reason for the Greeks and Bulgarians to be best friends now, just like that. Being the suspicious kind that I am, I thought there had to be more. Historically, the only time Greeks and Bulgarians came even close to being friends was when they needed each other and had mutual interests at stake.


In the early 1900´s they both wanted Macedonian territories but could not individually defeat the Ottoman Empire to get them. So at some point in time they must have realized that it was more beneficial to both to be allies instead of enemies. Greece and Bulgaria must have realized that they could successfully defeat the Ottoman Empire only if they put their combined effort together. So they became friends and the first thing they did in July 1910, was to reconcile their "Church" differences between the Bulgarian Exarchate and the Greek Patriarchate, two bitter enemies who had fought to the death.


Their friendship unfortunately only lasted as long as they had a common enemy, the Ottomans, but as soon as the Ottomans were driven out of Macedonia they again became bitter enemies and fought each other for a bigger piece of Macedonia. So excuse me for being the suspicious type but I bet you this "new" so-called "Greek" – "Bulgarian friendship" has something to do with "Macedonia".


You see Serbia too was a "partner" who benefited from Macedonia´s partition in 1913. But with the breakup of Yugoslavia in the late 1980´s, Serbia lost its share and that part of Macedonia became the independent Republic of Macedonia in 1991. So you can bet the Greeks and Bulgarians "need each other" because very soon they will be facing the Macedonian people, from whom they stole parts of Macedonian territories and who will be wanting them back. You can see at least one reason why Greeks and Bulgarians are consolidating their forces, right?


Both Greece and Bulgaria are new countries artificially spawned in the 19th century by the Great Powers, created from the remnants of the failing Ottoman Empire. Neither deserves the Macedonian territories they were given in 1912, 1913 when they illegally invaded, occupied and partitioned Macedonia by force and without the consent of the Macedonian people. I guess they know that too, that is why they need each other now more than ever not only to fight back against the Macedonians but also to cover up the atrocities they committed against them over the years. "Greece will be a witness for Bulgaria and cover up the misdeeds the Bulgarians have committed against the Macedonians if Bulgaria will be a witness for Greece and cover up its misdeeds and hopefully they both will come out unscathed", so they think!


Greeks, Bulgarians and generally most people of the Balkans are often described by outsiders as people who behave "irrationally". Unfortunately this often quoted "irrational" behaviour has never been explained other than being called a "typical Balkan behaviour". Well there are reasons for such behaviour which usually point to guilt. Macedonians, and by that I mean the "real Macedonians" not the "Greek-Macedonians" or "Bulgarian-Macedonians", do not behave "irrationally" nor do they need to because their conscience is clear.


Macedonians have not stolen other peoples´ lands; they have not committed atrocities and genocide and have not prohibited other people from speaking their language or from freely asserting their national and ethnic sentiments. The Greeks and Bulgarians, on the other hand, have stolen Macedonian lands, have committed atrocities and genocide and have prohibited other people, especially the Macedonians, from expressing their national and ethnic consciousness so they do have many reasons to be nervous about and this nervousness manifests itself in "irrational behaviour" which is obviously noticed by outsiders. When you speak of such "behaviour" please do not include the "real Macedonians" as they already have enough problems to worry about without being labeled neurotic, irrational, obsessed and all the terms used to describe the others.






So if you are like me and find it difficult to believe that "bitter old enemies" can suddenly, out of the blue, become "new best friends" then you are in good company.


So what exactly is the "real reason" for Greeks and Bulgarians coming together in this friendly manner? Is this another "historic friendship of convenience" or what?


Again, I hope I am wrong about this and that this "new Greek-Bulgarian friendship" is genuine because the world can use a lot less violence and more "love" between nations. But as I said before, being the suspicious kind, I don´t believe it to be so. In fact there is a trend nowadays, not only in the Balkans but also in all of Europe, where nations and people are becoming more "nationalistic" and violent so I find it difficult to view this new relationship as "genuine".


One might argue that this new found love between Greeks and Bulgarians is taking place in Canada and has nothing to do with Greece and Bulgaria but let me tell you "nothing" happens anywhere without the approval of "mother Greece" and "mother Bulgaria", especially this "friendship" between the two! And there is more.


I have also noticed that this "love affair" is not limited to Bulgarians and Greeks but extends to other "bitter rivals" the "Grkomani and Bulgaromani" (Macedonians who think they are Greeks or Bulgarians and work against the Macedonian cause).


Macedonians beware of "Grkomani" and "Bulgaromani" bearing gifts which they may have bought with your money. Speaking of money, there is nothing more disgusting than your "worst enemies" pretending to be your best friends, soliciting money from you and then using it against you"! Yes you heard me right!


So again Macedonians, of the "real kind", beware of to whom you donate your money because it potentially could be used against you!


Since the Republic of Macedonia became an independent country in 1991, the world has been watching and taking notice. I expect people will soon be asking "we thought Macedonians did not exist, where did all these Macedonians come from?" What will the Greeks and Bulgarians, who have been speaking for the Macedonians for the last one-hundred years, say then? Tito created them? They are disgruntled Greeks? They are Serbia-nized Bulgarians? And who is going to believe that?


So you can see the reasons why Greeks and Bulgarians need to get together and "get their stories straight" and what better way to do that than to start by being best friends. You don´t have to believe me about this, all you have to do is read your history and you will find much "precedence" for this kind of behaviour between Greeks and Bulgarians, especially when it comes to Macedonia and the non-existent Macedonians!


There is another angle to this, a more sinister angle, which involves Greece and Bulgaria again joining forces to occupy and partition the Republic of Macedonia. They did this in 1912 and 1913 and it worked well for them. Why not do it again?


Greece already claims Macedonia belongs to it and that the Macedonian territories up to ancient Paeonia have always been Greek. Bulgaria has also made similar claims since the San Stefano Treaty was signed, so why not act on those claims? Who is going to stop them?


Think of it this way. What is better for Greece and Bulgaria? (a) Risking being discovered and punished for "stealing" Macedonian lands, committing major atrocities against the Macedonian people and having to pay for all this including giving back all the Macedonian territories to the Macedonian people, or (b) Invading, occupying and annexing the Republic of Macedonia and thus solving the "Macedonian Question" once and for all, or at least until the Macedonian people muster enough strength to again rise up? So you can see (b) an "invasion" may be a better option for them. Isn´t that what the Bishop of Thessaloniki called for? Isn´t that what the Greek Special Forces were chanting during the latest Greek Independence Day parade?


Hey, I am just thinking out loud here! And if you think that this idea falls outside the "realm of possibilities", think again. This is not my idea. It comes directly out of Mitsotakis´s play book. You know ex-Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis, Dora Bakogianys´s father?


Well, I have a better idea, instead of attempting something stupid and risking starting a Third World War, why don´t Greece and Bulgaria admit to stealing Macedonian lands and simply give them back to the Macedonian people? While doing that why not take the punishment they deserve for all the atrocities they both committed against the Macedonian population?


Before I am done here, there is one more thing I want to say, which has some bearing on this Greek and Bulgarian irrational behaviour and it has to do with the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest. I am not talking about the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest everyone knows about, I am talking about "the secret part" of the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest that very few people know about! Yes there is a secret part but that is all I am going to say about it for now.


Does the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest expire in 2013? Some people say yes; but it is yet to be determined! I say "yes" one third of the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest expired in 1991 when the Macedonian people took matters into their own hands and liberated the Serbian occupied part of Macedonia and called it the Republic of Macedonia! Unfortunately Greece and Bulgaria are still in denial about that but sooner or later they too will come to the realization that they too must give up the Macedonian occupied territories they stole from the Macedonian people, just as Serbia did! That´s when the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest will expire in its entirety!


One last thing. Greece is about to be given an economic bailout package by the Europeans and the IMF. Yet in spite of the horrendous amount of money given, there are no conditions attached to Greece to provide human rights for its minorities or to end its phony name dispute with the Republic of Macedonia. Yet the Republic of Macedonia in all earnest is expected to change its name to enter NATO and the EU. By changing its name Macedonia will have to admit that Macedonians don´t exist and Greece and Bulgaria were right all along in saying so. And this ladies and gentlemen is the European way of doing business; done by the same Europe Macedonia wants to join. It makes no sense to me!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Macedonia might get EU accession talks date by July

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos voiced optimism Tuesday (April 20th) that Macedonia may get a date for starting EU membership talks during Spain's presidency of the bloc, which ends on July 1st. At a press conference with his Macedonian counterpart Antonio Milososki in Skopje, Moratinos said Madrid will put all its energy into that goal. He predicted that this will be a good year for Macedonia's bid to join both the EU and NATO, as long as both Skopje and Athens work to resolve their longstanding name dispute.


From Skopje, Moratinos travelled to Belgrade, where he met with Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic and visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Afterwards, Moratinos said that one topic of the trilateral meeting was the June EU-Balkans summit in Sarajevo. Serbia boycotted last month's Balkan summit in Slovenia due to Kosovo's participation.

UN prepares new round of talks between Macedonia and Greece

The UN is working to prepare the next round of talks on the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece, said Martin Nesirky, Spokesman for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Macedonian eReporter news agency informs.


The agency says Nesirky refused to provide further details. He answered a journalist’s question whether UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon believes there is progress or the 15-year negotiations have come to a standstill, says eReporter.

Open issues may destabilize region, says president

There are still some open issues in the Balkans, which may become a reason for region’s political or security destabilization, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said in interview to ITAR-TASS, Macedonian Vecer daily reports.


The open issues are increasing our concern. We may speak about stability and security only if all countries are registering progress. The status quo of the region is bearing some risks, Ivanov remarked.


The Macedonian president also said that in the XXI century, much energy is spent on the basic human right of self-identity, self-awareness and the right of human dignity.

Massive Arrests in Macedonia, mainly medical doctors and employees in the State Pension Fund

Some 40 people suspected of corruption, mainly medical doctors and employees in the State Pension Fund, were arrested on Monday morning in a massive police operation conducted throughout Macedonia, Bosnia Daily reported.

Those arrested are suspected of taking bribes and misusing their office when determining eligibility for state pensions, local media reported.

The detained, many of them reportedly still wearing their white coats, are currently being brought before an investigative judge in Skopje where they are to give their statements. The judge is expected to determine whether they should remain in custody.

The police have thus far been silent on the arrests, announcing only that they will release official information later on Monday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Macedonian PM to pay unofficial visit to Athens

Prime Minister of Republic of Macedonia Nikola Gruevski is expected to pay an unofficial visit to Athens in the end of the month, Greek Vima daily reports.
Gruevski will take part in the forum organized by Economist, which will be held in Athens on April 29.
Nikola Gruevski’s speech at the congress will be dedicated to the challenges in Southeast Europe.
The congress will be also attended by Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, as well as by his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov.
It is expected for Gruevski to meet with Papandreou, at the background of the unconfirmed information that UN mediator Matthew Nimetz plans to introduce new proposals for the name by the end of the month, the newspaper writes further.

Greek by Name

The satire "Greek by name" from December 12, 2007, is characterized as successfully funny and even humorous, sadly however reality is seldom a "comedy". If for the Greeks the "name" issue REPRESENTS "Support for the State Philosophy" which is overly excessive, then for the Macedonians it represents a risk of "losing their country and ethnic existence". Macedonians have been using this name for at least 1,500 years or since many tribes settled the Balkans and mixed with the indigenous people. Greeks on the other hand have gained Macedonian territory, specifically their northern province which for the longest time they called "Northern Greece" only 95 years ago when they took possession of 51% of Macedonia in 1913. Only in 1989 did Greece change the name of its northern province to "Macedonia" under the motto "Attack is the best defence". It is absurd that Macedonians are even talking to the Greeks knowing that they have little chance of making progress in these unfair negotiations. Thanks to Greece's threat of veto and its irresponsible use of it as well as its position in NATO and the EU it has all the help it needs from the European Community to hold Macedonia back as long as it wants. Greece very cunningly and abruptly rejected Macedonia's name in 1992 in Lisbon before anyone had a chance to "examine the facts". This rejection also came with misinformation and confusion leading the unaware European ministers to come to the wrong conclusion. Greece lead the European Community into believing that the name "Macedonia" was of no importance to the Republic of Macedonia because allegedly this was a name created by Tito when Yugoslavia became a state of republics in 1944. Thus Greece's strong objection to the name was laid on a foundation of lies. The EU states, without consulting historical data and without examining the facts, were quick to take Athens's side. A similar scenario was repeated in 1993 when Macedonia applied for membership into the United Nations. It seems that justice is not important these days and the sacred Greek might is always placed ahead of Macedonia's right. If we examine past approaches to the name issue taken by our American "mediator" of the UN, we will find that the whole process is biased in Greece's favour. Actions taken during briefings in Skopje in 1994 and 1995 at best can be described as "desperate". With the exception of naming the Skopje Airport "Alexander the Great", every gesture Macedonia made in Greece's view should be positive but from what experience has shown Greece has been relentless and has, without thinking twice, used all ammunition delivered to its hands against Macedonia.
Macedonia on the other hand has a great heritage which modern Europe considers to be the cradle of western culture. Ironically even though it is well known that Alexander the Great was Macedonian, no one complained when Greece named its airport "Alexander the Great" in late 1989. What justification did the Greeks have? That Alexander the Great spread "Hellenism" to the world during his expeditions? If that were true, and no one can deny that modern Europe in its entirety has profited immensely from Hellenism, then why is there not a single European nation (besides Greece) Greek today? Why is there not a single nation outside of Europe, where Alexander ventured, Greek today? When Slav tribes were settling the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries AD the ancient Greeks had already abandoned Greece and others settled in their place. For well known reasons the Greeks left Greece at the end of the 4th century but the descendents of the ancient Macedonians remained all while Macedonia was a Roman province. Thus the descendents of the ancient Macedonians lived in Macedonia as the descendents of the ancient Thracians lived in Thrace and as the descendents of the Ancient Epirians lived in Epirus. In time these people assimilated with the Slav tribes who in turn adopted those lands as their home and left their genetic markers in the modern populations. So today we have Slav and ancient Macedonian genetic markers in the blood of the modern Macedonians the same as we have Thracian genetic markers in the blood of the modern Bulgarians and modern Turks living in Eastern Thrace. The same can be said about the modern Greeks and Albanians who carry in their blood the genetic markers from the ancient Epirians. Even though it is well known that the Turko-Tatar Bulgars settled the Eastern Balkans 150 years after the Slav tribes and took the Slavic language from them, does not prevent the modern Bulgarians from asserting that today's Macedonians allegedly speak "Bulgarian". Further forward in time, during the 9th century according to George Shtatmiller author of the book "History of South-Easter Europe" the Greeks, drawn by the Slav settlements of Greece, returned to their former fatherland and assimilated the Slavs and Albanians settling that region. So how can the Greeks then claim to be related to the ancient Macedonians? Contrary to any Greek assertions, Greeks in reality never settled Macedonian territories, not in ancient nor any other time until the 20th century. Macedonians on the other hand have conquered and have occupied Greek lands. The ancient Macedonians, through the League of Corinth, held hegemony over the Greeks for over 120 years during which time they also occupied Athens for a short period. Thus prior to the 20th century Macedonia was never Greek, not during Roman times when both Macedonia and Greece were Roman colonies, not during the Middle Ages, not during Ottoman times and certainly not until after the 1912, 1913 Balkan Wars when Greece, for the first time, by virtue of conquest, was awarded Macedonian lands including Solun and parts of Thrace. And this Greece did not do alone but with help from its neighbours Serbia, Bulgaria and Montenegro and with the blessings of the Great Powers. Thanks to the Great Powers, Russia in particular, for their support of the four Balkan monarchies which united and declared war on the Ottomans without themselves being swallowed up by Austro-Hungary or Romania.
Let us also remind the world that the Thracians and Epirians disappeared after 1913 only as a result of brutal hellenization at the hands of the Greek state, brutal Bulgarization at the hands of the Bulgarians and Islamization due to Ottoman influence. The Macedonians occupied by Serbia to some extent survived Serbian attempts at assimilation and began to regain their Macedonian consciousness under the cover of Yugoslavia.
It is sad to say that Macedonia's annexation in 1913 happened with the blessing of International right which now reminds it of the shame it committed. It is not fear of the Macedonian hammer that Greece is afraid but of the fear of facing its own shame in public.
As protectors of the European heritage which has flourished for centuries, European Union parliamentarians should be ashamed of forcing Macedonia, a state which in the past has done so much for Europe, to accept a farcical name like "FYROM". This again proves that Europe values business and money far above justice, truth, etiquette and morality.
If this small country has learned anything, it has learned how unfair Europe can be. The 2001 Ohrid Agreement was forced upon it by Brussels bureaucrats without even examining the facts or consulting history. Europe has shown no care for the dangers under the sword of Damacles it has created for this young state. With this kind of attitude how does Europe expect to hold a united existence?
The only option Macedonia is left with to protect its rights is to present its case to the international community.

Source(s):

Hans Lothar Schteppan is a former German Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia and author of the book "Macedonian Knot"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fuel goes up in prices

Fuel prices in Macedonia have been increased, Macedonian newspaper Vecer reported. By decision of the Energy Regulatory Commission as of tonight the price of petrol is increased by 1,5 denars per liter (61 denars = 1 euro) and the price of diesel - by 2,5 denars. The new price of EUROSUPER BS-95 is 70.50 denars, while the EUROSUPER BS-98 is 72 denars per liter. EURODIZEL worth 57.50 denars. Heavy fuel oil is more expensive with 1.406 denars, as its current price is 32.493 denars per liter.

Gostivar mayor to found new party in Albanian political bloc

Mayor of the Macedonian town of Gostivar Rufi Osmani will soon found a new political party, which will require for Macedonia to become a country of two state-establishing nations – the Albanian and the Macedonian, and for all important state decisions to be passed with concession between the two, Macedonian Dnevnik daily reports. 


Osmani told the newspaper that it has not been decided yet when exactly the party will be found but the process will be slow in order to avoid any mistakes in the selection of the people in the leadership.
There will be young people in the party, who will bring change, mainly in the Albanian political bloc, and will increase the level of responsibility in politics,” Osmani said.

Osmani has discussed his idea with Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha, whom he met during the weekend.
A year ago Osmani won the local elections as a non-attached candidate and got a majority in the Municipal Council of Gostivar. The idea for the establishment of a new party is connected to the upcoming general elections. According to Osmani, Macedonia needs new elections, at least until there is no solution to the name dispute with Greece.

THE HOLOCAUST IN MACEDONIA: DEPORTATION OF MONASTIR JEWRY

In 1941, some 78,000 Jews lived inYugoslavia, including about 4,000 foreign or stateless Jews who had found refuge in the country during the 1930s. Although Yugoslavia had reluctantly joined the Axis alliance with Germany, the Yugoslav government was toppled by an anti-German military coup on March 27, 1941. Nazi Germany invaded the Balkan nations of Yugoslavia and Greece in early April 1941. Supported militarily by her Axis allies (Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, andRomania), Germany quickly subdued the Balkans. Yugoslavia was partitioned among the Axis allies. Bulgaria annexed Yugoslav Macedonia (the area including the cities of Skopje and Bitola in southern Yugoslavia).


On October 4, 1941, the Bulgarians enforced an extraordinary measure that prohibited the Jews of Macedonia from engaging in any type of industry or commerce. All existing Jewish businesses had three months to transfer ownership to non-Jews or sell their assets and close down. In addition, a law that barred Jews from certain areas of town was enforced in Monastir in late 1941. Jews who lived in the more prosperous part of Monastir, located on the east side of the Dragor River, were forced to move to a poorer part of town located near the traditional Jewish quarter on the west side, and this area became the ghetto.


With Monastir's Jews forced into a ghetto and registered, it became easier to carry out the theft of their property. On July 2, 1942, the Bulgarian government demanded that all Jewish households hand over 20 percent of the value of all assets, including property, furniture, cash, and household items. Committees were established to assess the value of the Jews' property. The possessions of those who did not have the money to pay the tax were sold at auction.


All of these degrading, restrictive measures halted normal Jewish life in Monastir. Zamila Kolonomos, a local Jewish woman, lived through these years of occupation in Monastir. She wrote, "Ansina la vida si truko i no avia mas ni enkontros, ni fiestar, ni bodas, ni aligrias" (Thus life was so greatly changed and there were no more get-togethers, no festivals, no weddings, no celebrations).


Though allied with the Germans, the Bulgarian government refused to deport Jews residing in Bulgaria proper. Bulgarian authorities did, however, deport Jews without Bulgarian citizenship from the territories of Yugoslavia and Greece which Bulgaria occupied. They deported the Macedonian Jews in simultaneous actions that began in the early morning of Thursday, March 11, 1943. In Monastir, Skopje, and Štip, where there was a tiny population of Sephardic Jews, several hundred police and soldiers, as well as cart drivers with their carts, gathered at municipal police stations at 2 a.m. to receive instructions for the removal of the Jews and their belongings. In Monastir, the Bulgarian military established a blockade around the city to prevent escapes.


Between 5 and 6 a.m., groups fanned out into the ghetto to bang on doors and order the residents to leave their homes in one hour. The Jews were told that they were being transferred to other parts of Bulgaria and that after the war they would be returned to their homes, but this did little to ease the terror and confusion of this massive eviction. Advance rumors of this action convinced Kolonomos to hide, and that night she and four others sat in a windowless room in a shop and listened to what was happening to their community. Kolonomos wrote,


At dawn we heard the uproar of groups of police. In a moment there was the sound of horses' footsteps and the noise of carts. Then all was calm. Then came a noise like thunder….We asked each other what it could be? Then we were able to discern the sound of voices, shouts, the crying of many people, of babies, of women! We were able to distinguish the words of the Bulgarians who shouted: 'Quickly! Quickly!' The prayers, moans, curses, the crying was clear… They were taking all the Jews, old and young, not just the youths who could work…. A river of people passed alongside us.


At around 7 a.m. the Jews were forced to walk to the railroad station, where a train was waiting to take them away to neighboring Skopje; a temporary detention center had been established at the state tobacco monopoly warehouse known as Monopol. The Monopol was chosen for its ability to hold thousands of people, and also because it was served by a railroad. Albert Sarfati survived the war, and he gave this eyewitness account:


They loaded us into cattle wagons, fifty to sixty people per wagon, including luggage. There wasn't enough space and many had to stand. There was no water. The children were crying … A woman in one wagon was giving birth… but there was no doctor. We reached Skopje at midnight. Night. Darkness. They opened the wagons and in the darkness pushed us into two large buildings. Cars carrying the Jews from Shtip had been added to our train. Stumbling over one another in the darkness, dragging our luggage and continuously being beaten by the Bulgarian soldiers, the children, the aged and infirm tried to squeeze into the building. When the sun rose, we realized we were in Skopje in the building of the Monopoly, and that all the Jews of Macedonia had been rounded up that same day.


For the next 11 days the Monastir Jews, together with Jews from Skopje and Štip, approximately 7,215 in all, lived in crowded, filthy conditions in four warehouses at Monopol. The weather was cold, there was little food and few blankets, and the Jews were continually searched, beaten, and humiliated. Women and girls were raped. Elena Leon Ishakh, a doctor from Monastir who was released from Monopol to work for the Bulgarians, survived the war and left this description of the Monopol:


Hunger pervaded… Only on the fifth day did the camp authorities set up a kitchen, but for over 7,000 of us there were too few stoves. Food was doled out starting at eleven in the morning, and the last ones were fed around five in the evening. Food was distributed once daily and consisted of 250 grams of bread and plain, watery beans or rice… They also gave us smoked meat, but it was so bad that, despite our hunger, we couldn't eat it… Under the pretext of searching us to find hidden money, gold, or foreign currency, they sadistically forced us to undress entirely… In some cases they even took away baby diapers… If anything was found on somebody, he was beaten….


Nico Pardo was one of the few who managed to escape from the Skopje detention center and after the war he described the Jews' despair in Monopol:


We were in a terrible mood. The youngsters tried to sing every so often, but the adults and the elderly people were in deep depression. We did not know what awaited us, but the dreadful treatment we received from the Bulgarians showed the value of the promises given us that we would only be taken to a Bulgarian work camp. Here and there youngsters whispered of the possibility of an uprising and a mass escape, but they never materialized. There was no prospect of it succeeding. The yard was surrounded by a wooden fence and behind that a barbed wire fence. At each of the four corners there was a sentry with a machine gun and other armed guards would patrol the yard. Also, the belief that the worst possible fate did not await us prevented such suicidal acts from taking place.


Three railroad transports took the Macedonian Jews from Monopol to Treblinka. The journey typically took six days, and during this time the Jews were locked in cattle or freight cars. Several Jews died during each transport, and the living had to endure the presence of corpses. On the morning of March 22, 1943, some 2,300 Macedonian Jews from Monopol were forced to board a train consisting of 40 cattle cars. Families journeyed together, and the transport included at least 134 small children no more than four years old, and at least 194 children between the ages of four and 10. The train arrived at Treblinka six days later on March 28 at 7 a.m. Four people died on this transport. The overwhelming majority of these Jews were from Skopje.


On March 25, German and Bulgarian soldiers loaded about 2,400 Macedonian Jews onto a train made up of freight cars. All the Jews from Štip, who numbered 551, were on this second transport, as were about 2,000 Jews from Skopje and Monastir. Sarfati was scheduled to board the third transport, and he watched the Jews board this second train:


Each wagon carried between 60 and 70 people with all their baggage. The people came out of the building carrying their belongings on their backs. Everyone was carrying things, from the oldest person to the youngest. With bowed heads, all approached the black train. In front of each wagon stood a German and a Bulgarian policeman checking off a list. It was impossible to sit down in the freight cars. As soon as the 'livestock' had been loaded into a car, it was locked and sealed. Only heads were visible through the small windows… Those of us in the building were not permitted to watch, and the police waved their machine guns toward our windows to keep us from watching. The train was ready and left about eleven o'clock. Hands were waving goodbye from the small wagon windows and all of us in the building were shedding tears.


The last train carried around 2,400 Jews, approximately 2,300 of whom were from Monastir. The Jews began boarding the freight cars at 6 a.m. on March 29 and by noon the train was full. The departure of this train for the killing center at Treblinka signaled the final destruction of the Monastir Jewish community.

Albanian parties want all children to study Albanian in their regions

Albanian political parties in Macedonia have requested uniformity in the study of Albanian language, Alfa television station reports.


In this way Albanian is set to become obligatory for all children in the regions where ethnic Albanians are a majority.


Earlier today the parties of the ethnic Albanians announced their opposition to the obligatory requirement education ministry requested that first graders in all schools in the country should study Macedonian.


Democratic Union for Integration, New Democracy and Democratic Party of Albanians, regardless of whether they are in power or in opposition, insist on making Albanian an official language, alongside Macedonian.

Greece responds to FYROM's impending takeover of the Presidency of the Council of Europe

In response to a journalist's question about the impending takeover of the Presidency of the Council of Europe, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Government's intention to use this institution to promote its position on the name issue, as evidenced by statements Foreign Minister Milososki, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mr. Gregory Delavekouras said on Monday that:


"On May 11, 2010, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be invited to chair the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. This is an important responsibility, they take all Member States of the international body rotation in alphabetical order, for six months at a time (The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia undertakes under the letter T - the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - the English alphabet).


In exercising its institutional mandate, the President must support the important affairs administered by the Committee of Ministers. It must exercise its role as appropriate to the presidency of any international intergovernmental body, ie respect for international legitimacy, the institutional acquis and decisions of the organization, in cooperation with other institutions and in a spirit of consensus over the other member states. One example given by Greece in pursuit of the presidency of the OSCE in 2009.


Unfortunately, statements by the leadership of FYROM effortlessly clear that the intention of the Government of Macedonia is to exercise the role of abusing its presidency to promote its position on the name issue, as it did during its Presidency UN General Assembly. The purpose of the action is to cancel the contents of Resolution (95) 23 of the CoE Committee of Ministers which stipulates that "this country will be provisionally called Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" for all purposes within the Council of Europe .


In this way, the leadership of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia charged once the negotiating process within the United Nations and actively reject the efforts and initiatives taken by Greece to create a positive climate between the two countries to facilitate the conduct of negotiations under the auspices of the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary General. Greece is not going to follow this behavior.


In doing so, the Government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia demonstrates that it can have the confidence of the international community, and confirms the correctness of the unanimous decisions of NATO and the EU to abandon the country's accession process while remaining open to the pending name issue.


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has updated the international bodies and other CoE member states of the Organization for these approaches. Throughout the course of the Bureau of Macedonia, we will take all necessary steps to ensure respect for the content of Resolution (95) 23 of the CoE Committee of Ministers.


Once again we reiterate the readiness of Greece to move directly to final settlement, with a name will be determined by geography and will be used for all, erga omnes. We expect the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to finally make the step that it deserves to reach a mutually acceptable solution within the framework of negotiations under UN auspices. Source; Government of Greece

Lots of Albanians, Roma people from FYROM emigrate to EU member states

Lots of citizens of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), mainly Albanians and Roma people, continue emigrating to EU member states, Greek Ethnos newspaper writes.


Since the lifting of the visa regime last October, thousands of FYROM citizens headed for Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway as many of them are searching for political asylum to stay permanently in the country. Despite the sharp reactions on behalf of the European Commission and several European governments, the emigration process continues.


The reason is that people are searching for better life and want to get away from the discrimination, the newspaper comments.

Council tells Macedonia to be 'pragmatic' on name

The head of the Council of Europe says Macedonia and Greece should take a more pragmatic approach to solving their long-standing name dispute.
Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland visited Skopje, Macedonia's capital, Monday. Macedonia takes over the chairmanship of the council's executive between May and November this year.


Jagland met Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki and said he hoped the name dispute would not overshadow the country's role as chairman.


Greece says its neighbor's use of the name Macedonia implies territorial claims on its own northern region of Macedonia. Athens has blocked Macedonia's NATO accession, citing the dispute, and is threatening to do the same with its bid to join the European Union.

Turkish diplomats hospitalized in Macedonia

Government and medical authorities in Macedonia say eight visiting Turkish diplomats have been treated in the hospital treatment for food poisoning.
Four of the diplomats remained in the hospital Monday. The others were released.


Private A1 television says the diplomats visited several restaurants, including a kebab place, in the Old Turkish bazaar in the capital, Skopje.


The diplomats arrived are in Macedonia at the invitation of the Foreign Ministry to speak at seminars at the country's Diplomatic Academy.

Macedonia, Albania initiate bilateral free imports of agricultural goods

Macedonia and Albania will import agricultural products from one another without duty, Macedonian Utrinski Vesnik reported. Protocol for liberalization in agriculture is expected to be ratified soon. The protocol is within the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) and should enter into force on July 1 this year. Macedonian Economy Minister Fatmir Besimi yesterday met with his Albanian counterpart Drita Prifti. They have agreed to speed up the procedure for ratifying the Protocol.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Macedonia Military Reforms Stalled

Ever since Macedonia failed to join NATO in 2008 due to its “name” dispute with neighbouring Greece, a number of reforms to the Macedonian army have ground to a halt, local security analysts say.
They note that in some areas the country has even made steps backwards, including cutting money for the envisaged army modernization and for reaching the desired level of interoperability with NATO forces.


“The government should continue reforming the army, not only because of the recent criticism but also because of the goal of joining a modern defense system,” Lidija Georgieva, a security, defense and peace studies professor at Skopje University, told local daily Vreme.


Macedonia currently spends 1.7 per cent of its budget on its armed forces, while NATO's standards dictate that a country which applies for membership should spend at least 2.3 per cent for this purpose. In this year’s budget, the army was given some €23 million less than in 2009.


This was one of the main concerns expressed by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during his January meeting with Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski, the daily reports.


Despite the cuts Macedonia continues to maintain its course towards NATO, the dean at the Skopje Philosophy Faculty, Trajan Gocevski told Vreme.


“The main criticism relates to the level of prepareness of the units intended for international peacekeeping missions. This year we should have 600 soldiers ready for such missions and by 2013 we should scale that number up to 1200,” he said.


Skopje currently has some 250 soldiers deployed in the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, more than many of the NATO member countries.


Macedonian Defense Minister Zoran Konjanovski, visiting the Macedonian Army contingent stationed in Afghanistan, said on Monday that Macedonia is a small country, but a serious contributor in the anti-terrorism coalition,


In 2008 Macedonia was denied entrance to NATO due to the Greek blockade over the unresolved bilateral “name” spat. NATO has reiterated that the country is welcome to join the alliance as soon as the row with Greece is resolved.

Government cuts participation fee for studying at state universities

The Government decided to substantially cut the participation for studying at state universities, setting the highest co-financing fee at EUR 400 from 1,200, Education Minister Nikola Todorov said Sunday at a press conference.


The decision meets the demand of the Parliament of Students of Skopje-based SS. Cyril & Methodius University.


The state enrollment fee is set at the amount of EUR 200 for all faculties, while the quota for dispersed studies at EUR 100.


The decision is in line with the Government's commitment to larger inclusion of the citizens of Macedonia in the higher education process, which should contribute to the overall development of the country, Todorov said.


In the 2010-11 academic year the five state university may admit over 26,000 freshmen.

Macedonian president extends condolences to Poland over plane crash

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov on Saturday sent his condolences to Poland over the death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash, news from Skopje said.


"On behalf of Macedonia's citizens and myself, I extend my condolences to the Polish people, to the family of President Kaczynski and to the families of all those killed in the plane crash," Ivanov said.


Ivanov said Macedonia has felt the pain of losing a leader and statesman in this manner, saying that the Macedonians still nourish the memories of late President Boris Trajkovski and everything he did for his country.


Macedonian former President Boris Trajkovski died on February 26,2004, when his plane crashed in poor weather on landing in Bosnia, where he was to attend an economic conference.


"I am sure that the citizens of Poland will also nourish the memory of President Kaczynski," Ivanov said in his note of condolences.


Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski sent a letter to his Polish counterpart Donal Tusk, expressing his condolences over the plane crash.


Gruevski said in the letter that he was shocked and grieved to learn of the death of Lech Kaczysnki and his Polish state delegation in the plane crash.


"This is an irreplaceable loss, first and foremost for the families of deceased, but also for your country," Gruevski.


Also on Saturday, Macedonian government observed one-minute silence before its open session in honor of those killed in the plane crash.


A plane carrying the Polish president crashed in thick fog near the Smolensk airport in western Russia on Saturday, killing all 97 people on board.

Chinese tour operators, journalists visit Ohrid

Representatives of 15 Chinese tourist agencies and six media paid a visit Thursday to Ohrid within their tour across Macedonia.


Macedonia and Ohrid may attract Chinese tourists, so it is possible for the country's tourist destinations to be offered on China's market, the guests said.


- We are impressed by Macedonia's beauty, rich cultural heritage. We hope for new bridges of friendship, tourist cooperation to be opened in the future, said Christopher Millward, CEO of Beijing consulting firm Firebrands.


After returning to China, media representatives will present their impressions from the visit to Macedonia, while tourist agencies, depending on their plans, may include the country in their offers.


- The warm hospitality, rich cultural heritage and natural beauties will certainly attract many Chinese, Millward said, expressing hope for the results of this visit to be tangible in the near future.


China's citizens have shown interest in this part of the Balkans, in particular the older ones who long for new destinations, said the sales manager of 'Turkish Airways' in China.


This evening, the guests from China will meet their Balkan colleagues to discuss possibilities for cooperation in bringing more Chinese tourists to the region.

Pivo Fest Beer Fest 2010 in Prilep

The beer festival in Prilep this year will take place over four days:


Thursday 15th July through to Sunday 18th of July 2010.


The organisers said that they will be offering wide selection of beers, grill, music at different stages and entertainment. Ceca Raznatovic will be the star at the music stage.

Gay backlash over Macedonia's anti-discrimination law

Macedonia's new anti-discrimination law sparked controversy on Friday, as gay activists and the European Union criticised the bill for not including sexual orientation discrimination.


The new law, adopted by a slim majority of 62 deputies in the 120-seat parliament late Thursday, is not in line with European standards, a representative of the EU delegation in Skopje told AFP.


The bill which lists some 20 bases for discrimination but leaves sexual orientation out of that list makes Macedonia "the only country in the region that has a non-European anti-discrimination law," the official said.


Ahead of the vote deputies of the biggest opposition group, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), walked out in protest because the amendments including sexual orientation were not added.


Both the EU and the opposition urged the Macedonian government in vain to delay the vote so the draft could be changed.


There are very few openly gay people in Macedonia as the society treats them with deep suspicion. Despite several attempt to organise a gay pride parade in the capital Skopje no more than a handful of people showed up last year.


Even gay organisations prefer to present themselves as associations for marginalised people.


Slavco Dimitrov, leader of a coalition for protection of marginalised groups' rights, said the law was sending "a wrong message to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) population as the government has been ignoring them."


"The government refuses to provide equal status to all citizens and instead of taking affirmative measures for the protection of human rights it has created a flagrant homophobic atmosphere in the process of adopting this law," Dimitrov told AFP.


According to the government the rights of gays and others discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation will still be protected by the law even if they are not explicitly mentioned.


"The law will protect all the citizens of this country against discrimination," ruling coalition deputy Silvana Boneva said.


Although "sexual orientation was not listed as a basis of discrimination it does not exclude such discrimination," she insisted.


Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership since 2005, but has yet to open accession talks.

Foreign Ministry summons Greek Ambassador to Macedonia

Macedonian Foreign Ministry has called in Greek Ambassador Alexandra Papadopoulou for talks on Monday due to anti-Macedonian chants at the military parade in Athens.


At the meeting with Deputy Minister Zoran Petrov, she will be presented with a protest note and formal apology will be asked, Foreign Ministry confirmed for Macedonian media.


Government spokesperson Martin Martinovski at today’s press conference said that manifestation of hate speech does not contribute in building good-neighbourly relations.


While the soldiers were marching they had numerous racist chants, one of them being: "They are Skopians, they are Albanians, we will make new clothes out of their skins”.

Anti-Greek protests in Skopje

About 50 members of Macedonian non-governmental organizations protested in front of the Greek embassy in Skopje.


The protest was organized in response to a parade held recently in Athens at which Greek soldiers were chanting anti-Macedonian and ant-Albanian slogans.


One of the chants said that they “would make clothes out of the skin of Macedonians and Albanians."


The protest in Skopje, entitled “Stop Greek Fascism,” was secured by a large number of police officers and ended without incident.


The protesters said that Macedonia would never abandon its constitutional name.


The NGO members carried maps of Great Macedonia, stretching to the Aegean Sea, sang patriotic songs, and gave embassy officials a letter of protest and a demand for an apology from Greece.


The Macedonian Foreign Ministry also delivered a letter of protest to the Greek ambassador in Macedonia, who called the soldiers’ chanting an “isolated incident.”

Macedonia under the pressure of its neighbours

Ever since its proclamation of independence, Macedonia has experienced challenges from its neighbours in regard to its statehood, national identity and church. Had it not been for the EU, the USA and NATO, the country would have succumbed to internal conflict and probably also to outside aggression. But Macedonia has managed to survive despite its domestic problems, and become a candidate for membership of the European Union and NATO. These alliances serve also as guarantors of its continued existence and of the integration of its divided society.


Serbia recognised Macedonia in 1996 under the name of Republic of Macedonia, albeit with a demand for some minor border corrections. But the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) refuses to accept the independence of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) proclaimed in 1967. The issue of autocephaly of the MPC is closely linked to that of Macedonian statehood, i.e. with recognition of the Macedonian state.


The fact that Serbia does not have clearly demarcated borders with its neighbours will pose a serious obstacle to its closer integration into the European Union. As an integral aspect of regional cooperation, this is expected to become a major political problem in the region. This was stressed in the 2009 European Commission’s report for Serbia, which noted that Serbia has not established its borders with either Croatia or Bosnia-Herzegovina or Montenegro.






Serbia reacted strongly against the signing of a border agreement between Macedonia and Kosovo. Negotiations on such an agreement between Montenegro and Kosovo are due to begin soon. Since Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence, fixing its borders with the states that have recognised Kosovo is bound to become a lengthy and consuming problem.






Taking advantage of Macedonia’s complex international position, Belgrade has been using Kosovo as a new instrument of blackmail. Aware of the complicated relations that exist between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia, Belgrade thought that Macedonia would not hurry to recognise Kosovo. But international circumstances and Macedonia’s chance to move faster towards Europe prevailed also in the case of its approach to Kosovo’s independence, and recognition of the latter undoubtedly contributed to the stability of this part of the Balkans.






Relations between ethnic Macedonians and Albanians proved to be more important than the earlier sharing of positions with Serbia towards the Albanian question. Following the Ohrid Agreement (2001), Macedonia gradually came to accept the fact that the Albanians are a crucial factor of its internal stability.










Macedonia recognises Kosovo’s independence






Macedonia recognised Kosovo’s independence at the same time as Montenegro (2008), and Serbia took this as a sign of hostility on the part of the two countries. Serbia promptly applied the Kosovo Action Plan, the details of which are revealed only in concrete situations. Belgrade’s first measure was to withdraw ambassadors from neighbouring countries, and to expel the Macedonian and Montenegrin ambassadors.






Macedonia and Montenegro justified their decision to recognise Kosovo in the following manner: ‘In view of the fact that the Kosovo institutions have bound themselves to fully implement the principles and rules envisaged by the UN general secretary’s special representative for the solution of Kosovo’s status, the two countries support the building of democratic institutions in Kosovo designed to establish a multinational society that would guarantee the right of all ethnic communities to their cultural, confessional and linguistic identity.’ (1)






Belgrade’s reaction elicited some serious diplomatic pressure on the part of the USA. The American secretary of defence, Robert Gates, sent the message that ‘Washington would greatly appreciate Macedonia’s prompt recognition of Kosovo.






Macedonia’s two most important ethnic Albanian parties, the Albanian Democratic Party led by Menduh Thaci and Ali Ahmeti’s Democratic Integrative Union played a key role in ensuring Macedonia’s speedy recognition of Kosovo. This also contributed to the country’s stability. The two parties’ document states among other things: ‘The status of Kosovo has for a long time been generating important political problems in the region, instability and armed confrontations ... Recognition of Kosovo is a realistic solution to the regional crisis.’ Menduh Thaci explained the Albanian parties’ initiative as follows: ‘Kosovo’s independence is not only an Albanian project but also one pressed for by USA, EU and NATO.’ (3)






Macedonian President Ivanov’s inauguration










The inauguration of the Macedonian president, Gjordje Ivanov, elicited also blackmail on the part of Serbia and Greece. The inauguration was witnessed by Albanian president Bamir Topi, Montenegrin president Filip Vujanovic, Croatian president Stipe Mesic, and Serbian president Boris Tadic. The Kosovo president, Fatmir Seidiu, did not come as a result of Serbian pressure, while the Bulgarian and Greek presidents, Georgi Pervanov and Karolos Papoulias respectively, did not turn up even though they were invited.






Tadic stressed in his congratulatory address: ‘I congratulate you most sincerely on winning the presidential election. I am sure we shall work on strengthening neighbourly and friendly relations for the benefit of the citizens of Serbia and Macedonia.’ (4) Tadic stressed that in addition to the recognition of Kosovo, the two countries faced also the unresolved church question.






The Macedonian media were critical of Ivanov’s decision not to invite the Kosovo to the inauguration, arguing that ‘the regulation of inter-ethnic relations in the country should not be replaced by one-off favours to someone’s Serbian friends, be they Tadic or Ðelic...’. (5)






Macedonia between Kosovo and Serbia






The omission of an invitation led to an offer to Kosovo president Seidiu. to be the first foreign statesman to visit Skopje after Ivanov’s inauguration. Sejdiu declined, however, because the Macedonian president was not going to receive him with due protocol. This was another concession to Belgrade. According to Kosovo analysts, President Seidiu was right not to go, and this move did not upset relations between the two countries.






The Kosovo analyst Milazim Krasniqi says: ‘Macedonia is a country which, like Kosovo, is beset with many problems. Thus, for example, they [in Macedonia] have a great problem with neighbouring Greece, because they cannot agree on the name. And until a few months ago they had difficult relations with Serbia because of recognition of Kosovo - they don’t need additional complications in regard to Kosovo.’ (6)






Krasniqi stressed also that ‘both Kosovo and Macedonia have declared themselves in favour of regional and European integration’. ‘I therefore think that this is an isolated case. I think that the Macedonian president and government should carefully consider the message for the sake of continued good relations which should, however, conform to some standards of mutual respect.’ (7)






Macedonia’s view on Kosovo independence before the International Court of Justice (ICJ)






Thanks to pressure from Belgrade, Macedonia decided not to state its view on the legality of Kosovo’s proclamation of independence or submit any documents in this regard. The decision to remain neutral was made after the Serbian media criticised it for not supporting Serbia before the ICJ.






Relations between the Serbian and Macedonian Orthodox Churches






The Macedonian Orthodox Church - the Archbishopric of Ohrid (MPC - OA) or simply MPC - is the official Orthodox church in the Republic of Macedonia, but remains as yet unrecognised by its peers. The MPC proclaimed its independence from the SPC in Ohrid in 1967. The conflict with the SPC dates from that time, and the latter’s non-recognition is in essence non-recognition of Macedonian statehood. The Ecumenical Patriarch did not recognise the Macedonian church because it bears the Macedonian name, and the same is true of the Greek and other churches. The Macedonian church sees itself as the heir to the archbishopric of Ohrid. The SPC, on the other hand, recognises only the newly created Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric headed by Jovan Vraniškovski.






In 2003 the SPC offered to the MPC autonomous status within the Serbian church, which would mean that the congregation and the clergy of the Macedonian church would be obliged to mention in every liturgy the name of the Serbian patriarch. The only bishop who accepted this was Vraniškovski.






The Greeks, on the other hand, reject the Macedonian nation and use of the Macedonian name for the state, because they see the name as belonging to their alleged historic territory (associated with Alexander of Macedonia). This is why Greece (and the EU too) continue to identify Macedonia as BJRM/FYROM - the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. A more recent suggestion intended to satisfy both sides is Northern Macedonia or Slav Macedonia.






The new Serbian patriarch Irinej recalled this problem in his first declaration: ‘We have a common history and culture, and the language is mutually comprehensible. What has been happening up to now is not normal. We have done everything to overcome this problem, but they did not understand this well enough, and now they do. ‘ He also said: ‘We now face a new problem because there exists now a new official church [the Ohrid Archbishopric] which all nations recognise, and it will require much effort on their part too for this problem to be mutually resolved. Our door is open, and my desire is that we find a solution. We shall do all we can, I as the patriarch and the church as a whole, to solve the problem.’ (8)






Secret negotiations were also conducted between the two churches during 2009. This was made public by the bishop of Backa, Irinej. He told the Skopje media that ‘there were contacts and talks, but without concrete results’ (9), adding that there is a desire in both the SPC and the MPC for dialogue and for overcoming the current status quo situation. Sources in the MPC say that the Serbian side softened its positions when it saw that the project with Jovan Vraniškovski had failed.






The Macedonian church seeks autocephaly, but the SPC insists on ‘autonomy’ which falls short of independence. The MCP knows full well that the path to strengthening its position goes through the Belgrade church, but it is difficult to expect that the Serbian church, which enjoys excellent relations with the Greek church, will grant autocephaly to the MPC in the situation of unresolved conflict between Skopje and Athens over Macedonia’s name.






At its recent synod the MPC changed its name to Macedonian Orthodox Church - the Archbishopric of Ohrid (MPC-OA). According to a professor of theology at the university of Skopje, Dimitar Belcovski, who worked on changing the MPC constitution, the proposal for extending the name had been submitted to the synod back in 2005.






Serbia’s reaction to Macedonia’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Kosovo






Relations between Serbia and Macedonia have been strained ever since Macedonia’s recognition of Kosovo. President Tadic says that in principle ‘Serbia remains attached to regional cooperation, and supports Macedonia in regard to EU membership’. ‘We are moving forward together also in regard to the European states’ decision to abolish the visa, which is of great importance for our citizens.’ (10) Serbia believes that the Western Balkans should join the EU as a ‘package’. Hence this declaration and also Serbia’s behaviour towards its neighbours confirm its strategy of obstructing a more rapid integration into the EU of, in particular, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina.






Serbia insists that the status of Kosovo is the point on which the two countries’ policies diverge; but, as Tadic says, the imminent opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of independence could bring about changes in this field too. ‘Serbia will never recognise the independence of Kosovo. After the ICJ judgement, Serbia will be ready to initiate a new dialogue aimed at finding a compromise solution.’ (11)






The Serbian foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, said on the occasion of his meeting with the Greek foreign minister, Dimitris Droutsas, that Athens could count on ‘Belgrade’s full political, moral and any other support in solving the question of Macedonia’s name’. (12) ‘Greece has proved to be a sincere friend and a moving force in the process of inclusion of the whole Western Balkans into the EU, and in that context we fully understand - and will continue to extend our full support to - the efforts of the Greek government to solve all the issues important for the Western Balkans, including also the sensitive issue of the name of the state the capital of which is Skopje’, said Jeremic. (13)






Macedonia opened its embassy in Prishtina on 15 March 2010 in a practical confirmation of the establishment of diplomatic ties. Macedonia’s foreign minister, Antonio Milošoski, stated on that occasion: ‘Macedonia and Kosovo favour peace in the region, friendship and economic cooperation. The opening of the embassy represents for us a solemn moment and a new impetus in our inter-state relations.’ He also said that his country supported Kosovo’s territorial integrity and would help Kosovo in the process of visa liberalisation. (14)






Fixing the frontiers










Border agreement between the former Yugoslav republics is one of the conditions of their advance towards the EU. Defining the frontier is a bilateral problem that has to be solved before entering the EU. The commissioner for EU enlargement, Štefan Füle, says that ‘each state that seeks to join the EU must resolve its bilateral problems in parallel with the preparations for European integration’. (15)






The director of the Centre for Regionalism, Aleksandar Popov, stresses the problem. ‘Macedonia has already defined its border with Kosovo, and when Montenegro too has done this, we [in Serbia] will face a double problem. Demarcation will be one of the contested questions on Serbia’s road to the EU.’ (16) ‘If Serbia were forced to recognise Kosovo, it would also have to fix its border with it; but given what has been written into the [Serbian] constitution and the official state policy, this will take a long time’, says Popov. (17)






The Macedonian and Kosovan parliaments have recently ratified an agreement on the inter-state border, which caused a strong reaction from Serbian politicians. The Macedonian government’s spokesman, Martin Martinovski, believes that ‘the frontier question between Macedonia and Serbia was solved in 2001', and that the agreement with Kosovo posed no problems. Montenegro too holds the view that ‘the alleged border problem can be politicised, but there is no essential conflict in international law’. (18)






Vuk Jeremic has said that Macedonia’s agreement with Kosovo on the border was ‘a blow against Belgrade-Skopje relations’, which was ‘bound to have consequences’; that the Macedonian decision was ‘deplorable’; and that it made no sense to negotiate about Serbia’s borders with anyone but the Serbian government. (19)






Summary






Serbia should change its attitude to the unresolved regional problems in order to facilitate its own advance towards the EU. Open frontier issues create a space for manipulation and blackmail of neighbours whenever it suits Belgrade.






Open border issues allow Serbian conservative circles to question the new realities in this part of Europe, and to treat them as historically contingent. This is of particular importance bearing in mind the wars of the 1990s, which left many problems behind, especially those springing from interpretation of the wars and the associated responsibility for them.






Macedonia avoided war, but has been paying a price for years because of the pressure imposed on it by its neighbours. One way of creating new relations in the region is to put an end to border disputes and territorial claims.