Letter that Greece’s Foreign Minister Antonis Samaras sent to his EPC counterparts on 17 January 1992. The official translation of this letter is published here for the first time.

Excerted from: Greece, European Political Cooperation and the Macedonian Question, by Aristotle Tziambiris, Oxford, 2000, pp.207-213, Appendix II

The Minister for Foreign Affairs

Athens, 17 January 1992

Dear Colleague,

You will recall that on Friday, 10 January, we decided that I will present to you in our next meeting the opposition of my Government concerning the petition for recognition of the Republic of Skopje. And, indeed, I am committed to do so. However, I strongly feel I should provide you at this moment with a written preliminary analysis, prior to that meeting. This has become imperative, especially in the light of the advice of the Arbitration Commission and Bulgaria’s premature and unwarranted recognition of the Republic of Skopje.

Let me immediately indicate that I find it impossible to comprehend the fact that, as the Arbitration Commission’s report itself indicates, all of its conclusions on “Macedonia” were drawn from data or evidence provided solely by Skopje. (Declaration of the Skopje Assembly, letter of Skopje’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Skopje’s response to the Commission’s questionnaire, results of the Skopje referendum, the Skopje Constitution, etc). Documentation and objections against the recognition raised by ethnic Albanians, Serbs and Montenegrins, constituting 30-35 % of the total population of that Republic, were ignored. Similarly, Greek reservations based on the 16 December 1991, E.C. Ministerial decision, were not taken into consideration. Furthermore, the Arbitration Commission went on to pass judgment on a major political issue – the denomination of the Republic – without substantiating its view, either on legal or on political grounds.

The announcement of this advice, although in no way binding to us Twelve, had an immediate negative impact on the region. Bulgaria sought to capitalize on the opportunity offered. Despise assurances given directly to me by the Bulgarian Foreign Minister just a day prior to the publication of the Badinder report, Sofia rushed to recognize Skopje. It even rushed to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina, something that was rejected even by the Arbitration Commission because of inherent dangers in premature action.

I must make clear to all colleagues that an immediate threat for the spreading of the conflict to the southern Balkan region has already emerged. Old territorial issues and sensitivities seem to revive. A challenge to the external frontiers of the entire region is already present. There exists, unfortunately, political forces in the neighborhood of the Skopje Republic which dream today for new territories for their respective motherlands. In this context, if Bulgaria, by its initiative to extend recognition, hopes to lure Skopje in a special bilateral arrangement, the Yugoslav crisis could develop into an all Balkan confrontation. Obviously, the same holds true for other countries geographically close to region.

The statement of the Presidency, on 15 January 1992, according to which the Community and its member-states have decided to recognize only Slovenia and Croatia, since “there are still important matters to be addressed” for the cases of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Skopje, is certainly a balancing force on which we must build the solution of the existing problems.

In anticipation of our February meeting and in order to facilitate a better understanding of the complex political Macedonian issue, I would like to first invite your attention to the following observations:

1. The Macedonian issue today can only be understood if the history of its development is kept clearly in mind.

The Macedonian issue was reactivated when Marshal Tito set up in 1945 the “People’s Republic of Macedonia”. It was a political move fitting the Yugoslav leader’s hegemonistic plans at the time. The Skopje federative republic was seen as the nucleus – or Piedmont – for the annexation of the adjoining Macedonian provinces of Greece and Bulgaria. I am sure you are well aware that Tito, with Stalin’s help, succeeded in forcing the Bulgarian Government of G. Dimitrov to agree to cede Bulgarian Macedonia to Yugoslavia (1947). At the same time, Tito extended his support to the Communist forces in Greece during the Greek civil war, in anticipation of acquiring control of Greek Macedonian provinces. Both plans failed. When Stalin evicted Yugoslavia from the Cominform (1948), Bulgaria stepped back from the Tito-Dimitrov agreement and assumed for a number of years an aggressive role on the Macedonian issue, spear-heading Soviet expansionism. As for Greece, with the termination of the Greek civil war (1949), the immediate annexation of Greek Macedonia to Yugoslavia was avoided.

Subsequently, and despise the normalization of Greek-Yugoslav relations (1951), Skopje continued for 40 years to undermine Greek sovereignty over Greek Macedonia. The Macedonian provinces of Greece and Bulgaria were viewed “as not yet liberated”, while the “People’s Republic of Macedonia”, projected itself as the only “free part” of Macedonia, and the “Piedmont” for the unification of all Macedonian regions.

During the same 40-year period and in order to best serve its expansionist plans, Skopje attempted to appropriate and monopolize the Macedonian name. To achieve this goal, Skopje found necessary to usurp Greek historical and cultural heritage in Macedonia from antiquity to the present. Thus, Alexander the Great and Aristotle have been added to the Skopjan pantheon! So have the Greek apostles to the Slavs, Cyril and Methodius, simply because they were born in Thessaloniki! Even the victories of the Greek army during the 1940-41 war were attributed to the so-called “Macedonians” of Skopje, only because a Greek army division was named Macedonia after the name of the Greek province! Thessaloniki, whose culture, language and traditions have been Greek for 2300 years, is projected as the capital of the future “united Macedonian state”.

Evidently, by manipulating a geographical term (Macedonia), Skopje expansionists sought to convert this term into an ethnic name for a Slav nation. In the process, they obviously attempted to deny the Greek people their legitimate right to a major part of their cultural identity.

Thus, for 45 years, the Macedonian name became the major vehicle for territorial and cultural expansionism encroaching upon Greek territory. Because of the continued use and abuse by Skopje of the hellenic civilization and traditions in order to promote expansionist aims, any further use of the Macedonian name by an independent state would ipso facto imply territorial expansion against Greece.

2. In view of the historic implication and the nationalist forces behind this issue, the recognition of a Yugoslav Republic as an independent “Republic of Macedonia” would be a constant threat to peace and security in South Eastern Europe now and for many years to come.

As I have explained, Bulgaria claims historical and kin ties with the Skopje region and its slavonic part of the population and has already proceeded to recognize the independence of the Republic. Moreover, very recently, recriminations between Bulgaria and Serbia were exchanged and mutual accusations for important troop movements were also hurled at each other. We all, of course, know that the area of the Republic of Skopje has historically always been the target of conflicting interests, due to its mosaic to different nationalities (Albanians, Bulgarians, Serbs, Turks, Greeks, Roma, etc). Unfortunately, 19th century images of “Greater Bulgaria”, “Greater Serbia” “Greater Albania” are still haunting today the region of Skopje, awaiting the signal of its “independence” to stake their claims…

More onimous for the future is the prospect of a national revival among Skopje’s Slav population. For 45 years Bulgarian ethnicity has been outlawed and its supporters persecuted. A clash between “Macedonists” and pro-Bulgarians will become inevitable, particularly if Sofia emerges in the role of a “big brother” for the young Republic. Allow, for instance, to refer to the VMRO parties that operate under the same name in both Skopje and Sofia. In fact, the VMRO is presently the majority party in the Skopje parliament, while their active Bulgarian counterpart presently operates as a nationalist Bulgaro-“Macedonian” movement. Both VMROs are committed to extremist nationalist goals; goals aiming to territorial expansionism. May I also remind you that in a very recent NATO document the VMRO Skopje party was qualified as a “terrorist” organization.

A more serious and immediate complication could develop as a result of inter-ethnic conflicts. Already, the ethnic Albanians, comprising almost a third of the total population of the Republic, have registered their opposition to the Skopje Government demanding self-rule. Their recent plebiscite, although conducted against Government objections and arbitrary police interventions, was a clear sign of troubles to come.

It is obvious that in the long run Skopje, an economically non-viable and ethnically antagonistic entity, surrounded by competing “suitors” and “protectors”, could be open to manipulations by stronger powers. The possibility of opening a Pandora’s box of Balkan intrigues, guerrilla warfare and armed conflicts involving neighboring states, in addition to inter-ethnic strifes in Skopje itself, could simply ignite the whole Balkan area and become a major destabilization factor for the whole Europe.

Greece will be directly affected by such developments. On the one hand, the economic and social reverberations of a possible armed conflict will be immediately felt, particularly in northern Greece (tourism, trade, movement of people, political and economic refugees). On the other hand, attempts at changing the external borders of the Skopje Republic will upset balances. The “domino effect” we are experiencing in the case of Yugoslav Republics, will contaminate neighbouring states, including Greece. Let me remind you that almost 60% of the total Greek exports are exported from northern Greece via Yugoslavia to Central and Western Europe. The consequences would thus be devastating for the Greek economy.

It goes without saying that the problems briefly enumerated above are not new. However, they now acquire a particularly acute character after Skopje’s request to become an independent state. If in the past, Skopje’s rush actions and propaganda activities have been undertaken within the framework of Yugoslavia, one can imagine the kind of dangerous adventures it will embark upon were it to become an independent state.

3. In the interest of avoiding past destabilizing experiences and promoting permanent peace and security for the future, the prerequisites for the recognition of the independence of Skopje, as endorsed by the Twelve in the “Declaration on Yugoslavia”, must be fully respected. Unfortunately, to this date, the authorities of Skopje have failed to implement these conditions.

Indeed:

— They have not offered sufficient guarantees, constitutional or other, to ensure that they will have no territorial claims.

— They continue carrying hostile propaganda, even at this critical moment, prior to their recognition.

— They have made no attempt to find a suitable denomination for their future independent Republic.

Greece has spared so far no effect to find fair and equitable solutions. But, despite Greek observations and suggestions concerning various provisions in the constitution raised directly with the Skopje delegation which visited Athens for talks on the implementation of the E. C. decision on 3 January, there has so far been no constructive response.

As you know, the preamble of Skopje’s constitution states that the new Republic rests upon “the statehood-legal traditions of the Krushevo Republic” (1903) and the “historical decisions of the Antifascist Assembly of the People’s Liberation of Macedonia” (ASNOM), passed in 1944. Let me explain:

The events of 1903 and 1944 highlighted the attempt by the Slavs of Macedonia to establish respectively an autonomous or an independent Macedonian state. A state which would absorb the whole of Macedonia, including the Macedonian provinces of Greece, Bulgaria and Albania. Indeed, the Krushevo Manifesto, of 2 August 1903, was an appeal to the people to “come beneath the flag of autonomous Macedonia”, while the ASNOM Communist-Titoist Manifesto of 1944, issued also on the 2nd of August for symbolic purposes, proclaimed the “just and unique demand for uniting all the Macedonian people with the right to self-determination”. It further stated: “let the struggle of the Macedonian Piedmont inspire you… it alone leads to freedom and union of all Macedonian people… Let the artificial boundaries which separate brother from brother… be swept away”.

These references in the preamble make it obvious that territorial irredentism and future expansionism are very much part and parcel of the new Constitution. Such a political model is obviously incompatible with the CSCE sprit and fundamental principles.

This is why we consider that the amendments to articles 3 and 49 of the Constitution are simply meaningless and in any way, not of nature to alter its main philosophy and its basic thrust.

— The Gligorov Government, has been engaged in a worldwide “good-will campaign” to impress on world leaders and public opinion the image of a new Republic dedicated to peace and friendly neighbourly relations. The letters sent by Skopje officials to the Arbitration Commission served a similar purpose. Yet, in practice, hostile propaganda against Greece continues unabated.

— For example, Skopje leaders during recent months have publicly spoken about territorial claims against Greece. Allow me to cite just two of them:

Skopje has not ceased referring to Greek Macedonia as “Egejska (Aegean) Makedonija”, a term used to imply that the whole of northern Greece is part of a wider Slav territory. Only a few days ago, a conference was organized in Skopje dealing with linguistics questions of “Egejska Makedonija”. In fact, “hate literature” continues to appear in publications both in the Republic and abroad. A recent typical example is provided on a 1992 calendar with maps on which Greek along with Bulgarian and Albanian Macedonia are shown as part of “Great Macedonia”. Those calendars were mailed in thousands of copies throughout Greece; a clear sign of what one should expect after the recognition of independence.

As for the denomination, Greece has had the opportunity to analyze in detail to the Skopje delegation why the term “Macedonia”, if used in the denomination of the Skopje Republic, is unacceptable as it contains by itself an expansionist notion. Indeed, as I have earlier explained, in order to best serve its expansionist plans, Skopje usurped the Macedonian name and purportedly converted it into an ethnic name for its Slav nation. This becomes all the more brazen, when one takes into account that the geographical region of Macedonia extends across four borders: in Greece (51%), Bulgaria (9,5%), Albania (0,5%) and Yugoslavia (39%). Thus, the adoption of the Macedonian name for the Republic carries the clear message that the Republic’s jurisdiction extends over the Macedonian provinces of all neighbouring states.

It should not be forgotten, dear Colleague, that the Macedonian name was granted by Tito at a time when Moscow was seeking an exit to the Aegean. It will be an irony if, years after the termination of the Cold War, the community would offer, a posteriori, a historical legitimacy to such claims.

4. Despite all the dangers I believe there is still time to find an equitable solution; one that may open the prospects for regional security and cooperation. Greece is the only neighbouring country which harbours no claims against Skopje. If an understanding is reached on the basis of the E. C. terms for recognition, Greece is prepared to help create a regional arrangement to meet the security needs of Skopje, as well as those of its neighbours. Thus, mutual suspicions between Skopje and individual neighbours, as well as between neighbouring countries competing for influence or dominance on Skopje would steadily evaporate.

In addition, Greece could extend to the new Republic special economic privileges, open prospects for an all round economic cooperation, and set in motion the process for a solution to all bilateral issues.

In choosing a name for the new Republic, former administrative denominations of the region could probably provide a logical and acceptable solution. It should be noted that prior to Tito’s decision to assign to Skopje the Macedonian name, no such denomination had ever been used in the past, either as a state or as an administrative denomination for that region. It is a denomination that was artificially introduced to advance territorial claims and has no historical or cultural validity.

It is more than obvious that the establishment of good relations between Skopje and Greece, is of paramount importance for both the new Republic and the whole Balkan region. First, it will allow the Skopjan Republic to survive. Secondly, it will deflate to aspirations of other powers at its own expense and will thus create the necessary conditions for peace in this highly sensitive area.

In this light, it is a matter of urgency that partners impress upon the authorities of Skopje the need to implement fully, by deeds rather than meaningless declarations, the E. C. ministerial decision of 16 December and to desist from any initiatives that may inflame the region.

If and when Skopje decides to abide by the E. C. terms for the recognition of its independence, I suggest that, at that time, an agreement be concluded between the E. C. and Skopje providing guarantees for the proper implementation of the terms specified by the Community.

Dear Colleague,

This is certainly not the time to create new problems. It is the time to try and find lasting solutions. I am confident that our proposals will meet with your approval and that the Community and its member-states will continue to act with the same spirit of solidarity as manifested in Maastricht. After all, it is our common goal to establish peace and security in South-Eastern Europe by eliminating any source of friction or conflict.

Sincerely yours

Andonis C. Samaras

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