Excerted from: Greece, European Political Cooperation and the Macedonian Question, by Aristotle Tziambiris, Oxford, 2000, pp.218-232, Appendix IV
I have come here to discuss an issue that may at a casual glance seem to be a natural outgrowth of the breakup of the Communist world_the desire of a Yugoslav Republic to establish its own identity in the world. But up close where we are, we can see that it is an issue that can cause great friction, wrenching division and open conflict in our region.
Whether that happens or not depends to a large degree on what decisions we make on how to respond to this difficult issue. Since we have lived with every aspect of it, I want to take a little time to indicate where the dangers lie, how to avoid them, and what measures might be adopted to promote cooperation and peace in the Balkans rather than division and conflict.
The issue, of course is the desire for recognition of a part of Yugoslavia that was known as the administrative region of Vardar Banovina until it was renamed The Peoples Republic of Macedonia in 1945.
The person who gave the region its new name was Marshall Tito and the reason he did so was to use it as a nucleus for the annexation of those parts of Bulgaria and Greece that were once the Macedonia of Alexander the Great. You may remember that Tito, with Stalins help, forced the Bulgarian government in 1947 to agree to cede Bulgarian Macedonia to Yugoslavia. You may recall, too, that Tito also tried to grab Greek Macedonian provinces by persuading Greek Communist forces in the late 1940s to promise him those areas in exchange for his support of their insurrection.
Fortunately these plans failed. When Tito broke with Stalin in 1948, Bulgaria broke the agreement to cede its Macedonian provinces and indeed assumed an aggressive posture toward Macedonian areas in Yugoslavia. As for Greece, the defeat of the Communist insurrection in 1949 ended the immediate threat of annexation of Greek Macedonia.
I have gone into a brief historical review to remind you that the re-invention of Skopje as the Republic of Macedonia is very recent, was accomplished specifically to advance territorial ambitions, and, in the case of Greece, to do so by promoting armed conflict.
The name Republic of Macedonia, therefore, is not a phantom fear for us. It is associated with immense pain and suffering by the Greek people and linked with a deliberate plan to take over parts of our territory that have had a Greek identity for more than 2,500 years.
I can anticipate you saying, Yes, yes, all of what happened was unfortunate, but you should put it behind you and move on. These are different times and circumstances.
We could put it all behind us, and we would, if the territorial ambitions Tito set in motion in ended with our civil war a few later or even with the cold war more recently. BUT THEY HAVENT.
For all of the 47 years since Tito created The Peoples Republic of Macedonia, its leaders have never stopped trying to undermine our sovereignty over Greek Macedonia, which they call Aegean Macedonia and portray as occupied territory that one day will be liberated.
During the same period, they have published and circulated throughout the region and abroad countless books, articles and pamphlets identifying large areas of Greece as part of Great Macedonia, and listing Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, as its future capital.
Only a year ago the President of the Republic, Kiro Gligorov, gave an interview to a Yugoslav magazine in which he spoke of subjugated Macedonians in Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria and acknowledged that the leading nationalist parties in Skopje vow that Macedonian power will redraw the borders of Greece and Serbia. At about the same time, the republics representative to the Yugoslav presidency, Vasil Tupurkovski, told a radio audience in Perth, Australia that the new Macedonian state will have as its primary target, the liberation of the enslaved Macedonians and the unification of the wider Macedonian region.
Now, as they pursue recognition, the leaders of the Republic ridicule the concern such efforts have aroused in us by asking how a country of 10 million people like Greece that is a member of both NATO and the EEC could fear a small, weak state of 2.1 million.
Let me tell me right now, that I havent come here to urge you to move slowly and carefully in considering recognition for Skopje, because the Greek people fear it. We dont. But we know, that if it given recognition on its own terms it will be encouraged to pursue its misguided ambitions at every opportunity and will create great instability in the region.
We know, too, that if Greece does not recognize and support its independence and that we cannot do until it follows the example of other communist states like Russia and completely abandons its past it will become a tempting target for other countries in the region. That will bring the kind of conflict to the Balkans that we havent seen in decades.
I want to state clearly that Greece is not against the recognition of an independent state to replace the former Yugoslav Socialist Republic of Macedonia. Since Yugoslavia has unraveled, we accept the emergence of a new independent Republic on our northern borders. It is in our interest to have a small, but a truly independent state as a neighbor than a big and powerful one. Such a state would serve our concern, and the concern of the Community, for stability in the region.
Greece, however, will not endorse rush to recognition that has the potential to trigger open clashes among the various ethnic groups in this small, mosaic of a state, and to revive old territorial ambitions that are certain to send the Balkans to the violent conflicts of the past.
Independence under those circumstances, will put Skopje of falling either into the embrace of Bulgaria, which has always coveted the region and considers most of its people Bulgarians, or under the dominance of its powerful northern neighbor, Serbia, as many in the republic fear. If either happens, Greece cannot remain indifferent, and stability in the Balkans will become a memory.
The only way to clear a safe path to recognition for Skopje is through the procedures we adopted by unanimous decision on 16 December 1991. I quote: the Community and its member states require a Yugoslav republic to commit itself, prior to recognition, to adopt constitutional and political guaranties ensuring that it has no territorial claims towards a neighbouring Community State and that it will conduct no hostile propaganda activities versus a neighbouring Community State, including the use of a denomination, which implies territorial claims.
Let us look then at how the Republic and its leaders have responded to the three major requirements in the decision we took last December.
For the past two months, Skopje has launched a well-financed, carefully-orchestrated campaign in Europe and in the United States to portray itself as a peaceful, democratic, unarmed state with neither the power nor the desire to threaten any of its neighbors. Their president has travelled to most of the major capitals to give his personal assurance of the republics good intentions, and its parliament has passed two amendments to the Constitution that it says give legal binding to the assurance.
But both the statements and the amendments are only window dressing to conceal the real goods inside.
The amendments, passed with the ease and speed of a simple government decree, do not alter the substance of the original articles or of the preamble. Let me explain. In article three, they have added an amendment, which declares that Skopje nurtures no territorial claims against its neighbors. This is obviously accepted CSCE language. But in the same article, they maintain the provision that while their territory remains unviolable, their borders may, nevertheless, be changed in accordance with their constitution! The inherent contradiction is evident. Also, while new language have been added saying that the republic will not interfere in the internal affairs of other states, it is meaningless, because the constitution leaves intact Article 49, which says that the state will take care of the status of the rights of the Macedonian people in neighboring countries.
Now all countries feel obliged to look after the rights of their citizens, when travelling abroad, but no nation we know about gives itself constitutional right to be a special arbiter of the status of citizens of neighbouring countries. Article 49 empowers, indeed compels, present and future governments of the republic to do exactly that.
What use do you think that an ultra-nationalist party like VMRO, which was identified as a terrorist organization in a recent NATO document, will make of that authority, if it comes to power in the republic? While you are considering that, let me tell you that VMRO currently has the largest number of seats in Skopjes parliament and that its 1990 electoral platform, issued jointly with another extremist party, the Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity, declared that elements of the Macedonian nation, that live under occupational rule of Greece, Bulgaria and Albania are not an ethnic minority but just occupied and enslaved parts of the Macedonian nation The platform also states that theV.M.R.O. declares its readiness to conduct talks with the neighbouring countries for the unification of Macedonia.
Even more telling is the fact hat the preamble to the Republics constitution has been left intact, and it is in preambles of constitutions that the philosophy of state is reflected.
The preamble Skopjes constitution states that among the principles on which the new republic will be built are the legal traditions of the Krusevo Republic and the historical decisions of the Antifascist Assembly of the Peoples Liberation of Macedonia. Both the Krusevo Republic of 1903 and the Antifascist Assembly held by Tito in 1944 proclaimed expansionist goals best reflected in the Assemblys declaration calling for unification of the Greek and Bulgarian provinces with the Peoples Republic of Macedonia.
In view of the intentions embodied both in the preamble and in the articles of the republics constitution, you can see why we dont feel reassured by the amendments recently enacted by Skopjes government to enhance its chances for recognition, and why they do not constitute guaranties against territorial claims, as required by the unanimous decision of the Community of last December 16.
The second requirement on Skopje of that decision to desist from hostile propaganda against Greece has merely prompted a letter by the Republics Foreign Minister to the Arbitration Commission pledging that it will not carry out such acts against us.
In practice, organizations with strong ties to the Republics political leadership have been mobilized both at home and abroad to intensify hostile propaganda against Greece.
I can cite numerous examples of what they have done in just the two months, since the Community asked Skopje to end its hostile propaganda, but will limit myself to three representative examples to save time.
-- Two weeks ago, immigrants for Skopje demonstrated outside our Copenhagen Embassy and pinned a map and a proclamation outside the door. The map shows Greek Macedonia under occupation and the proclamation is filled with slogans calling for its liberation. What is most important about the protest is that the group that organized it is an affiliate to the extremist V.M.R.O. political party I mentioned earlier, that has the most seats in Skopjes parliament.
-- Early in February, another demonstration was organized right at our border with Yugoslavia. Protesters shouted obscenities against Greeks on the other side, passed out hate literature, and carried placards calling for independence and unification of all of Macedonia under Skopjes rule.
-- On January 15, 1992, a publishing firm in Skopje issued a set of souvenir banknotes with the most famous landmark of Thessaloniki, the White Tower, pictured on the note. Indeed Thessaloniki is shown with a Slavic name as Solun. Another banknote appropriates Bulgarian history, depicting medieval Tsar Samuel as a Macedonian. Appropriating the history of neighboring countries seems to be a popular occupation in Skopje these days.
Last anyone think that such efforts are private initiatives, or the work of extremist emigre groups, let me point out that the government of Skopje has hired Americas biggest public relations company, Hill and Knowlton, to conduct its lobbying in the United States. I have included a copy of its contract with Hill and Knowlton, in the material in your folio, so that you can see that part of its prescribed duties is to promote the interests of Macedonians in neighboring countries.
By the way, one of the first initiatives of the lobbyists was to publish data sheets on The Republic of Macedonia. One of them describes the climate of the coastal areas of the republic as mild Mediterranean. A look at any maps of the region makes clear that Skopje is landlocked and the closest coastal areas are around Thessaloniki and the Chalkidiki Peninsula of Greeces northern Aegean coast. It will further amuse you and give you an insight into the true aims of Skopje, to know that we have just received a cable saying that the landlocked Republic unanimously adopted a law a few days ago calling for the creation of an army, an air force, and a navy!
It is obvious then that hostile propaganda, both mild and severe, continues unabated against Greece and it is organized and directed by Skopje. The aim of this propaganda is to spread false information about the ethnological composition of Greek Macedonia, to undermine the exemplary human rights record of Greece and create feelings of hostility against our country abroad, to dispute the Greek cultural heritage of Macedonia and to usurp the Macedonian name in order to justify claims on Greek Macedonia.
In view of the continuing attacks on us, it is obvious that Skopje has no intention to meet the communitys second requirement for recognition and end hostile propaganda against Greece, but is only trying to make us believe it will. As much as we may want to, the evidence makes clear that we cant.
We now come to the third and final requirement the Community adopted last December for granting recognition the stipulation that the Republic should not adopt a name that implies territorial claims.
I submit to you now, as I did in the letter I sent earlier, that the denomination Republic of Macedonia not only implies territorial claims because it was given to Skopje 47 years ago for the express purpose of taking over parts of Greece and Bulgaria, but also perpetuates them because if a country exists with that name the impression is given that areas in other countries that bear the same name belong to it.
The name is the game itself. Were it not for the use of the denomination Macedonia, which Skopje attempts to monopolize, they would have no basis to put forward any claims whatsoever on other states territories.
Equally important, the name implies not only territorial claims against Greece but represents an assault to out Hellenic cultural heritage. The culture and history of Macedonia is part of the Greek heritage and has no connection to the Slav people, who now want to cal themselves Republic of Macedonia.
As Constantine Karamanlis, the President of Greece, who is himself a Macedonian, wrote in a letter to a European political leader, Skopje has absolutely no right, either historic or ethnic, to use the name Macedonia.
No historical rights because the Slavs, who make up the majority of the Republics population, first appeared in the history of the region in the sixth century A.D., that is some 1,000 years after the period, when Alexander the Great established Macedonia as a significant part of the Greek world. And no ethnic right, because the present population of this Republic is made of Slavs, Albanians, Gypsies and other ethnic groups, all of the respected, of course, but none with any connection to Macedonians.
Despite the lack of any real ethnic and cultural tie between the present republic and ancient Macedonia, their leaders, by using its name over the past 47 years, have been able to foster impression that they are the natural inheritors of Philip and Alexander and the land they once ruled.
We are not so nationally naive, as to be annoyed only because of a fixation on our ancient history. The strong reaction of the Greek people is not due to a sterile ancestor worship. It is due to the fact that for almost half a century the name Macedonia has been used as a weapon for the promotion of expansionist aims. The use of the name is not independent of the desire to seize and control Greek territory. It is an instrument of aggressive policy.
And, of course, if a lie is big enough and is repeated enough times, it will stick. After 47 years the lie about the so-called Republic of Macedonia has taken root. There is no better proof of that than the fact that this group of Western European nations is considering recognizing a state with a name it was given at the height of the cold war as a part of a communist strategy to take over large areas of one of its members.
While the republics claims to links with ancient Macedonia is unsupportable at any level and its ambitions to expand its territory is unjustifiable for any reason, there is ample evidence, including the statements I have cited, that these delusions are deeply imbedded in the long term policies of Skopje. These policies will not be abandoned, if Skopje is given unconditional recognition, even though some of its leaders are now disclaiming a connection to ancient Macedonia in hopes of increasing the chances of winning it.
There is no other conclusion to reach, if the republics leaders insist on calling their state Macedonia, since it is a name to which they have no connection and was imposed as a vehicle to promote expansion into territories of neighboring countries. Russia stopped calling itself the Soviet Union, when it abandoned its communist and expansionist past. Why does Skopje insist on keeping a name associated with expansionist ambitions in the Balkans unless it still harbors those aims?
I know there is a feeling among some of you that the name of the Republic should not be a cardinal issue, that Greeces insistence on a different name is emotional, and that there are no rational reasons to require a change.
But within the world community, it is unprecedented for a state to use the geographical name of an area, whose greatest parts lies outside its borders. As you may be aware, the territory of the Republic extends over 39 per cent of the geographic region of Macedonia, while Greek Macedonia covers 51 per cent and Bulgarian Macedonia 9 per cent.
If the name of a geographic region is allowed to be monopolized by a political entity, which controls only 39 per cent of the territory, the door is left open for claims in perpetuity for the remaining 61 per cent. This is not scare talk. The whole existence of the so-called Macedonian nation, since its creation by Tito is based on that assumption. Once recognition is assured, nationalist forces in the republic will use the name as a strong weapon for cultural and territorial aggression. While they will be waving a powerful slogan_Free Macedonia!_against us, we will be left with the impossible task of trying to explain subtle nuances about the history of the region over the past 2500 years.
Some of you may still feel that it would be presumptuous for the Community to ask a state to change its name. But we have before us a petition for recognition by the government of a state under creation, an entity that has never been recognized as a Republic under international law. Its name was assigned to it by a Communist regime for its own expansionist aims, a regime that no longer exists. So in examining the credentials of a candidate state, we have every right to require that it should not be identified with a name and a history, which is associated with territorial claims against a member state of our Community.
Let us remember that the Macedonian name already exists and is in use as a name for a large historical, geographic and administrative region of Greece. In Thessaloniki there is the Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace, the Macedonian University, the Society for Macedonian Studies, the Macedonian Press Agency, the Macedonian Conservatory, the Macedonian Airport of Thessaloniki and close to 2.5 million people of Northern Greece, who call themselves Makedones! If Skopje is given the right not only to usurp but, as an independent state, to monopolize the name, it will unleash old quarrels and new conflicts in the whole region on a wild scale.
The case is clear. If we do not remove the root of the problem, that is the name, we would merely invite trouble. And we will all come to regret it.
I dont think we are being alarmists or reacting any differently that you would in similar circumstances.
In fact, we have a recent example showing that Central Europeans are just as sensitive about such issues. Last October, the Republic of Slovenia published a new banknote, bearing a watermark of the historical symbol of the old principality of Carinthia. Although it was a temporary banknote, its printing raised a stormy reaction among Carinthian Austrians, who accused Slovenia of fueling nationalistic claims for Carinthia. After a heated debate in the local parliament, the federal government in Vienna was asked to intervene with Slovenian authorities, who finally gave assurances that they have no claims on the province and agreed to substitute the banknote.
I dont need to draw parallels. But if Austrians reacted as they did about a watermark, you can imagine Greek sensitivity after having been subjected to 47 years of provocations.
The fact is that the end of the cold war has unleashed nationalistic forces that are capable of creating hostility and conflict anywhere in the world. To create a new state called Macedonia in the Balkans is the surest way to revive all these conflicting claims and to plant hostility in the region that is certain to reap a whirlwind of troubles in the future.
For the stability of the region, for the good of Skopje itself, and for the peace of mind of all of us here, the best course for the Republic is to adopt a suitable name. There are many good options. Prior to the Communist era, the administrative name of the region, as I have mentioned, was Vardar Banovina. Immediately before that, during the last phase of the Ottoman rule, it was known as Skopje Sanjak. The Slav insurgents of 1903 proclaimed it, the Krusevo Republic and there is much in the name to unite its inhabitants without disturbing its neighbors.
I am aware that the Arbitration Commission recommends recognition as Macedonia on the basis of assurances provided by Skopje. But the Commission, which based its recommendation on juridical reasons, failed to observe a basic legal principal: audiatur et altera pars (Hear the other side). Not only did it discount our evidence, it did not listen to the objections raised by ethnic Albanians, Serbs and Montenegrins inside Skopje to recognition. I know you are aware that leaders of the Albanian minority in the republic have sent a letter to the Twelve protesting the Commissions recommendation.
It is evident that we cannot follow the Commissions advice on Skopje either because it fails to take into account the political ramifications of ramifications and the conflict it will unleash in the Balkans.
Let us look briefly at those implications both in Skopje and on its neighbors.
Skopje, itself, is a mosaic of contentious ethnic and religious groups. In Skopje the principal ethnic group Albanians, Bulgarians and Serbs feel strong allegiance to countries just across the border and they yearn to unite with them. On top of that, religious hostilities that have been brewing for years are reaching a boiling point in the Republic. Albanian Moslems a third of the population resent Orthodox Christians, who make almost half, for trying to dominate them over the past several decades. The Christians in turn see the Moslems as symbols of centuries of Ottoman subjugation. It is only a matter of time before the Republics Moslems rise to demand their own independence and eventual union with Albania which is predominantly Moslem.
For its part, Albania has not tried to hide its intentions. The Albanian Foreign Minister has made it clear that Tirana sets two conditions for the recognition of Skopje. First, that the Skopje Republic should recognize an independent Republic of Kossovo and second, that Skopje expresses its willingness to acknowledge an autonomous state for its predominantly Albanian western districts. Once autonomy is achieved, the pressure will start for unification.
On Skopjes eastern border stands Bulgaria. Although it became the first country to recognize the Republics independence there was no jubilation in Skopje because its people suspect Bulgarias intentions. The day after Bulgaria rushed to recognize the republic, Skopjes leading newspaper, Nova Macedonia, which is linked to President Gligorov, published an article saying that Sofias quick recognition may mask plans to play the role of protector or liberator of the new state and ultimately absorb it. The Gligorov newspaper has reasons to worry because in recognizing Skopje, Bulgaria made it clear that it recognizes a state but not the existence of a Macedonian nation. In other words, it recognizes the name of the land but not the identity of its people!
Sofia considers the majority of people in the eastern half of Skopje ethnic Bulgarian with a fixed destiny union with Bulgaria. That was made clear by a statement made just ten days ago by the former Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Dimitar Popov, at a meeting of the Independent Public Committee for Ethnic Questions in Sofia. The dissolution of Yugoslavia, he said will undermine existing treaties and allow Bulgaria to seek international support to undo the historical injustice done to her as regards the Bulgarian western provinces. By western provinces, of course, he means parts of the Republics of both Skopje and Serbia.
As for Skopjes northern neighbor, Serbia, its government has indicated that Belgrade will not oppose the Republics independence, the Serbias leaders have also made it plain that they will not tolerate Bulgarian domination of the Republic and will act to prevent it.
Of all its neighbors, Greece is the only country that has no designs on its territory. There are tens of thousands of Greeks in the Republic of Skopje. We can make territorial claims of our own on their behalf. We have not, and we are the only country in the region that hasnt. Instead, being the only stable democracy in the area and the only member of the Community, we are in a position to help Skopje most to safeguard its sovereignty and strengthen its economy.
If Skopje is granted recognition on the basis of the December 16 Community decision, which includes a change in name, Greece will do everything possible to help the Republic. We have already worked out proposals and projects to provide fundamental assistance to Skopje, because we believe that the Community has a key role to play in the region. They include two recommendations, one on arrangements for regional security that embrace Skopje, and the other on economic development of the Vardar-Axios Valley.
On the other hand, if Skopje is granted recognition on its own terms, including the name Macedonia, Greece will not be able to help the republic in any meaningful way and will have to take measures to protect its interests. To explain why, let me describe to you the feelings of the group people about this issue. As your own missions in Greece may have already reported to you, no issue in decades has inflamed Greeks as much as a possible recognition of Skopje as Macedonia. Passions are particularly strong in Northern Greece, in Greek Macedonia. Our Makedones number 2.5 million, roughly one quarter of our population, that is more people than there are in all of Skopje.
All Greeks feel the same anger over this issue. Petitions signed by officials of local governments, trade unions, professional and business organizations, agricultural cooperatives and student associations, irrespective of political affiliations, are flooding my office. Local regional radio and television stations are carrying daily reports and debates on the issue, and groups throughout Greece are meeting to discuss ways to show their opposition to the creation of a state called Macedonia.
Only three days ago, on February 14, that resolve was dramatized by the biggest demonstration ever held in Greece. You can see the picture in your folio and judge for yourselves. An estimated one million people rallied in Thessaloniki do demonstrate that Greeks will not tolerate any further encroachment upon their cultural heritage or any claims, stated or implied, against their territory.
What all this means is that to grant Skopje recognition as Macedonia is to make it politically impossible for any Greek government, now or in the future, to help the Republic secure an accepted place in the region. Without Greek support, it will fall victim to encroachment from one or more of its other neighbors sooner or later.
To grant Skopje recognition on its own terms then, will not be doing it a favor but assuring its eventual dismemberment. Moreover, such recognition is certain to become an apple of discord in the whole region and trigger hostilities and conflicts in the Balkans for years and decades to come.
Let us for a moment project our minds into the future. As politicians, we must be able to look ahead. Is there anyone in this room, who can guarantee that Democracy will remain alive in this volatile Balkan region in the years to come? Can anyone exclude the possibility of a temporary or even a permanent reversal of the democratic process in any one of the countries in the greater area?
That is why, my friends, it is absolutely imperative that the Community takes its time to consider every aspect of this issue very carefully and to come up with a process for recognition that is firmly anchored in its decision on 16 December 1991.
Now is the time, less than 10 days since the official documents of the Maastricht documents, for the community to close ranks on this issue, to show its solidarity with one of its members directly involved, and to safeguard peace and security in Southeastern Europe for the benefit of all the peoples in the region. We have agreed on the three special conditions. If they are not met in substance, then the international community will get the message that the European Union does not really mean what it says, and that the vital interest of its smaller members are not given the same consideration as those of its prominent.
To make our standards and our determination absolutely clear, I would like to make the following proposals concerning the Communitys proposals:
-- We must present a united front that is absolutely solid. We have set a common policy that constitutes a very important test case for the Community.
The first step toward European Union and common international objectives cannot be characterized by uncertainty and lack of solidarity. Therefore, we must first reaffirm our Declaration of December 16.
We must then take the measures to exercise pressure upon the leaders of Skopje and convince them that it is to their interest to comply with our three prerequisites for recognition because they offer the best way to secure both their survival and peace in the Balkans.
If we all agree, I would suggest that the Presidency conveys to the leadership of Skopje a clear message: we are ready not only to recognize their independence but to give them all necessary guarantees for their security and economic development provided they meet the conditions.
It will be up to Skopjes leaders to grasp the opportunities Greece and the Community are prepared to offer, if they will accommodate the concerns of their neighbors. But whatever they do, the Community must stand firm for stability and order in our disquieting world. Any hasty move now will help turn the Balkans as we reach the end of the century into the kind of violent and turbulent region it was at the beginning of it.
I am an optimist and I dream that with patience and resolve, we can turn the Balkans, which a prominent magazine recently called Historys cauldron, into an example of how old rivalries can be forged into new opportunities for cooperation, prosperity and peace.
Thank you for your attention and for your interest in the concerns of my country.