The Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC) and Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) strongly condemn the racist slur by the Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Macedonia, Mr Aivo Orav. In comments made last week to the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr Orav referred to Macedonians as “Slav Macedonians.”
The term “Slav Macedonian” is not a term of self-identification and therefore is totally rejected by Macedonians in the Republic of Macedonia and beyond. As well as being offensive and insulting, such terminology has been used in the past as a term of abuse by various states where Macedonians have and continue to reside.
AMHRC/MHRMI would also like to remind Mr Orav that the use of “Slav Macedonian” is fundamentally incompatible with the basic principles of the European Union. For example, Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union begins by declaring that: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights…”, while Article 22 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union stipulates that: “The Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.”
Mr Orav has responded to the public outrage in Macedonia over his offensive comments by claiming that: “I used language understandable to those present at the meeting…nor did I have an intention to offend anyone.”
AMHRC/MHRMI finds it hard to believe that Mr Orav was not aware that his reference to “Slav Macedonians” would cause offense. Moreover, if it was not his “intention” to cause offence, then what exactly was his intention? Was it to deny Macedonians the right to self-identification? Was it his intention to violate the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights? Or was it his desire simply to appease and use “language understandable” to certain members of the Committee before which he was appearing?
Given that Mr Orav has refused to publically apologise for his use of the offensive “Slav Macedonian” remark, it is now incumbent upon the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, to instruct him to do so. Moreover, Mr Orav ought to publicly re-commit himself to the basic principles of the EU, including respect for the right to self-identification. In future he should simply refer to ethnic Macedonians as Macedonians.
Failing a public apology from Mr Orav, Ms Ashton has a moral obligation to remove him from the post.
AMHRC/MHRMI has formally written to Mr Orav and Ms Ashton in relation to this matter and we encourage all Macedonians to do the same:
Mr Avio Orav
EU Head of Delegation to the Republic of Macedonia
Baroness Catherine Ashton
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
The views expressed are the organizations’ own.