On Tuesday, October 18, 2016 in New York City, Macedonian Human Rights Movement International President, Bill Nicholov, met with Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on the name issue. MHRMI called for Mr. Nimetz to resign and, as his predecessor Robin O’Neil did, to publicly denounce the name negotiations.
MHRMI explained that there is no solution to a 25-year old artificially created dispute, in which one party ceases to recognize the name, identity, ethnicity or language of the other party and actively, transparently and admittedly tries to destroy it. MHRMI expressed disgust that the United Nations continues to entertain the notion of forcing Macedonia to change its name, much less let it linger for 25 years, as it is a blatant attack on the sovereignty of Macedonia and the most basic human right, self-determination, of the Macedonian people. For the first time in history, the UN is allowing one country to name another. In addition, MHRMI stressed that Macedonia and Macedonians have always been known as such, and did not arbitrarily “choose” our name, and therefore cannot choose to abandon it. Despite claims to the contrary, it is, in fact, Greece that is trying to appropriate Macedonia’s name, as is clearly evident by its 1988 change in policy from denying Macedonia’s existence to claiming it as its own.
Since Greece insists on discussing history as a pretext for its claims, MHRMI clarified that neither Mr. Nimetz, nor the United Nations, can begin from the pro-Greek argument that Macedonia is “new”, while Greece is “old”. This is not only false, but it sets a dangerous precedent as it aids Greece in setting the tone for its false claim to Macedonia. Since the creation of Greece in 1830, it had never called for Macedonia to be incorporated into the Greek state, clearly indicating that it never had any claims on Macedonia. On the contrary, since Macedonia’s partition in 1913 among Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and later Albania, Greece has tried to eradicate Macedonia’s very existence, as did each of the other countries.
MHRMI highlighted that adding any type of geographical, or other qualifier, such as “Republic of Northern Macedonia”, “Democratic Republic of Macedonia” or “Republic of Slavic Macedonia”, is extremely offensive and would only aid Greece in its attempts to change the ethnic identity of Macedonians. One cannot change a country’s name without changing the identity of its people. Furthermore, it would also ensure Greece’s goal of denying the existence and persecution of its large Macedonian minority, a point publicly admitted by former Greek Prime Minister Constantin Mitsotakis in 1995. Macedonians in Greece and throughout the Balkans are advocating for their human rights as Macedonians, nothing else.
To even indulge Greece’s nonsensical arguments in creating the nonsensical name dispute — their claim that the Republic of Macedonia’s name “creates confusion” with the “province of Macedonia” — is disingenuous, as the word “Republic” indicates statehood. So, adding a qualifier only serves to be redundant, as well as blatantly racist.
MHRMI made clear the opinion of former US Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, that “The name dispute is unnecessary and unfounded, since Macedonia was called the same in the time of former Yugoslavia and this did not cause any problems then…Greece claims that Macedon or Macedonia, as well as Alexander of Macedonia are its own. This is a false claim and it is time someone confirms this….The Greek claim about Macedonia is based on historically incorrect information and is therefore not fact-based.” Mr. Eagleburger added that it is “not wise for a foreigner to interfere with the internal affairs of another state.”
MHRMI reiterated its point that Greece, the oppressor, does not need to recognize Macedonia and Macedonia does not need to recognize Greece. As is current practice, Macedonia and Greece can continue to refer to each other as “Party of the First Part” and “Party of the Second Part”, or anything else, such as “Country A” and “Country B”. Furthermore, Greece violated the terms of the 1995 Interim Accord by denying Macedonia’s entry into NATO, thus negating the Accord’s validity. Macedonia subsequently won the related International Court of Justice case, yet there are no repercussions against Greece. MHRMI called on Mr. Nimetz and the UN to immediately declare the Accord null and void and to announce that Macedonia has a technical reason to end the negotiations.
As stated to Mr. Nimetz, what is clearly evident, as has been MHRMI’s position since Macedonia declared independence in 1991, is that all the power rests in Macedonia’s hands. If Macedonia ends the negotiations, the name dispute will be resolved. The reason that the West calls for a name change is because Macedonia negotiates. This has never been more clear, and MHRMI is calling on all Macedonian political parties to publicly and immediately denounce the nonsensical name negotiations and pledge that, if elected, never to engage in any discussion about Macedonia’s name.
In conclusion, MHRMI reminded Mr. Nimetz of the statement by the first UN mediator for the name dispute, Robin O’Neil, that “Macedonia must not and will not change its name in order to appease Greece. If Macedonia succumbs to pressures and changes its name, such events will only give more firepower to Greece until it reaches its final goal – Macedonia to vanish from the map.” MHRMI reiterated its call for the United Nations to respect its own principles of human rights and to immediately and permanently end the name negotiations.
*Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) has been active on human and national rights issues for Macedonians and other oppressed peoples since 1986.