Macedonia: when history matters
BSSB.BE intellinews.com 05.06.2018
* Macedonia’s main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party staged a protest in Skopje on June 2 against the policies of the Social Democrat-led government, accusing it of betraying the country’s national interests by negotiating the change of the country’s name with neighbouring Greece.
Several thousand opposition supporters gathered in front of the government building in downtown Skopje to protest against the change of the country’s name at the time when the government is in an advanced stage of negotiations with Greece to solve the 25-year old dispute, which will unblock the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration processes.
Greece objects to the use of the name Macedonia as it has a province in the north with the same name, fearing that Skopje has territorial claims. Athens has blocked Macedonia’s progress towards EU and Nato membership for decades over the issue.
Shouting “Macedonia” and waving Macedonian flags, protestors came to express their dissatisfaction with government plans to accept Greece’s erga omnes proposal, which means using the new name of the country not only internationally, but also in the country. In order to implement this, Macedonia needs to change the Constitution which is unacceptable for the opposition and also for President Gjorge Ivanov.
VMRO-DPMNE leader Hristijan Mickoski said that his party will never accept constitutional changes for the name issue, which is one of the main Greek demands, as Athens insists the new name is used internally.
“Our message is — it’s enough,” Mickoski said in front of party supporters. For Mickoski, these are historic moments for Macedonia.
In his speech, Mickoski mostly criticised the economic performance of the government.
Most of the people who attended the meeting were brought by around a hundred buses from all parts of Macedonia. Members of the ultra nationalist Kjoseto movement, were also present at the meeting wearing black shirts.
“We are in the crucial period for Macedonia when the destiny of the country is being tailored. None has the right to change anything that belongs to the past and future generations. The ultimate goal is destroying the identity of Macedonians,” a 30-year old protestor from the city of Ohrid told bne IntelliNews.
He thinks that membership of Nato and the EU are not worth it if the name of the country will be changed for internal use.
For another protestor the change of the name would be a “criminal act”.
“We do not need EU and Nato if we lose the name Macedonia,” an older protestor said, adding that he would not support the change if a referendum is held on the issue.
Many protestors refused to talk about their motives for participating in the rally.
Zaev said last week that talks between Macedonia and Greece on the name dispute are in the final phase, and if they reach a deal on a new name for the country currently known as Macedonia, a referendum will be held in September or October.
The VMRO leader also used the occasion to call for early elections, convinced that his party, which was previously led by ex-prime minister Nikola Gruevski who faces several criminal charges, would win.
Mickoski called for an interim government to be formed 100 days before a snap election is held.
He also blamed the SDSM, which came to power at the end of May 2017, for undelivered promises and the poor state of the economy as well as for betraying the national interests of the country.
Some of the protestors were also not satisfied with the economic performance of the current government.
The SDSM responded in a statement following the rally, saying that Mickoski continues to follow the path of his predecessor Gruevski and refuses to apologise to citizens for the devastating policies that VMRO-DPMNE committed against Macedonia during the 11 years of its rule.
“Miskoski called on Macedonia to turn back to the dark past of crime, corruption, the impoverishment of citizens and distancing the country from European values. And that will not happen,” the SDSM said in the statement on June 2
A few days ago, Greek daily Kathimerini wrote that negotiations seemed to have run into problems, after a senior Greek government official said on June 1 that a deal was not likely to be reached in the coming days.
The daily said that FYROM — Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the name that international organisations are using for Macedonia — is not yet ready to respond to everything that was agreed in Brussels between the foreign ministers Nikola Dimitrov and Nikos Kotzias.
According to Macedonian media, the latest proposal is Northern Macedonia, but this has not been officially confirmed by Dimitrov or Zaev. The Macedonian prime minister said earlier that Ilinden Macedonian, which he previously proposed, is not being considered any more. However, he added that the two countries have never been closer to finding a solution.
Dimitrov said earlier that he will resign if the talks with Greece on finding a solution to the 25-year name dispute fail.
The talks are being held under auspices of UN mediator Matthew Nimetz.
Since coming to power in 2017, Zaev’s government has been actively seeking a compromise with Athens that will enable the country to move forward towards membership of both international groups.
On June 1, the US State Department said it hoped Athens and Skopje would reach “a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue together, which will be in the interests of Euro-Atlantic integration, economic prosperity, peace and stability in the region.”
The negotiations between the two governments are not supported by opposition in either country. Protests are also planned to be held next week in several cities in Greece against any compromise solution that includes the word Macedonia in the new name.
Yet if a solution is reached Macedonia may expect to be invited to become the 30th Nato member and to launch EU accession talks.
Earlier this year, with the aim of meeting Greek demands, Macedonia changed the name of Skopje’s airport and the main motorway that leads to Greece, both called Alexander the Great. The airport was renamed International Airport Skopje, while the new name of the motorway is Friendship. The move was praised by the Greek authorities.
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