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03 Apr 08

Shame on NATO!

Ana Petruseva

I am so upset and I am trembling as I write these lines from a fancy hotel in Athens, where I am supposed to be attending a conference on globalization.

Supposed to, as most of my time has been spent on the phone with frantic calls from Bucharest and Skopje – is it going to happen, is really Greece going to block our NATO integration because we are Republic of Macedonia and they think they have the exclusive right to this name: Macedonia.

Well, to my disappointment and the disappointment of my two million fellow Macedonians – they did, and the worst part of it - NATO countries – the same countries that have been endlessly repeating they want to see stable Balkans - did little to prevent that.

All clear warnings, the situation on the ground, the fact Macedonia’s stability is at stake, was not enough reason for countries to stand up and say no to Greece, that is except of the last minute attempts by the US which proved in vain.

We can debate whether Macedonia is in a such fragile state that it deserves to be in NATO, what it can offer to the Alliance, whether it is fit to meet the standards of this club. Those would be credible points. But to give in to Greece in such a manner – to put the Alliance’s priorities dictated by one member because of a bilateral issue is outrageous.

Let’s be clear: I don’t think that the Macedonian side should be amnestied for not addressing the issue for such a long time and hoping time will work in our favour, dismissing Greek threats as a bluff.

But this, to push a country into isolation because we are Macedonians, is ridiculous and extremely unjust. To impose such a blackmail, that unless we agree to accept we are something we are not they will block our EU integration, well aware to how much trouble that could lead is a shameful defeat of the international community’s policy in the Balkans.

We say we are descendants of Alexander the Great and the Greeks can’t handle that claiming we have territorial pretensions. As if we could really invade Thessaloniki. What has also been conveniently forgotten is that Macedonia after the Greek embargo in the early 90s did change its constitution to add the clause that it has no territorial pretensions to its neighbours and changed its flag to suit Greek demands.

In the past 24 hours I listened to speeches by senior Greek diplomats and spoke to them off record. They had grand words about globalization, but at the same time did not miss the opportunity to mention Macedonia saying “irredentism and nationalism is unacceptable”.

Is it really? And what is Greece doing if not pursuing a extremely nationalistic policy that eventually might lead to what I suspect would be their ultimate goal – end of the Macedonian state as we know it. But that does not count because Greece is a member of NATO and EU and can get away with it, the same way they say they have no minorities in the country. They insist they have nothing against us but at the same time that we have to be the ones to back down because they are the members of the powerful clubs we must join.

One Greek diplomat told me last night that the NATO outcome would not be that bad – cause they want us into NATO but under their conditions- saying “ lets make a deal over the name and you can get in, it doesn’t have to be in a summit but the issue must be resolved”.

Naturally I asked what they wanted. A composite name like Upper or New Macedonia which goes back to their earlier demands and sounds very much like some newly invented country in Africa .

But what about our identity I asked – how would I be called? “An upper Macedonian,” he said. I don’t regard myself as a nationalist and have always said we need to find a common ground with the Greeks even when proposals of compromise were easily labelled as treason.

But there is a red line one can not cross. And I for one would never accept to be an Upper Macedonian not think anyone should be asked to change identity cause the bully next door does not like it.

No country has ever been under such pressure from a powerful neighbour over a seemingly petty dispute. I have no dilemmas over the Greek role in this and honestly don’t expect they would care for a minute about the consequences of this decision.

However I am shocked and extremely bitter that the EU “democracies” we were given as example did not lift a finger to prevent the move. A friend in Belgrade told me the other day she couldn’t believe that despite the fact Macedonia was the only country in the region that always bowed to the international demands over any issues is now getting left out in the cold.

All of “our friends” in the West have conveniently forgotten how many times Macedonia blindly followed what the international community said it should do. Accepting to take in hundreds of thousands Albanian refugees in1999 despite risk of ethnic trouble, allowing NATO to use its territory in the air strikes of Yugoslavia, not to mention 2001 and the aftermath that have left a bitter taste among ethnic Macedonians and a set of troubling issues that still stir political crisis.

Now they have served us to the Greeks, forcing us to choose between two evils: Give up our name and identity which is the only thing we have or risk that in the long term the country will seize to exist as we know it.

Talk about it!

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