Monday, July 28, 2008

FYROM PM Gruevski’s “Macedonism” Boomerang

Article by Athanasios Ellis, Kathimerini, 27 July 2008
Translated into English by Captain Agras

The manufactured “Macedonism” that Nikola Gruevski tried to promote over the last few weeks has turned into a diplomatic boomerang for him. His attempts to dilute, to re-shape and finally to distort the content of his dispute with Greece have all but miserably failed. The UN, the EU and even the USA have all distanced themselves from the “Macedonian minority” issue that Gruevski tried to raise, whilst the notion that the Prime Minister of the neighbouring country not only does not seek an honorable to solution to the name issue but is even prepared to sacrifice the stability of the entire Balkan region for his own political gains internally, gains credence internationally.

Gruevski’s downward roll in the path of arrogance, which is now being observed by the international community with skepticism, my in the short terms bring him internal political gains, but in the longer terms damages the interests of his country and his people since it takes them further away from the security of NATO and the prosperity of the EU. At the same time, with his spasmodic actions, he damages even further whatever prestige he may have had left after the violence and fraud which marked the elections of the 1st June.

The Prime Minister of FYROM has been doubly “unlucky” since the “timing” has not worked out in his favor either. At the time when he sought to invest in an individually tailored ultra nationalism, the arrest of Radovan Karadic has come to remind us of the disaster that ultra nationalism can create in the Balkans. Even when nationalist ideology makes a comeback, even in a milder form, it remains analogously equally disturbing. Despite the ambivalent position of Greek governments, in the past, concerning irrepressible nationalism which happened to come from “friendly” countries, the latest elevation of the problem with the arrest of the former leader of the Bosnain Serbs and his probable trial at the International Court for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, does not provide fertile ground for Gruevski’s irredentist claims.

Mathew Nimitz

The actions of FYROM’s Prime Minister have worried Mathew Nimitz also, who in accordance with the Security Council resolutions and the Interim Accord of 1995 remains devoted to the resolution of the real bilateral problem between Greece and FYROM, which is the agreement on an acceptable name of the latter. The last thing that the international negotiator would want now is an unending discussion concerning additional issues which would forestall any successful conclusion of his current mission. At the same time, he is not elated with what amounts to the undermining of the long-time negotiator Nikola Dimitrov [by Gruevski] with whom he had established a relationship of trust.

The UN Negotiator will continue with his efforts during August, and September is thought to be critical, when world leaders and Foreign Ministers will gather in New York to participate in the UN General assembly, at a time when the Bush presidency is nearing its end and the EU will be preparing to consider the prospects for FYROM’s future entry.

Having received encouraging signs on the name “North Macedonia”, Mr. Nimitz sought to take advantage of the situation and to submit a complete proposal with the hope that it would be accepted within the fall, 13 years after the signing of the Interim Accord where he himself participated as assistant to Cyrus Vance.

Greek Diaspora

Dora Bakoyianni, who will be at the UN Headquarters during the last ten days of September, will be ready to join in meaningful discussions if Mr. Nimitz decides that enough progress has been achieved which would justify the “final move” for the achievement of an agreement.

At the same time, just one month before the presidential elections, the head of Greek diplomacy will take advantage of her presence in the USA to meet with the sizeable and influential Greek communities in New York and in Chicago, where Barack Obama is elected. The Democratic candidate has co-signed, together with the well known philhellene Senator Robert Menendez and Olympia Snowe, a Congress Resolution calling on FYROM to cease all irredentist activities and to cooperate productively with Greece for a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue.

Leading members of the Greek community believe that the potential election of Obama will create a more favourable climate for Greece in relation to the FYROM name issue. In contrast, the republican candidate, John McCain, is likely to move in the direction set by the Bush administration, especially since amongst his close advisors there are former collaborators of the government of FYROM.

The American Position

Even Washington, who has proven to be the strongest supporter of FYROM, did not follow Gruevski on the lonely road that he chose. And this, because the maximalist nationalism that the FYROM Prime Minister espouses basically entraps the policy of the Bush Administration in the Balkans, since it distances the possibility for an agreement on the name, and consequently, the possibility of FYROM gaining entry to the NATO alliance.

Publicly, Washington steers clear of taking a public stance and restricts itself to stating that a solution to the name issue must be found as soon as possible. Privately, however, American diplomats state that they are not surprised by the “inappropriate” behavior of Mr. Gruevski and they admit that this is interfering with the negotiations on the name issue. At the State Department, there are signs of a general apprehension, since the apparent “dead end” in the relationship between Athens and Skopje is creating serious hurdles to the application of US foreign policy in the Balkans. Not only has the objective of FYROM’s entry into the NATO alliance not been achieved, but recently Senators Menendez and Snowe “froze” the appointment of the new US Ambassador to Skopje, Philip Riker, incurring the ire of Condoliza Rice

In fact, Olympia Snowe in a recent letter urged Condoleza Rice to “encourage FYROM to stop violating the terms of the Interim Accord and to recognize her with the name that will be agreed by both countries”. The State Department replied that it is applying pressure on both governments to “intensify their efforts and against internal groups and to avoid provocations and other non-helpful actions which may be interpreted as counterproductive for the negotiations”. Despite the attempt (by the State Department) to keep “equal distances”, it is clear that Mr. Gruevski was the intended recipient of this message.

In theory, the White House can overcome the problem by appointing an interim ambassador during the Senate’s programmed spring break, a move that would, however, provoke tension in the relationship of the government with the External Affairs Committee, something that President Bush would prefer to avoid as he depends on the Senate’s support on other more significant foreign affairs issues.

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