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AHI Sends Letter to The Washington Times Regarding Editorial on “Macedonia”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Nick Larigakis
May 23, 2008—No. 35 (202) 785-8430

AHI Sends Letter to The Washington Times Regarding Editorial on “Macedonia”

WASHINGTON, DC—On May 21, 2008 The Washington Times published AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis’ Commentary article on page A18, entitled “Greece is No Bully.” The text of the letter can be found below.

May 21, 2008

The Washington Times 
3600 New York Avenue, N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20002

Greece is no bully

The column "A name to reckon with" (Commentary, May 4) suggests the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is a small, innocent country being bullied by Greece. Not so Greece largely sustains FYROM's economy by virtue of being the largest investor and providing almost 26,000 jobs.

Didn't FYROM choose to name itself in the most provocative way possible? Is it proper for a country, which is part of a region, to define itself in an official manner as representing the whole region?

Didn't Yugoslav communist dictator Josip Broz Tito change this region from Vardar Banovina to Macedonia in 1944 to create a false Macedonian ethnic consciousness for numerous reasons, including his campaign against Greece?

Doesn't FYROM continue to provoke Greece by distorting maps, naming its airport after Alexander the Great, printing revisionist schoolbooks and allowing inflammatory comments to be made by government officials, all of which encourage new generations to cultivate hostile sentiments against Greece?

In February, I attended a discussion at the German Marshall Fund featuring FYROM's foreign minister. I asked him to explain how his government reconciles these provocative actions. He declined to offer any defense to my assertions.

Before the summit, Greece accepted proposals from United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz as a basis for discussion, whereas FYROM didn't.

The United States has important interests in Southeastern Europe that are dependent on regional stability. Therefore, the United States has an important stake in fostering good relations among countries in the region.

However, the continuing intransigent and provocative actions by FYROM against Greece can destabilize the Balkans, to the detriment of U.S. interests.

The column states that "all other NATO members supported admission into the alliance." This is false.

It's significant that Greece was supported by France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Also, the Netherlands and Belgium viewed with understanding Greece's arguments.

Greece is prepared to negotiate under U.N. auspices. The United States can use its influence to bring proper pressure on FYROM to negotiate in a good-faith manner that satisfies both countries and to cease its provocative actions against Greece. Only in this way will the interests of all parties be satisfied.

NICK LARIGAKIS

Executive Director 
American Hellenic Institute

 

Below is the article that Mr. Larigakis is responding to, that appeared on May 4th 2008 in The Washington Times
A name to reckon with 
By Metodija A. Koloski
May 4, 2008

The recent Greek veto of the Republic of Macedonia's NATO membership during the NATO Bucharest Summit earlier this month was unfounded and contrary to the principles of NATO and its member states.

Macedonia fulfilled all of the membership criteria set forth by NATO and all other NATO members supported its admission into the alliance. Despite not yet being a member of the Alliance, Macedonia participates in NATO operations in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

Macedonia also recently assumed command of NATO's former host nation support coordination center that provides logistical support for KFOR forces in Kosovo, and Macedonia is participating in combat operations alongside American forces in Iraq.

Greece's claims that it seeks a "mutually acceptable" solution to the "name dispute" and that it wants "good and neighborly" relations with Macedonia were betrayed by its veto and its acts since the NATO Summit. These acts have been carried out with disturbing bravado following Greece's self-proclaimed "success" at the Summit.

It was Greece, not Macedonia, that rejected the most recent proposal to resolve the "name dispute." Moreover, Greece's veto violated the 1995 Interim Accord that it signed with Macedonia, which binds Greece's right to veto Macedonia's NATO bid or any other international organization that Macedonia would like to join as long as it joins under the U.N. provisional reference term used to identify Macedonia.

It is now clear that Greece does not seek a "mutually acceptable" solution, but only a unilaterally imposed solution mandated to Macedonia by Greece. Having failed on all other fronts to prevail in the "name dispute," Greece believes it can abuse its NATO and EU membership to extort further concessions from Macedonia. In pursuing its bully diplomacy against Macedonia, Greece has sacrificed NATO interests and prestige in the region and jeopardized regional peace and stability simply to satisfy its pedantic objection to Macedonia's name.

Since the Bucharest Summit, Greece has distanced itself even further from the last proposal advanced by U.N. Ambassador Matthew Nimetz.

Additionally, in moves eerily reminiscent of the illegal Greek trade embargo against Macedonia from 1991 to 1995, Greece recently banned the import of meat from Macedonia into Greece and barred Macedonian Airlines Transport (MAT), a private company, from flying into or over Greece.

The rationale is that the meat is labeled as coming from the Republic of Macedonia and MAT includes the word "Macedonian" in its name. These are hardly the actions of a nation claiming it seeks "good and neighborly" relations with its neighbor.

In addition, most appalling, was Greece's attempt to literally buy its way out of the "dispute" when the Greek foreign minister announced Greece would make substantial foreign aid available to Macedonia if Macedonia simply capitulated to Greece and allowed Greece to dictate a new name for Macedonia.

As ridiculous as Greece's actions and posturing are, they are nothing new. Greece has pursued a policy of negating everything Macedonian and eradicating the Macedonian culture and national identity within its borders and in the wider region ever since Greece acquired a portion of geographic Macedonia because of the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest.

To this day, Greece denies the existence of a large Macedonian minority in northern Greece though numerous U.S. State Department Reports, Human Rights Watch Reports, and other independent nongovernmental organizations have confirmed its existence time after time.

Recent claims by the Political Party of Macedonian Minority in Greece, Rainbow, put the number of Macedonians in northern Greece at nearly 200,000. However, the Greek government continues to claim these people do not exist and indeed that Macedonians either inside or outside of Greece do not exist.

Greece's objections to Macedonia's name are not based on the Greek delusion of a direct link to an ancient Macedonian king nor on Greece's false claims that Macedonia harbors an expansionist agenda, but only on Greece's refusal to acknowledge the existence of the Macedonian people. Indeed, Greece hopes to impose a solution to the "dispute" under which Macedonians will be called something, anything, other than Macedonians.

One would hope Greece would not want to be considered complicit in a current long line of minority rights violations, human rights abrogations and political rights concerns.

The United States has been a beacon of light for democracy and human rights, and one would hope that just as the U.S. has taken the plight of Tibetans into consideration in regards to its relations with China, the same respect should be taken in its relations with Greek authorities of the rights of the Macedonian minority in Greece.

The United States should continue to support Macedonia's name and NATO membership.

Metodija A. Koloski is president of United Macedonian Diaspora, an international nongovernmental organization addressing the interests and needs of Macedonians and Macedonian communities throughout the world (http://www.umdiaspora.org).

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For additional information, please contact Nick Larigakis at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.