|An Appeal to the European Parliament for Equitable Treatment of the Republic of Macedonia
26 April, 2013
We, as representatives acting on behalf of members of the Macedonian communities, whose very existence is denied and actively negated by the authorities in Greece and Bulgaria, wish to express our deep dissatisfaction with a significant number of the amendments proposed by the Greek and Bulgarian MEPs, in regard to the progress report on the Republic of Macedonia – a country which the EU does not even have the decency to refer to by its official and democratically chosen name.
Our disappointment is based, more than anything else, on the fact that the nature of the proposed amendments promotes a politics of negation, not only of the Macedonian minorities in Greece and Bulgaria, but of the Macedonian nation itself. At the same time, all of that practically amounts to a negation of what are supposed to be core values of the new Europe – inclusiveness, tolerance, respect for diversity and in particular, respect for people’s ethnic and national identity.
Below the surface of demands for the Republic of Macedonia to work for ‘good neighbourly relations’, there is a destructive nationalism – as those who are making the demands are representatives of countries, Greece and Bulgaria, which are refusing to reciprocate. We need to remind you that these countries and their European representatives are the ones refusing to recognise the existence of a Macedonian nation, language and the Macedonian minorities residing in their countries – even though they have been found guilty of violating the rights of their Macedonian minorities by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Media, Hate Speech, History and Good Neighbourly Relations
One cannot rightly regard Macedonian news media reports about the mistreatment of the Macedonian minorities in Greece and Bulgaria, as examples of ‘hate speech’. Moreover, if one consults a series of findings and statements made against Greece and Bulgaria, by the European Court of Human Rights; the Commissioner for Human Rights; various bodies connected to the Council of Europe, the UN and various NGO’s, one would also have to regard these bodies as responsible for spreading ‘hate speech’. In fact, of course, the Macedonian media reports, alongside the reports and findings of these other bodies, are about trying to end Greek and Bulgarian anti-Macedonian intolerance.
The demands of Greek and Bulgarian MEPs aiming to interfere with the way Macedonian history is taught are based on sheer nonsense and essentially involve an attempt to truncate academic/scholarly freedom and ultimately, freedom of thought and speech – this is something that is unacceptable from any EU member. It involves the ridiculous assertion that to teach that Macedonians have a past, involves “stealing history” and even asserting that Macedonians exist, is viewed as some sort of ‘provocation’. Yet we now have a situation where two EU member countries are actually attempting, via the European Parliament, to impose this draconian form of censorship on another European nation.
Once again, it is crucial to note here, that in the official historiographies of Greece and Bulgaria, students are taught that the Macedonian nation does not exist and that its history actually belongs to Greece and Bulgaria. That really is teaching to hate!
Bulgarian parliamentarians, ministers and high state functionaries permit themselves to use the most offensive epithets in relation to members of Bulgaria’s Macedonian minority (and indeed the whole Macedonian nation) – like “traitors”, “national traitors” etc, simply because we identify as Bulgarian citizens with a Macedonian ethnic identity. And now Bulgarian MEPs, who should be defending our rights as Bulgarian citizens, are abusing their position of power, by attempting, with the aid of the European Union, to serve their national prejudices which involve a denial of the existence of a Macedonian nation, by making Macedonia’s partial acceptance of them as the conditional basis for Macedonia’s European integration. Similar abusive language is used by Greek politicians and especially by members of Greece’s neo-NAZI “Golden Dawn” party, which took 18 seats at the last national elections held in Greece.
It is no accident that there are no essential differences in the amendments from the ultra-nationalistic circles of “ATAKA” and the other Bulgarian representatives, as in Bulgaria, there is a mainstream anti-Macedonian consensus. Thus the problems at hand will not be found in the Republic of Macedonia, but rather in Greece and Bulgaria, who refuse to accept our existence and ‘naturally’, this is what causes difficulties in the maintenance of ‘good neighbourly relations’.
A Macedonian political party in Bulgaria and a number of Macedonian organisations in both Greece and Bulgaria, have been attempting to obtain official registration for around two decades and still have not been registered in spite of a series of findings in favour of their registration by the European Court of Human Rights.
Yet Bulgaria and Greece have the audacity to carry on as if they possess some sort of moral high ground when they seek to order a neighbouring sovereign nation state to change its name – that is, when they are seeking to take away its rights to self-identification, sovereignty and to impose censorship on its society by taking away its rights to freedom of speech, thought and even the right to erect historical monuments of its own choosing etc. The implicit meaning of all this is that Macedonians are something less than human – and indeed, how else can one justify the taking away of these basic human rights!?
Good neighbourly relations need to be based on mutual respect and equality of treatment, as is required by the current bases of European values and not on the basis of the misuse of power to impose one’s nationalistic will over a small and weak neighbour.
It is to be understood that we respect the rights of all minorities seeking recognition. However, those rights need to be pursued in a manner made clear by the “Framework Convention”, in article 3.1 which states: “That every individual belonging to a national minority has the right to freely decide on whether to be treated in such a manner or not” and according to that, to the extent that members of a minority do not want to be treated in such a manner, the state is then not in a position to force such a status upon the group in question, nor can somebody else seek such a status on its behalf. Thus, in the absence of a request before the Macedonian government by those possessing a Bulgarian ethnic identity, it is not possible for other institutions, like the EU, to intervene.
If those citizens of the Republic of Macedonia possessing a Bulgarian ethnic consciousness pursue official minority status from the Macedonian government and if it follows that their application is rejected, then EU intervention would be appropriate and even we would seek to support such an intervention, as our organisations are fundamentally based on the protection of human and in particular, minority rights. However, this has not occurred. Rather, we have the Bulgarian state presuming, without first asking their permission, to speak on behalf of Macedonian citizens and in actuality, the essence of the matter involves the Bulgarian state pretending to represent Macedonian citizens who have obtained Bulgarian passports, in order to gain the benefits, especially employment opportunities, of EU membership.
Thus this is a case of Bulgaria utilising the economic hardships of Macedonian citizens, for the purpose of executing an aggressive nationalistic policy against its neighbour – so much for ‘good neighbourly relations’.
The Irrelevance of and the Nationalistic Hubris contained in many of the Greek and Bulgarian MEP Proposals
The majority of the abnormally large number of amendments proposed by the Greek and Bulgarian MEPs, are based not on a concern for the advancement of democracy, the rights of individuals or minorities, but rather, on the promotion of nationalistic political goals to be achieved at the expense of a much smaller and weaker neighbour.
We believe that Greece and Bulgaria, as members of the EU, should be leading by example in respecting the rights of their minorities. Yet, despite a myriad of attempts to gain official recognition, Greece and Bulgaria refuse to recognise our existence. Both countries actively and officially deny our existence and have refused to implement the Framework Convention in relation to our and other minorities. In fact Greece refuses to recognise the existence of any ethnic minorities residing within its borders and absolutely refuses to ratify the Framework Convention. And while Bulgaria has officially ratified the Convention, it does not apply it to all minorities and the country’s foreign minister regularly makes public claims asserting that Bulgaria has no minorities. Moreover, at the request of Bulgarian representatives, on the 22nd of January 2013, two minorities were actually erased from the PACE Resolution on Post Monitoring Dialogue with Bulgaria – the erased groups were the Macedonians and the Pomaks.
While it might be convenient for Bulgarian and Greek MEPs to express concern for human rights matters located beyond the borders of their respective states, we call upon them to do right by the minorities inhabiting their own countries, by appealing to their own governments to finally recognise their existence. It is time for these Greek and Bulgarian MEPs to express concern for us, for we are citizens and voters from the countries they represent! How absurd it is for representatives of countries that actively negate our existence to express concern about the rights of minorities in other countries!
There has been but one case in Macedonia of the non-registration of a Bulgarian association, which the EHCR found to be a violation – and we in principle support the registration of this body, in spite of serious concerns about its public promotion of notions which regard the Macedonian nation to be “... a cancer (parasitic mutation) ... these parasites ... are eating the organism [of the Bulgarian nation] ... the only way to stop the spread of the cancer is timely surgical intervention with the aim of physically removing it..." (From an official programmatic statement by the association in question: Radko Program issued 5 July 2009, http://www.radkomk.com/PROGRAMA.pdf).
And for all that it needs to be pointed that our situation in Bulgaria is not remotely comparable to that of the Bulgarians in Macedonia, whose existence in Macedonia, is not negated. All minorities in Macedonia are officially recognised and free to express their existence in Macedonian censuses – unlike the censuses held in Greece and Bulgaria. Minorities in Macedonia have rights accorded to them that Greece and Bulgaria’s UNRECOGNISED minorities can only dream about.
Furthermore, in Bulgaria and Greece there are over a dozen Macedonian associations which remain unregistered and decisions, in some cases made over a decade ago by the ECHR ordering the registration of these bodies have not been implemented – and we are supposed to be European citizens!
We implore all of you, to check our assertions for yourselves, ask your Greek and Bulgarian colleagues if their respective countries officially recognise the existence of their Macedonian minorities.
As European citizens we appeal to the European Parliament to treat Macedonia equitably and with the respect it would afford to any sovereign nation. Anything less will compromise the fundamental basis of Europe as inclusive and as focused on the protection of democracy and human rights. These attempts to undermine the basis of our Macedonian identity and thereby our actual existence and dignity, are an embarrassment to Europe and if accepted, will lead to new causes of instability in the Balkans and perhaps even new attempts to forcefully change national borders.
It is simply unacceptable for Europe to seriously consider acting against its own interests by placing conditions upon Macedonia that require it to undermine basic freedoms like the rights to self-determination/identification, freedom of academic research, freedom of speech etc.
The European Parliament needs to tell its Bulgarian and Greek members that EU membership cannot be a tool for the implementation of their intolerant nationalistic desires and they should be reprimanded for not recognizing their Macedonian minorities.
The following proposed amendments, should be viewed in the context of the information we have presented in this letter, no’s: 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 29, 37, 42,72, 73, 75, 77, 82, 84, 88, 120, 149, 167, 182, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 194, 200, 201, 202 and other similar proposals.
1. Under the guise of seeking ‘good neighbourly relations’ and ‘preventing hate speech’, Bulgarian and Greek nationalism have launched a new attack against Macedonian identity and against freedom of speech, of the media and of academic research.
2. Acceptance of the amendments in question, will impose upon Macedonia, a series of anti-democratic conditions, in addition to the already existing EU refusal to respect the Republic of Macedonia’s official self-chosen name. In the long term, this will lead to a further destabilization of the Balkans.
3. The coordinated actions of the Greek and Bulgarian MEPs are designed to negate the national identity of Macedonians everywhere, including the Macedonian minorities inhabiting those countries.
4. Even though we are European citizens, our existence remains unrecognized and indeed, Greece and Bulgaria actively work to negate our existence and we appeal to the European Parliament to finally put an end to this abuse.
Respectfully and sincerely, the political secretariats of OMO “Ilinden” PIRIN and EFA-Rainbow/Vinozhito,
Co-presidents of OMO “linden” - PIRIN:
Stojko Stojkov, Angel Bezev, Ivan Singartijski, Botyo Vangelov, Krum Filatov
The Political Secretariat of EFA-Rainbow/Vinozhito:
Pavle Filipov Voskopoulos, Dimitri Ioannou
OMO “Ilinden” PIRIN is a political party supporting the rights of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. It has been banned since 2000, despite a 2005 European Court of Human Rights Judgement ruling that the decision was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. For more information please visit www.omoilindenpirin.org.
The European Free Alliance – Rainbow/Vinozhito is a political party struggling for the rights and recognition of the Macedonian minority in Greece. The party has offices in Florina/Lerin and Edessa/Voden. For more information please visit www.vinozito.gr, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on +30 23850 46548.