Can President Trump solve the Macedonian conundrum?

environmentThis year marks the 115th anniversary of the first modern day Macedonian state, heroically established in 1903 in Krusevo. However, Macedonia’s future is in serious jeopardy, due to the remarkable shortsightedness of its government, as well as the escalating belligerence of Greece.

In response, over this past weekend more than 100,000 people gathered peacefully in 16 cities around the world, including in Skopje, Macedonia. They assembled under the banner “#WeAreMacedonia – Enough is Enough” and sought unconditional international recognition and use of Macedonia’s rightful name, the Republic of Macedonia. They also articulated the following clear message: Macedonians want to become members of NATO (and perhaps the EU), but not at the cost of Macedonia’s name, Macedonian identity or the Macedonianlanguage — accordingly, Macedonia must immediately withdraw from the UN-led “name negotiations” with Greece.

Since its independence in 1991, Macedonia has been an upstanding member of the international community and one of the most loyal and committed allies of the United States. Every time the U.S. and the international community have called upon Macedonia for help – in Afghanistan, Iraq or Kosovo — Macedonia has stood shoulder to shoulder with its allies to combat violent extremism and terrorism. Yet, the Republic of Macedonia remains the only country in the world deprived of its right of self-determination. For over a century, Macedonians have been fighting against Greece’s cultural and ethnic genocide to strip the Macedonian community of its rightful name, identity, and heritage.

In 1993, the United Nations perpetrated an overt injustice by imposing unprecedented additional conditions for Macedonia’s UN membership, notwithstanding the fact that Republic ofMacedonia had fulfilled the criteria laid out in Article 4 of the UN Charter. This created the Macedonian Conundrum. Despite the fact that 137 nations – including the U.S. — have already recognized Macedonia by its constitutional name, Greece remarkably continues to deny official recognition to the state of Macedonia, its ethnicity or its identity. And it continues to persecute, threaten and deny fundamental human rights of its citizens who have a Macedonian ethnic identity.

The need for Macedonian-Greek dialogue is quite clear. However, the UN led discussions have proven futile – due to Greece’s intransigence, absurd and demeaning demands, and flagrant and continuing breaches of bilateral agreements and international law. Over twenty years ago, Greece agreed to allow Macedonian accession to the EU and NATO if Macedoniaproceeded under a temporary and provisional reference, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, Greece reneged on this promise and has faced no repercussions within the UN, EU or NATO to date. In 2011, the International Court of Justice ruled that Greece blatantly violated international law by vetoing Macedonia’s NATO membership in 2008, and yet no one is holding Greece responsible.

In order to resolve this Macedonian Conundrum, the more than half-a-million-strong Macedonian-American community and the #WeAreMacedonia global movement respectfully ask President Trump and Secretary Tillerson to instruct U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, and our ambassadors to all NATO and EU countries to push for implementation of the following measures in order to effect a swift, just and successful resolution to this dispute:

  • (a) Urge the United Nations Security Council to withdraw Resolution 817;
  • (b) End the 25 year UN/EU/NATO policy of referring to Macedonia as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and recognize the country by its rightful name, the Republic ofMacedonia;
  • (c) Declare the 1995 UN Interim Accord null and void given the 2011 ICJ ruling; and
  • (d) Dissolve the office of the special envoy on the Macedonia naming dispute, Matthew Nimetz.

Until all of these measures are enacted, there will be little real potential for justice for the Macedonian people.

As the embodiment of fundamental international norms such as self-determination and human rights, and inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” — the United States has an obligation to transcend national politics and speak out against the injustices being perpetrated against Macedonia and theMacedonian people. We urge the Trump Administration to take immediate action on this matter and reaffirm the strong friendship between the U.S. and Macedonia. We believe that appropriate resolution of this issue is crucial to stability in the Balkans.

By Metodija A. Koloski. Koloski is a co-founder and president of the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), a leading global organization focused on issues affecting Macedonia and Macedonians, and based in Washington, D.C.: www.umdiaspora.org.

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