Each North has its South

Erol Rizaov

Debates in the Macedonian and Greek parliament on the “Macedonian issue” and the tensions in both countries that have deep roots are once again taking us back to the past, and provoking new divisions and hatred among the citizens in Greece and Macedonia.
Disguised as patriotism, battles for power are essentially fought in the attempts of primitive populism and nationalism to destroy an excellent solution accepted by the democratic world, which brings peace and good-will, and opens the European road for Macedonia, and frees Greece from a severe stain of disrupting the future of a small Balkan country that poses no danger to anyone. This act with the Prespa Agreement makes Greece a leader in the region and an example of how problems in the Balkans, as well as the world, need to be solved.

The article published in Utrinski Vesnik entitled “Each North has its South” with a subheading “National identity is not marked by the sides of the world” 10 years ago, on February 13, 2009, shows that Greece and Macedonia could have solved this issue a decade ago, very likely even earlier in the same, or similar way as now. How much both parties have lost because of this is inestimable, especially for Macedonia, which could have been a member of NATO and the EU long ago. The main actors who did not have the courage and the political will to do the work now are the main obstacles to their own ideas, which clearly shows that it is about battles for conquering power then and now, despite the country’s interests and the interests of the citizens of both countries. In Greece, the main role is played by the Mitsotakis family, first, the father, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Greece’s former prime minister, who was the first to ride on the wave of populism, and then, when he decided to compromise, was replaced from the leadership position in the party. After him, his daughter Dora Bakoyannis, known in Europe and the world as Greece’s former foreign minister, offered the same current compromise ‘North Macedonia’, and now her brother Kiryakos Mitsotakis, according to many estimates, the next prime minister of Greece, is the biggest opponent of the compromised Prespa Agreement. This is how politics that is only reduced to the conquest of power profiles the figures of one of the most influential Greek families.

In Macedonia, throughout this ten-year period, the “family” of Nikola Gruevski was the most influential, which treated this issue as an extraordinary topic only for pre-election campaigns and raising tensions in the public. The blockade of Macedonia was the failure of all the failures in the era of Gruevism. And now his guard on the throne, Hristijan Mickoski, continues in the same style, raising patriotic ascension in defense of the name and national identity, the Macedonian language and history, after his counterpart in Greece, Kiryakos Mitsotakis. Also weeps as lost and given to Macedonia.
Here is an excerpt from the article published in Utrinski Vesnik ten years ago:

“For the first time since the dispute over the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia has been imposed by Greece, an official of the Greek government, in this case – Minister Dora Bakoyannis, publicly mentioned a name with a geographical determinant. She, twice in a couple of days during her Balkan tour as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, offers the name ‘North Macedonia’. Macedonian anemic diplomacy has no answer. She, through the new negotiator in New York buries the negotiations within the United Nations with fierce attempts to return the already abandoned double formula back in the game.

Macedonia can surprise its neighbor and the world if it adopts creative diplomacy. “Godmother” Dora Bakoyannis can receive a diplomatic answer that this well-known Nimetz’ geographical determinant deserves attention since ancient times. North Macedonia is an interesting proposal, in case the logic that is present in the world is accepted. And that is that each North has it’s South. Well, North Macedonia is possible, if the rest of Macedonia gets the name South Macedonia. It would pretty much confuse the Greeks, and the world would accept it as Macedonia’s readiness for a fair compromise. In this way, Macedonia would take an active role in the negotiations. And Greece is likely to reject its own proposal. The second curiosity is that nowhere is the national identity marked by the parties of the world, but as the citizens in the countries where they live. Koreans live in both North and South Korea, Americans live in North and South Dakota, and Irish people live in Northern Ireland.

The second step that can bring back the sympathies of the scientific world to Macedonia is to offer the most famous maxim in disputes about historical heritage, especially when someone has all the tools on his side, both historical and legal, which is: let historians decide’. This is the best call that the Republic of Macedonia can refer to Greece and the world about to whom, and how much, belongs to the ancient heritage. It is a fair offer to the world’s scientific thought. With this gesture and by stopping the political campaign in search of ancient roots, Macedonia has nothing to lose. It will only gain, because the world’s greatest historians of the ancient period and of great civilizations and empires have long had serious reservations over the self-declaration of individual countries for the sole heirs of ancient history and the great civilizations of our era. Historians have such reservations especially towards Greece over the Macedonian ancient kingdom and the empire of Alexander the Great. But even more are the reserves that this ancient heritage belongs to us only. At this point, it seems, more importantly, instead of emotion, frustration and partisanship, to learn the recent history that is pure, scientifically verified and recognized in the world. If we manage to get rid of the ancient viruses and look closely at the historical facts that are valued as worldly proven truths, we will see that there is nothing disputable about the recognition of the Macedonian state, the Macedonian nation, the Macedonian identity and the Macedonian language. On the contrary, there is a lot of historical truth to be proud of. We will see that practically this truth can neither be denied, nor can be overturned by a political decision. This is so if we stick to the confirmed truth about our past which in Macedonia now succumbs to political re-evaluation of history. Unfortunately, only a handful saw the danger that we could lose what we have and what is widely accepted in the world.

Today Macedonia’s chance is in a new creative state and diplomatic strategy. Macedonia should rely on facts from its recent history that cannot be disputed scientifically. This will neutralize the strong nationalist attitudes of neighboring Greece. And it will soften the Bulgarians. It is generally accepted that scholarly opinion that ancient civilizations and history are a world heritage to which everyone is entitled. But what is most important for Macedonia, as for all neighbors, is still the future. There is always time for history. History can wait. The future does not wait. Macedonia enters the fifth year of being EU candidate without an invitation to negotiate. Europe, meanwhile, refused us as immature for the EU. Offensive, cruel, yet true. We re-write a piece of sad and losing history no matter who is to blame. Macedonian politicians forget the fact that the richer the state and the happier citizens – the more glorious history. In the end, the success of politics and politicians comes down to this. Everything else is, more or less, a defeat.”