Zaev’s sources of optimism over the name dispute

Zaev’s sources of optimism over the name dispute
Gjorgji Spasov

“Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do.”

This quote from Steve Jobs’ biography came to my mind, while listening to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev that he remains optimistic about resolving the name dispute that Macedonia has with Greece.

A lot of anxious and impatient analysts and politicians in our country have been asking for days: What lies behind Zaev's optimism, and whether he and Alexis Tsipras are really that crazy that they believe they are capable of solving a problem that many "smarter” people than them failed to solve it.

Apart from those that were persuaded by Nikola Gruevski's propaganda in Macedonia that the problem cannot be solved because "Greece did not want us to exist as a Macedonian nation and people" and those who believe that the dispute will be solved, but only by accepting all "blackmails" from Greece, there are also those who believe that the two governments' attempts to resolve this dispute are in vain, because "the public in both countries is not yet ready to accept any compromise.”

This attitude of public reluctance is backed up by "scientific evidence" derived from the public opinion polls in both countries, which show that neither the majority of Greeks allow the word "Macedonia" in the name of our country, nor the majority of Macedonians agree to changes in the constitutional name of the country. And because the mood of the majority of the voters in both countries is this way, they conclude, there are not such crazy politicians in Macedonia or Greece that would dare to go against the will of their people.

But exactly what they call the "will of the people" was the key argument for the impossibility of resolving the dispute between Macedonia and Greece, which was offered as argument for almost three decades by both Greek and Macedonian nationalists and their leaders.

These nationalists, with their theses and propaganda, first created fear, resistance and mistrust of one another, and then created the so-called public mood for years as an argument that "they are not ready to work against the will of their people."

So far, Zaev and Tsipras act differently than all their predecessors in the policies of the two countries. From their statements it becomes clear that they are "insufficiently crazy" to take the wrath of their people on their own backs, that it is possible to step forward to resolving this dispute without a clear winner, and that the two nations will be able to grasp the benefits of its resolution. In this attempt, they both have support from the United States and the EU, and no one is actually blackmailed.

Zaev's optimism about the possibility of resolving this dispute is currently no less than his optimism in early 2015, when he said that Gruevski's regime could be defeated in elections and few in the country and the world believed in that.

Hence, when this optimist needs to be carefully analyzed on what his optimism is based on.

First of all, perhaps nobody noticed that for the first time after many years, the statements that Macedonia will be called North, Vardar or Upper Macedonia do not encounter such strong resistance as before. Those, who at the very mention of such a thing blamed that a national treachery is being prepared, that this would jeopardize the Macedonian national identity and that the people will not allow it, are gone.

In a rather peaceful environment, one can hear a separate opinion that Macedonia (Skopje) would be better, only R. Macedonia, or if it is possible to change nothing, but it does not essentially affect the already accepted fact that when we have already created a state of 33 percent of the territory in the geographical region called the Republic of Macedonia, it is proper for us to name it in a way which will show that the state neither covers the whole region, nor is the direct and unique heir of ancient Macedonia.

Secondly, it also seems undisputed that there is no other world language that is called Macedonian, except ours, which belongs to the Slavic group of languages and that as a Macedonian language it will remain listed in the column of the United Nations as a key determinant of identity, perhaps with a footnote that it is from the Slavic group of languages.

Third - no one in the world, nor even the Greeks, deny us the right to our ethnic and national self-determination as Macedonians of Slavic origin and for which we are not negotiating and decide for ourselves.

What remains unresolved in these discussions of the differences over the name of the state, according to the available connotations and the statements of the negotiators, is the scope of the use of the new name and the Greek request that that name be used "for internal use", which requires a change of the Constitution of Macedonia.

Those who do not want a solution to the issue in this demand from Greece immediately see a new attempt by Greece to block the talks, typical blackmail, demanding the impossible, or coming up a new reason not to solve the issue, and blame Macedonia for the failure to solve the issue. But is that really so?

And what is hidden then behind the idea of finding a "creative solution".

If Macedonia accepts, with a new Security Council resolution, for example, the Republic of Upper Macedonia in international communication, it will of course mean that under that name we will be a member in all international organizations, and we will communicate with all the countries that have so far recognized our country under its constitutional name.

Since this is the name for international communication of the country with the world, the question arises what will need to be written on the documents that with which we communicate with the world. Such documents are not only passports and ID cards, but also the degrees from Universities when applying to foreign universities, and a number of other documents in which they should clearly state which member of the United Nations they come from.

And I think that this is the key reason why Greece considers that a change of the Constitution should be noted, which should be recorded in the documents of the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia with which they will communicate with international organizations and institutions (and not between themselves and within) should be the international name of the country, so as not to create confusion.

In this sense, the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia does not really change, but the Constitution contains provisions stating that the international name of the country will stand in all the documents of the citizens and the institutions used in the international communication.

Since all of these changes are accepted by Macedonia only in order to become a member of NATO and the EU, in the Agreement that will be signed between the two countries, with guarantees and under the auspices of the United Nations, it would also be concluded that all agreed changes and the change to the Constitution will be put in force on the day Macedonia becomes a full member of the EU.

And until then, there is time for debate and preparation of public opinion in both countries, and to convince the citizens that by resolving this dispute, not only that nobody loses anything, but it guarantees peace, stability and security of the country, and creates conditions for raising the standard of citizens in the country at European level.

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