And so it happened! The expectations of the Macedonian ethno-nationalists that their Greek counterparts could “save” us from the presumed catastrophic agreement, which Prime Minister Zaev accepted, did not come true. Tsipras endured their objections and the agreement was signed. The Macedonian Parliament ratified it. Despite the opposition of Greek and Macedonian nationalists, the wheel keeps on moving. According to one, it moves toward national failure (of Macedonians, of course), and according to others, toward national prosperity (of the Macedonians, of course, but also of the Greeks – they will earn a few more Euros). Now what?!
Just as in 2005 – the nation in a referendum! It will decide which of these two visions seems to it to be more realistic. The people are asked to say who they trust more. Those who find that the signed agreement is a national capitulation, or those who claim it is a national triumph, “once and for all” recognition of the Macedonian language and the Macedonian nation! But which should the people believe?!
A key role will be played by public presentations and discussions regarding the signed agreement. Not so much as what is really written and contained in the agreement itself, but more on how the written will be interpreted and presented to the public. In this campaign, both the government and the opposition have their calculative plans. They are purely party motivated. One to justify the signed agreement, either because they are sincerely convinced of its correctness, or because the recognition of the weaknesses of the Agreement would mean the end of their rule. The opposition, conversely, because it is convinced that it could be better, but also because of the expectation that by spreading catastrophic interpretations it will gain more intimidated citizens.
I talked to a retired person the other day. Educated, with a prominent professional biography, and an honest man. Furious that someone dared to rename the country in the ‘Republic on the north of Macedonia.’ He tells me that no sensible person should think of accepting such a thing. I agree with him. It’s totally unreasonable. But I tell him it’s false information. The agreement does not contain such a thing. He was shocked once again. He believed me – we’ve known each other for a long time. But how can somebody, he says through clenched teeth, manipulate the whole public that way! And feel no responsibility for it! What kind of public intellectuals are these!
They can! First, because many like him do not even consider reading the agreement themselves, and then decide on their own. Not just because they do not have time. Second, and more important, is that the public is not systematically encouraged and directed to such a behavior. On the contrary. Here, the tradition that has been established since the persecution of the Bogomils teaches us not to look at what they do, but what they say they do! And if reading and writing is some kind of doing, it turns out we should not read! They will interpret it for us. And they already do it.
Some are already making lists, which are in favor, and which are against the agreement. They are used to it, this is what they know best. The hunt of souls has begun. As in 2005. Like then, I wonder now as well: what will be the outcome of a referendum in a corrupt society?! Compared to 2005, today they are even worse, even more unscrupulous. They have become even better in manipulating. The circle of manipulators has also expanded. Fake news is spread by university professors! Curses have been promoted for quite some time to the highest level as a means of transmitting messages that penetrate to the deepest urges and motives.
And there is plenty of room for it. The majority of the population has been traumatized on numerous grounds. In addition, the explanation of the Agreement and its consequences are left mainly to the Prime Minister and the close circle of politicians around him. Yes, many apologists appeared on the public stage. Some of them have gone so far, they even suggested a Nobel Prize for the signatories. But so far, we have not heard any statements from experts who, we assume, were hired as consultants in the formulation of the framework and the specific solutions of the Agreement. They remain anonymous! And there is a great need for their publicity for the purpose of informing the public. Otherwise, the fear of the unknown and, moreover, interpreted as frightening for the future, will result in the trust of the most extreme ‘defenders’ of the Macedonian nation, not only in VMRO-DPMNE, but also outside of it – regardless of their invoices.
Like many others who stood for a reasonable compromise, I was pleased with the agreement. Finally, I thought, something to agree upon. But after reading it, I’m not convinced that this is what it could be. Some elements of the Agreement, as they are written in the English version or as they are translated into the Macedonian version or as they are orally interpreted, are simply inadmissible from the state-legal and political point of view. Others are inconsistent, and others are completely elusive.
And I do not mean the consent to change the name of the state. It seems that we have accepted that as a necessary sacrifice for our larger national goals. I think that the specific solution (Republic of North Macedonia) has geographic and political justification. Still, I’m amazed at the solutions by which our status as a party in the dispute has been reduced to a much lower level compared to the status we had in the 1995 Interim Accord! There, both sides discussed and resolved differences in terms of the name of one side. Here, in the current Agreement, a subject is unique to the First Party (named as Greece). The Second Party, that is, the Republic of Macedonia, have not even been named. It is described as “a party which was accepted in the United Nations in accordance with resolution 47/225 of April 8, 1993…”!
The unnamed Second Party accepted things that are only subjects of internal state sovereignty. For instance, which will be the official language in the state (Macedonian) or that the constitution will contain an article who will be in accordance with an article of the Constitution of the First Party, or that we will again seek admission to NATO and EU, but this time with the new name! From a different, but still equally submissive nature are the solutions of accepting the erga omnes principle, which was insisted on by the First Party.
All this, and much more, was given in exchange for the recognition from the First Party that the official language is a Macedonian language and that the nationality is Macedonian! But, there are additional references to both issues. The language is accepted as Macedonian because it was registered as such by the UN since 1977. Nationality, on the other hand, is additionally qualified in both the English and the Greek and Macedonian versions in a civil (citizenship), and not in the ethnic sense of the word.
These and many other questions require explanations. Not from the politicians, but from the experts who accepted them as such. The government should play the main role in this. Only this way will the citizens be able to think carefully about the referendum decision expected from them, which will have far-reaching consequences.