Why I’m voting for Europe

After 42 years in this profession and 30 years of writing about the necessity for Macedonia to be a member of NATO and the EU as a guarantee for a safer and richer, freer, cleaner state and better life for the citizens, it is nice to experience this act as a kind of recognition that it was not all in vain. An unforgettable life and professional experience is to be an immediate witness and a chronicler of historical events as the last refuge of criminals disguised as patriots is ruined, and how Macedonia becomes a country of common sense, the rule of law, a European country of progress, to witness how backwardness, primitivism and provincialism pull back when faced with education, science and free people.

I published the first articles about joining the EU and NATO as the only way out for the salvation of Yugoslavia from civil war and bloody breakup. Of course, this was not my discovery, but an impressive group of well-known intellectuals, business people and politicians from the territory of Yugoslavia, and a large number of journalists and media who strongly supported this orientation. Their arguments seemed indestructible in favor of the Western establishment of Yugoslavia, which was more liberal than all central and eastern European communist states. Hopes that even in some asymmetrical federation or confederation, all Yugoslav republics can enter first of the countries behind the “Iron Curtain” within the European Union and NATO were high and not without reason.

Ante Markovic became the prime minister of Yugoslavia, a liberal and pro-Western oriented businessman who formed a government that was supposed to bring Yugoslavia into Europe, whole, or confederative, either way. In very short time, Markovic gained great sympathy in the public in all the republics. Economic reforms have begun to yield results, the citizens of Yugoslavia saw the benefits of the liberal economy, wages and purchasing power grew as never before in just one year. Prime Minister Ante Markovic received tremendous support both in the country and outside the country. But it all lasted for a very short time. Already with the first successes and increased popularity, nationalist factories began to work, also called patriotic. Serbian politicians led by Slobodan Milosevic and the JNA and its generals set up red lines that secured Serbia’s position as a hegemon, causing great dissent among everyone else.

The asymmetric federation, or a confederacy acceptable to the EU, was quickly destroyed by the Milosevic nationalist tsunami. There was no formula for peaceful dissolution.

There was no more need for arguments that the spent historical model of Yugoslavia should be replaced with more independent states that will peacefully join the Euro-Atlantic integration has yielded no results. All these world statesmen, prime ministers, presidents and kings came to Belgrade and begged Milosevic to accept the peaceful solution of Yugoslavia and to allow the new states to integrate with the EU without bloodshed. The more complicacy and argument the stronger the hate speech in the media, the louder the threats for bloody revenge. That is what happened. On European soil, the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia was the largest military tragedy after World War II. Chauvinism and nationalism have devastated a beautiful, prosperous state, a leader in the region and beyond. It was a great tragedy with thousands of victims, destroyed homes, whole cities and villages, large migrations and a piled-up hatred that has not subsided to this day, 26 years after the breakup.

Macedonia had the good fortune that Kiro Gligorov was its first president, an experienced politician, a person of continuity from ASNOM to independent Macedonia, who managed to sign a contract with the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) without a single bullet shot on the territory of Macedonia to save the country from bloodshed. The Macedonians never fully recognized this great merit of their first president. It will take some more time for impartial historians to place President Gligorov where he belongs. On the décor. Our homeland recognizes its people sooner or later.

Why am I saying this now as an argument for the necessity for Macedonia to move towards the EU and NATO and the possibility of being a modern European state, a country of free citizens who both geographically and politically, and economically and culturally belong to Europe. Because all of what is happening today in Macedonia reminds me terribly of the last years of Yugoslavia. Because there is a million proofs that if Yugoslavia entered NATO and the EU in 1990 as a confederation, it would have been a grand act, and Macedonia would have been a wonderful country with a quality life of its citizens and already implemented European values. No one would question the survival of the state, or condition it with anything. These days, I see with great impatience all these European politicians and statesmen coming to Macedonia, as they once did in Yugoslavia, explaining the necessity and the privilege of Macedonia accepting the agreement with Greece and becoming a member of NATO, as well as of the EU in the foreseeable future. As arguments become stronger and more visible that the only alternative for the survival and development of Macedonia are the Euro-Atlantic integrations, the stronger and more dangerous manipulations and propaganda of the chauvinists and nationalists that start interethnic fires in Macedonia, they are calling for some kind of pride and dignity, although Macedonia with the agreement, in spite of the painful concessions, does not lose anything that involves in the identity of our nation. In particular, the Prespa Agreemnet, NATO membership and EU negotiations are deeply involved in some of our other identifiable Balkan features, such as hereditary corruption and kleptomania, the politicians’ inclination to crime, primitivism and provincialism, the hatred of everything that is different from us etc. It will be dangerously jeopardized by the opening and especially the closing of each chapter, which is a prerequisite for EU membership.

My advice is: first think of yourself and your family, your children and grandchildren, of your future generations. If you think of what’s best for them, then it is best for the state. The historic chance must not be missed. Do not believe those who preach that they have a better solution. They lie as they have been lying for 27 years. Those who talk about dignity and national pride lie even more. Never, during all those years of independence, they did not find a solution. They offered just excuses that others were the only culprits, how the whole world has turned against us. Dignity and pride are the most easily lost in poverty and misery, especially if everyone in your neighborhood has moved forward and lives a better life. The agreement with Greece is a prerequisite for us to access Europe. The concessions made to make the agreement sustainable and acceptable are much less evil than staying for another 27 years in the Balkans’ waiting room exposed to a serious threat of Macedonia’s disintegration.

Today it nothing means to those who were right when they warned that NATO and EU membership of Yugoslavia, whether whole, or confederate, could have avoided the bloody breakup of a beautiful state. This could happen to Macedonia as well. Few believed it then, but still the tragedy did happen.

Erol Rizaov