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Ivanov Interview to Kathimerini (08.04.2012): Our Aim in to Overturn the Bucharest Decision

April 26, 2012


The rest in June in Chicago, declares the President of fYROM Gjorge Ivanov.


Interview with Stavros Tzimas, Kathimerini, 08.04.2012


Gjorge Ivanov (left) with Nikola Gruevski (right)

The aim of Skopje in that the NATO summit in Chicago next June overturns the unanimous decision of Bucharest in 2008, with which the Summit of the Member-States had rejected the demand for fYROM’s accession to the alliance, declares in his interview to Kathimerini the President of fYROM, Gjorge Ivanov. “The decision is illegal and must be replaced by the results of another summit, that of Chicago”, he notes, while leaving open the issue of Skopje seizing the UN Security Council in the case that the negotiations under Nimetz do not move forward. He speaks furthermore of the “red lines” of the two sides, but also of the statues and the renaming of roads and airports in his country.

NOTE: In the interview that follows the nomenclature used by the President of Skopje is preserved intact.

Lately there is a certain mobility in your relations with Greece. How do you view this?

There is a breath of fresh air in the personal relations of the leaders of Macedonian and Greece and this is something that started some years ago, with a series of meetings at the level of Prime Ministers. I am sorry that until now there has not been a positive response to the invitations I have sent the President Papoulias. Although I have an active international and regional agenda, it is sad that although invitations have been sent four times, we cannot have a meeting. Both countries share the vision of a united and prosperous European family, within which it is difficult to explain that there has been no meeting between the Presidents of these neighbouring countries for the last 20 years. The idea for a meeting with my counterpart is sincere: to give one further positive sign to our societies. There are thousands of things that tie us together, of common interest, and only one difference, which is not insurmountable. The aim of the meeting is to follow the needs and the interests of both our societies, of our citizens who work together, contact one another, on a wide range of matters, including the economic sector, the tourist sector, the cultural sector, the educational sector etc. This is my constant policy since the first day in office. I hope that this meeting will happen soon. We understand that Greece is in a difficult position at the present time and faces difficult issues. This is exactly the reason why we would like to resolve the issue, so that we can concentrate on other important issues that are pressing for all of us. We also ask for understanding, as the accession to NATO and the E.U. has a strong impact on our society and our economy.

The Chicago Summit

As the Chicago Summit approaches, the discussions concerning whether the accession of your country to the Alliance are multiplied. Are you considering making a demand to change the decision of Bucharest and for the accession of your country under the name fYROM?

The Chicago Summit is the first NATO summit after the decision of the International Court of the Hague. After this decision, it is clear that the decision of 2008 of the Bucharest Summit, when Greece blocked the entry of Macedonia under the temporary appellation, is a clearly illegal action, that is contrary to the Interim Agreement. The International Court also invited Greece to avoid repeating the act of blocking Macedonia in the future, and thus it is clear what must happen in the Chicago Summit, meaning which are our expectations? Our position is that this decision cannot be ignored by anyone, neither Greece, not the Alliance as an institution. This illegal act, as is was ruled by the International Court, did not happen in the framework of some international non governmental organisation or union, and for this reason it cannot be ignored. On the contrary, we have the conclusion fro the Summit of Bucharest, that cannot be prolonged in the new situation and must be replaced by the results of another summit, the Chicago summit. The compliance with the signed agreements, with the decision of the International Court and international law must not be avoided, by evoking unanimity? This is not good. What would the international order be today, if treaties were not respected?

A positive decision, that would call for the accession of the Republic of Macedonia, as is foreseen by the Interim Agreement of 195 would improve the relations between our two countries, Greece would gain a valuable ally and a loyal friend and the whole region would experience greater stability and security. We want to be friends and partners at the same time, to construct our common future with Greece.

NATO and the E.U. will unite our military forces and our economies. That does not mean that we will agree on all matters, that we will agree on how we view history, but it means that we will have helped our children not to live with useless annoyances or provocations, but as real Europeans. Especially now, that there exist issue to which we must urgently consecrate all of our attention. The greater the communication, the interaction and collaboration between the two countries, the easier it will be to surpass the disagreement.

The Decision of the Hague

In your opinion, will the Hague decision change the facts concerning the Euro-Atlantic course of your country, which Athens links directly with the resolution of the issue of the name?

The decision is extremely important and we expect it to facilitate the present or any future leadership of Greece to change its conceptions or its policy concerning our country, in a responsible manner. The policies can only change with serious and official date. This new data is the following:

  • That a certain leadership of your country acted against the obligations that had been taken on, which were not imposed on the country, but voluntarily accepted and which are included in the Interim Agreement – not to “obstruct the entry into international organisations under the temporary name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
  • That the Court ruled that Macedonia acted in good faith in the negotiations on the disagreements on the name and did not violate its obligations in the framework of the Interim Agreement.
  • That Greece should avoid further obstructions.
  • That Greece, as a responsible member of the international community, a member of NATO and the E.U., recognises and is willing to respect the agreements and international law.

Consequently, the legal part is clear. I hope and believe that Greek politicians will understand that the violation of the agreement that was signed by the present President Karolos Papoulias, has as a consequence a great damage for the reputation of the state and its position as a trustworthy international partner.

A Logical Compromise for the Name

Are you examining the possibility to move against Greece in the Security Council is there is no solution on the issue of the name under the auspices of the UN within a logical time limit?

 I would like to believe that we can arrive at a solution. We are a responsible member of the international community and we fulfil our obligations with responsibility. We are obliged to adopt such a responsible behaviour by the decrees of the UN and by the Interim Agreement and we respect them. I am convinced that a mutually acceptable, dignified solution for both sides can be achieved. It simple requires the political will and a strict adherence to the framework in which the negotiations are carried out, to the decrees of the UN and the Interim Agreement. If the negotiations leave this framework, it is logical that achieving a solution will be difficult. The decision of the Hague is, also, a serious motive to look for and to find a compromise. It is a sort of framework for the future behaviour of the two sides.

The Formula

You refer to a logical compromise of the name issue, which will not influence the identity of your nation and will not insult the dignity of your people. What kind of a formula could lead to such a compromise?

There exists a well developed procedure in the negotiations between our two countries, in which the negotiator, the ambassador mr Nimetz, having heard the positions of the two countries, decides whether he should move to a new proposal. We continually encourage the intensification of the negotiations and we continually express the opinion that we are ready for a solution that will allow us to leave behind this unfortunate matter. Macedonia defends the position that the name of a country cannot be perceived as a threat or a problem between two countries and that the Greek position on this is, unfortunately, illogical. My opinion is that the framework for everything we discuss and for which we must find a dignified compromise is more than clear. We must just remain attached to it. Every step outside it burdens the procedure and moves us away from a solution. Certainly, the derogation from this framework is the position of Greece concerning the width of use of the name. While the relative decrees of the UN and the Interim Agreement encourage Macedonian and Greece to discuss a mutually acceptable name that will be used only in international organisations, Greece demands a solution that will be used in all circumstances, on a bilateral level, even in the interior of Macedonia, a fact that is a derogation from the limits of the issue and which makes finding a solution impossible. Some of the Greek demands enter the sphere of human rights, as the right to self-determination of an individual, a fact that results in the fact that a possible solution in such a case would also have repercussions on the Macedonian National Identity, something that is contrary to basic cultural principles, human rights and dignity. This is probably the most illogic demand, as it implies that the Republic of Macedonia has the power to demand from its citizens to determine themselves based on a National Identity which shall be decided upon in agreement with Greece. No democratic country could enforce something like that upon its citizens. This is impossible. Consequently there are issues that simply cannot be part of the negotiations.

Both Athens and Skopje have traced “red lines” on the issue of the name. DO you believe that, under the circumstances, it is possible to find a mutually acceptable solution, without further compromise on both sides?

Precisely because of these “red lines”, the proposals must come from the ambassador Nimetz. It is up to him to see and feel if there is a possibility to join the positions of the two countries and I hope that this can be done in a way that will protect our national interests and our dignity. At the same time, the ambassador mr Nimetz must take care that the negotiations and the proposals are within the framework of the decrees of the UN and the Interim Agreement. These, verily, are the official documents from which his mission stems.

A Common Cultural Heritage

The Greeks feel that your government is trying to steal part of their Histrory, by constructing statues and giving names to streets and airports, such as Alexander and Philip. Do you believe that all this contributes to creating a good climate? And I would like to remind you that the international factor has suggested, in a discreet manner, avoiding such initiatives.

Not a single modern state can claim exclusive heritage of Culture and History that has developed over millennia. We all, equally, have the right but also the obligation to glorify our common heritage. This should bring us closer and not be a reason for divisions. The cultural heritage of the Ancient Period, the Roman Period, the Byzantine or Medieval Period, the scientific and cultural contribution of our region to the world, was not defined along modern frontiers. The Republic of Macedonia is richly endowed with historical monuments, as is modern Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia and Turkey. It is stupid for someone to try and define, two millennia after the height of ancient civilisation, which modern state more deserves its inheritance, that belongs to the whole world or that some nation must not refer to it at all. Especially we cannot accept that the claims for exclusivity over this cultural and historic heritage are used so that lesser importance is accorded to other nations. I cannot understand why it would insult a modern Greek citizen if someone else would want to glorify common historical events. This does not make a Greek less a Greek ad I do not understand in what way this can be interpreted as non friendly or aggressive. I accept that historians, devotees of History, journalists, from various countries, can disagree as to the suitable role that this cultural heritage can have in a modern state. But it will be a great mistake to set this discussion in the sphere of politics.  The Macedonian side, in a series of circumstances during the last 20 years, has officially proposed the constitution of common committees of scientists, historians, who will take on the responsibility of a serious scientific discussion on the historical events and the translation of these into books for the next generation and the memory of the two societies, following the example of many other countries that have used this model with success. Unfortunately, in every circumstance, these intentions were rejected by the Greek side.

The Communal Model

 Are you worried by the latest incidents between young men of various ethnic groups? Can this kind of incidents inflame the tensions and return you to hard times?

No, there is no going back. Macedonia is unique among the Balkan states, with a functioning model of collaboration between the various ethnic communities, a model that gives Macedonians, Albanians, Roma, Turks, Serbs and Vlachs and every other ethnic community their own voice in the decision making process at a central or local level. This is an existent system, but also a system that has been proven to be able to withstand the pressures that are natural to appear in some Balkan countries. Our model, of integration without assimilation, a model based on traditions of centuries, cannot be disrupted by isolated incidents.

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