The interim accord, a challenge to the basic values of democracy.
The Interim Accord (IA) between Macedonia and Greece is probably the most important international document of the post-war and post-Communist era of the 20th century. Partially implemented, it prevented a conflict in the already exploding Balkans between an EU and NATO member Greece and an emerging democracy, the Republic of Macedonia. It also delayed the rupture of the basic values of the UN, EU and NATO.
In essence the IA provided the confirmation and integration of the new nation emerged from the former Yugoslavia. Although such confirmation by third parties is, generally, not necessary, especially if the process of self-determination has resulted with independence and sovereignty recognized by the state from which the secession was completed, the International Community in the face of the UN and the US, were forced to move in and prevent another Balkan tragedy, probably worse than those already witnessed with shock by the entire world.
Even though the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in the face of its constituent, the Republic of Serbia recognized the independence of Macedonia in its present borders, Greece through unilateral economic sanctions, the closing of borders and blockade, accompanied with military threats denied the independence of its neighbor. Starting with the attributes of state such as nation, flag, constitution and name, the government in Athens, quite contrary to international law and the international order used its position in the then EEC (later EU) and NATO, not only to block the sovereign Republic, but to deny its right to existence.
In brief, a situation of dictate and imposition was created, a phenomena Europe believed relegated to the past after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union. The shock was even worse when Greece involved itself in the bloody falling apart of Yugoslavia, and when the true dimensions of Greece's involvement became apparent.
Having no ideological, or any other residues of the divisions of Europe obliterated with the fall of the Berlin wall that could have contaminated their relationship, or given some sort of explication for the behavior of the government in Athens, Greece's blockade, blackmail, imposition and dictate were, and still are and growing in similarity, analog if not identical to those of the period immediately before the Second World War, when nations were coerced in to submission, or dissolved under pressure of the Nazi Third Reich, with open compliance of the International Community, and by the solutions provided by Neville Chamberlain. In brief, Greece wanted, and still insists, to obtain political, economic, cultural and ethnic spoils of war in its dispute with Macedonia: the disappearance of Nation, without having to go to war. To worsen the situation, Greece's pretensions were to be obtained by blackmailing not only Macedonia into obedience, and subsequent submission and dissolution using in the process the values of the EU, NATO and the UN as a weapon, but by threatening with the consequences of its doings, it coerced the mentioned multilateral organizations into accepting an outcome only possible after a victorious war of intervention. Thus, the UN, NATO and the EU were forced to accept as valid behavior a blatant contradiction of the very values all of them were conceived for. By using them Greece intended and still intends to use them to achieve something Nazi Germany tried to obtain with one of the bloodiest wars, and even bloodier Holocaust: the disappearance of a nation!
Therefore, such as at the moment of its creation and today even more, the IA has a paramount value, not only for the Republic of Macedonia, but also for the International community, above all NATO the EU and the UN, whose basic values are threatened by Greece and its abuse of its membership in them. In that sense, the case Macedonia opened before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has a broader value.
The ICJ should rule in favor of the IA and its implementation, thus the risks of Greece's destructive attitude and behavior can salvaged, and the values on which Europe's peace and stability were obtained and maintained can safeguarded.
Macedonia's case is solid. The arguments are clear, and the importance of the full implementation of the IA undeniable. The underlying reason for the creation of the IA, and its specific wording, is regional and continental security, impossible then, and now, without the integration of Macedonia in NATO and the EU, and the subsequent elimination of the so called Macedonian Question from the map of political problems and crises. The geostrategic situation in which the EU finds itself today, faced with a crises of definition, the economic recession that has devastated the financial system, the near collapse of some the economies of its new members, together with several other global issues makes this necessity even greater.
The US and NATO, strategically, and the EU strategically and economically, have their own priorities in this particular region of the Balkans, of which Macedonia is an important link. Without this juncture between the Black and the Adriatic/Ionic Sea the underbelly of Europe is open and vulnerable. Trade and communications will be difficult, if not disrupted, and even worse, this particular part of the region, parallel with Serbia's and Kosovo's border with Macedonia, better known as corridor Eight will fall captive to organized crime with al the consequences for the region and Europe. Since, quite naturally, the predominant interest of the EU, US and their defense alliance NATO is, without any doubt, continental security, in times of economic collapse and financial chaos all of them want not only to avoid a crises based on ethnic disputes in the Balkans, which means in Europe, a crises that can easily be inspired and detonated in case of a "successful" Greek offensive against Macedonia. NATO, US and the EU have no resources available, nor energy to deal with it faced with two wars that the western alliance is losing, the one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the situation in Pakistan is worsening, as a consequence of these two wars, and the country is on the verge of disintegrating and falling piecemeal with its nuclear potential in the hands of Taliban extremists. This alone can have unforeseen consequences in Asia, affect India, and undoubtedly affects the US, NATO and the EU. The security challenges and fears of Europe and the US received recently additional fuel with the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in control of Iran's nuclear arsenal. Last, but not least, the Israeli--Palestinian dispute show no signs of loosening its grip on the region, and the stability and security of Europe and the US.
Greece's dispute with Macedonia threatens, in such a geopolitical context the very foundations of Europe's peace and the values that made it possible. This alone is enough reason for an ICJ ruling upholding the IA, and in favor of its full implementation through Macedonia's integration in NATO and the EU.
The other reason is the necessity to eliminate the method Greece is using to coerce into obedience a sovereign state. If victorious, Greece's abuse of the values and standards of the EU, UN and NATO will establish a precedent in international relations. This coercion of one European democracy towards another is, not only very dangerous, because it undermines the basic values of the western civilization, but is, unfortunately spreading. In other words, the Republic of Slovenia is using an analog method of blackmail in its territorial dispute with the Republic of Croatia. Together, Greece's dictate towards Macedonia to autodestruct its identity, and therefore, existence--in essence the result is ethnic cleansing--and Slovenia's dictate towards Croatia in order to obtain territorial claims, are nothing more and nothing less but the methods that The Third Reich and its NAZI leadership used against Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland. This contemporary version of casus belli in favor of ethnic cleansing and modification of borders under coercion is an utter contradiction with the aqui on which the EU stands and differs only in the fact that military power and the threat of war is not used. Although in the case of Macedonia, at the very beginning of the dispute with Greece, the imposed complete blockade established by the government in Athens was only one step away from conflict.
It was the IA that prevented the escalation, and the IA can be, at this particular and, as we saw, very delicate moment, once again a tool of compromise.
Finally, Macedonia's position is solid because Greece has no choice but to adhere to the ruling of ICJ. Who ever the ICJ finds in breech of the IA, both sides will vouch that the other is in fault with the IA, and will insist that the accord is implemented by them. This means that both countries recognize the active existence of the IA, and are willing to implement it. Furthermore, Greece by accepting to prove that it is not in breech of the IA, but Macedonia according to them is, already has given, this time legal proof, that it not only recognizes the IA but is, therefore willing to implement it, so that it will not be in fault with the IA.
If so, and having in mind the above mentioned geostrategic needs, and dangers, Greece will have to cede and accept Macedonia's membership in NATO and the EU; Macedonia, on the other hand, will have agree with joining these two multilateral organizations of vital importance for it under the temporary reference The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The rulings of the ICJ cannot be imposed on the sides in dispute, there is no mechanism, but both countries, forcibly will have to accept the rulings; Macedonia because it initiated process and Greece because it accepted to defend its position. Greece will find itself in a very delicate position if it decides to ignore the rulings, and the implementation of the IA, since it has submitted to the arbitration of the ICJ a series of its own disputes with Turkey.
A curious situation has arisen. The IA prevented a conflict, thus proving its validity and importance, but was not implemented to the fullest. Both countries according to their interests, position and understanding of the situation established particular, and in many aspects different interpretations of the document, and followed them as guidelines. Greece insisted on the clauses form which it deducted that Macedonia must change its name, based upon their interpretation of the IA; while Macedonia either followed suit, or, as Skopje is trying now, insisted on the implementation of the clauses that guaranty the country's accession to NATO and the EU.
Common in both positions is the recognition, although very frequently implicit, by both countries of the IA. Their interpretations, and in many cases insistence, such as the positions now; both countries defending themselves from the accusations of breeching the IA, accusing the other of doing so, very clearly speak of their recognition of the document. Since in both cases, who ever is found in transgression, if at all, the fact that both sides in the dispute defend the IA, and insist on its validity implying, furthermore, that the other side must implement it, the logical conclusion for the ICJ will be to insist on its implementation, since by the very process and dispute both countries explicitly and with legal documentation and arguments have vouched that, even though the IA has outreached its term, it is still in force, according this particular clause.
This kind of ruling, i.e. the confirmation of the IA by the ICJ, but also, and this is very important, by Greece and Macedonia, is in essence the compromise we all need. The two countries, the International Community, and especially NATO, the EU and ultimately the US can all profit from it.
Greece can use the ruling of the ICJ that it is obliged to implement the IA and accept Macedonia's membership in NATO and subsequently to the EU, as a fait accompli, something it has to abide, having in mind its disputes with Turkey. Athens can sweeten the compromise in its public opinion, which trough manipulation and constant abuse of the dispute has extreme chauvinist demands for the solution, with the fact that Macedonia will have to, once again, accept the use of the acronym Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. The additional sweetener will be the temporary character of the compromise pending further negotiations.
Macedonia will have to accept this compromise and membership in NATO as FYROM, and the insistence for further talks, as part of its accession to the EU, which now will be promoted to negotiations that will have to result with a solution. Macedonia's membership in NATO will also sweeten the public opinion in the country, which has also escalated into unprecedented extremes that border with isolationism and xenophobia, damaging in many aspects, of which the most challenging are the relations with the large Albanian community dissatisfied by the delay of the processes of integrations. This dissatisfaction is manipulated by the political elite in the Albanian community, and with a growing in insistence has been put before the government, the Macedonian part of it, asking for it to cede in the dispute with Greece, with threats that the Albanians will have to choose another way to join their brothers which are already in NATO and on their way to the EU. The goal of this maneuver is quite obvious, further concessions in the process of the implementation of the so called rights of the Albanian citizens, all the way to the establishment of a bi-national states. This outcome is a strategic goal by the Albanian political elite in the region, although it means an outright redefinition of Macedonia. Such a process will eventually destabilize the country and the region as will, with serious implications for Albania and Kosovo. The Albanian politicians are aware of the fact that this will endanger even more their aspirations to a full membership in NATO, so they will, as they are doing, manipulate the case, but at the same time be cautious with it.
Finally, the ruling of the ICJ in favor of the IA will also bring relief for the stressed out IC, especially NATO, which, even without Greece's irrational behavior, is in a crisis of definition. NATO is severely weakened by the global economic crises, and also challenged by Russia aggressive "protection" of its interests in Georgia with an outright intervention. To add to the grievance of NATO was the latest move of Moscow creating rapid intervention forces with the majority of USSR's former Republics, now sovereign states. The ruling of the ICJ will expedite Macedonia's membership in NATO, and will accordingly help consolidate the southern flank of NATO. Macedonia has fulfilled all the prerequisite of the Membership Action Plan (MAP), actively participates in NATO operations in Afghanistan, UN peacekeeping operations in Lebanon and actively participates in EU's rapid intervention brigades. With Macedonia's full membership the existing gap between NATO members Albania and Bulgaria, i.e. the Othrant gate in the Ionic/ Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea and its entrance to the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, as two strategic pivots of the flank will be closed with an active member with proven qualities.
Macedonia's NATO membership, through the guaranties of the Charter, and the very character of solidarity between democracies, will quell the already rising tides of negation with clear views of territorial pretensions by most of its neighbors. It will also, once and for all, simmer down the frequently boiling interethnic relations, by guaranteeing the multicultural character of the country, versus the growing ambitions of some Albanian politicians for a bi--national state. In other words, one of the traditional fuses of the powder keg called the Balkans will be eliminated for good.
Furthermore, the gains of the IC from the inevitable ruling of the ICJ will manifest themselves through the consolidations of all of the values the Western Alliance stands for. Namely, the revalidation and implementation of the IA by the ICJ will eliminate the method of blackmail and dictate as used by Greece, and recently Slovenia. The ruling in favor of the IA will eliminate the lopsided position of Macedonia in the dispute with Greece, simply by opening the door of entry for it in NATO. Once there, Macedonia and Greece can as allies continue their process of negotiations on the bases of equanimity and, thus achieve a true and lasting compromise to the satisfaction of both sides, as the IA and the UN resolution governing the issue stipulates.
NATO, the EU and, consequently the UN, will prevent by implementing the ruling of he ICJ on the/and the IA further damage to their basic values. They will not be used any longer as elements of blackmail in order to serve as instruments for he achievement of pretensions only possible by means of war, and so far successfully prevented by the same values now abused by Greece and Slovenia!
Slobodan Casule is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, former Member of the Assemly of the Republic of Macedonia. Currently he is Editor-in-chief of the Forum weekly magazine.
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|Publication:||Macedonian Affairs Journal|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2009|
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