Article Published in Embròs (“Forward”) Νewspaper
The outcome of the Skopje referendum, although surprising for many, has undeniably proved a great truth. In our time, when the overwhelming majority of each country’s political leadership is committed to pursuing the goals of globalisation, neither defending nor serving national interests, people, when given the opportunity through referendums to express their will, declare unambiguously that t h e y will be the ones to determine the further course of their nations on their historic path.
On one hand, you have the Greeks. Proud, knowledgeable of their racial, historical and cultural origins, hence indefatigable, yet “always gullible and always betrayed” according to a Greek poet. Much to everyone’s surprise, they did not react fiercely when their pro-MoU governments stole their money, their savings and their fields, when they devastated their lives and destroyed the future of their children. But, when the political dummies in power dared sell out their history, Greek people reacted with one accord; they let “the stormy sea of their souls” overflow the streets, and with their massive rallies proclaimed that they would not accept a compound name that would include the term “Macedonia” for the neighbouring state, because Macedonia was, is, and always will be Greek. The Greeks are now watching what is going on, “awaiting the right time,” i.e. the elections, to cleanse the shame of the Prespa Agreement.
On the other hand, you have the Skopjans. Living in a multinational and multiracial state, people over the age of 70 did not take part in the referendum and did not accept that they were “Macedonians” because they clearly know about their Slav (mainly Bulgarian) origins. The younger generations, who from a very early age have been force-fed the falsehood that they are “Macedonians,” quite reasonably would now not accept the name “N o r t h Macedonia” for their country, even though this is simply a geographical definition. So, it is not surprising that they did not take part in the referendum either. As for those who did take part to vote “yes,” it was an act of cold calculation. They expect to win in the long run, by having played on the strong desire of the U.S. and the EU to see their country join NATO and the EU as “North Macedonia,” hoping that in the future, the adjective “North” will somehow be dropped.
We see, therefore, that both the legitimate holders of the name of Macedonia and its usurpers are massively disposed to argue in favour of their convictions. As a consequence, the governments of the two countries, obliged to deal with the problem, are bound to have trouble deciding sensibly on their next move.
Is the Skopje Referendum Invalid?
Under Article 73 of the Skopje Constitution, there has to be a turnout of over 50% of the eligible electorate for a referendum to be valid. It is also stated that in this case the result of the referendum would be binding. On 30 September 2018, the turnout was only 36%; consequently, the referendum is void. This is precisely what the main opposition party (VMRO-DPMNE) pointed out in a public announcement. What’s more, it even made the allegation that more than 50,000 ballots were stuffed in the boxes, and called for the Public Prosecutor to intervene.
This turn of events was precisely what all NATO and EU officials had in mind when, in order to prevent the declaration of the referendum as null and void, they became pre-election campaigners in Skopje in an attempt to persuade the electorate to turn out. Obviously, they did not go to Skopje to take their autumn holidays. For the same reason, Skopjan Prime Minister Zaev has been anxious to gather 80 MPs (2/3 of the House), avoid early elections, amend the Constitution and, apparently, eliminate Article 73.
Meanwhile, both he and the politicians in Athens (who usually make all sorts of concessions) have claimed that the referendum was “consultative” rather than binding. Obviously, this statement is directly offending to our intelligence, apart from anything else. If the referendum had been consultative, there would have been no need to attach the Prespa Agreement to it.
So, this invalid referendum politically illegalises the Prespa Agreement completely, allowing both Greece and Skopjan President Ivanov to refuse to sign it even if it is eventually passed by the Skopjan Parliament. It is also worth highlighting the diplomatic intervention of Russia, whose Foreign Minister reminded that Nimetz’s mediation on the name issue has been mandated by the UN Security Council and, consequently, its outcome should be approved by the Security Council as well, i.e. by Russia, too. Therefore, any attempt to integrate Skopje into NATO under the present circumstances might prompt Russia to use its veto right.
Developments in Skopje
After the referendum, Skopje is in the eye of the storm— and Zaev just cannot keep up with it. He may well have the support of Western powers that back him up unabashedly and urge him to ignore the abstention and continue the negotiations for his country’s hurried accession to NATO, but things will not be easy for him at all. Even if he gets to have the required 80 deputies in order to avoid going to the ballots, he is now under strong pressure, especially from the VMRO, to renounce the Prespa Agreement and call early elections.
He is facing the problem of his country’s destabilisation because he did not notch the easy win his Western patrons had promised him. Their direct involvement in the referendum, in addition to their conflict with Russia, caused a Slavic reaction. As for the Albanians, they demonstrated amply by refraining from voting that they did not really want Skopje to join NATO and the EU. It seems that they are more attracted by the idea of creating a Great Albania after incorporating the area of Tetovo and the territories that will emerge from the land exchange in sight between Serbia and Kosovo in the context of the talks on Kosovo’s recognition by Serbia. After all, since the Prespa Agreement is essentially dead, it makes no sense for them to remain in a country that has no prospect. Of course, such a development would lay the foundations for the breakup, in fact, of the Skopjan state.
Developments in Greece
The Greek government, dominated entirely by an obsessive, servile and treacherous mentality, did not—once again—rise to the occasion and did not make any use of the unexpected “gift” offered to us by the Skopjans. Since the two conditions laid down in the Prespa Agreement were never met (1. a valid and successful referendum, 2. an amendment to the Skopje Constitution) before Greece could give the green light for the NATO accession process to start, the Greek government ought to have challenged the Agreement and renegotiate the name issue right from scratch.
Unfortunately, it deactivated this political weapon and, what’s worse, agreed to start the Skopje accession talks on 18 October at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Of course, political manoeuvering could only be made by a different government, one that would want to defend the interests of our nation. Unfortunately, the current government’s unacceptable reaction will not even partially restore the harm done to our national interests after the Prespa Agreement. Instead, it even gives the Skopjans the opportunity to blame Greece for the delay in their accession to NATO and the EU!
Regardless of any future developments, the Prespa Agreement has actually produced a few results. These are the recognition of an ethnic “Macedonian” identity and language for Skopje. A Greek National Government, free from any phobic syndromes, when called upon to deal with the matter, should focus on the following points:
a. point out in every direction that the failure of the referendum is due to Skopjan persistence to usurp the name of Macedonia,
b. break the Prespa Agreement and start talks towards a new one,
c. ratify the new agreement after having held a referendum.
There is no doubt that this effort will be difficult and painful. But we are compelled to behold our judges in awe—our judges being “the unborn and the dead.”
Retired Army Lieutenant General
Member of the European Parliament
for the Popular Association “Golden Dawn”