By Risto Stefov, November 24, 2009
Since the rise of the Macedonian Empire some 2,400 years ago until the 19th century, Macedonia and its people have been embroiled in many controversies but one factor has always remained a constant; their existence and identity were never questioned!
Lesser nations and less famous people today have their own national identities and even their own countries, yet the Macedonians are still an enigma. Why?
Does the world not know about the Macedonians and their contributions over the centuries?
Let us forget about the „world“ for a moment and concentrate on those who have followed the age old Macedonian struggle and the Macedonian peoples‘ attempt to assert themselves over the years. Shouldn’t they know who the Macedonians are?
Why then have they not become allies of the Macedonian cause and helped the Macedonian quest to self determination? Why have none of these people said, „Wait a moment here; Macedonia is one of the oldest countries in Europe, if not in the world, which has a long and illustrious historical past, long standing traditions and has not only earned the right but deserves to exist.“ Has anyone heard these words lately?
To truly understand what is happening to Macedonia and the Macedonian people today one needs to understand Macedonia’s historic relationship to its neighbours and to Western Europe in particular.
Macedonia’s problems with Europe began after Macedonia was defeated by the Roman Empire. The Macedonian peoples‘ will to fight for their freedom lead them to fight four horrible and terrifying wars with Rome. These wars terrified Rome to a point where it felt secure after it had „shackled“ Macedonia. But shackling Macedonia obviously was not enough; Rome had to divide Macedonia into four pieces and kept the Macedonian people apart for over half a millennium so that they could never reunite again and pose a threat.
So as long as the Macedonians were under someone’s shackles, Roman, Byzantine, or Ottoman, the West could rest easy. But when the Ottoman Empire began to decline and crumble at the edges the Macedonians again came into focus. What should be done with them?
Well as I mentioned above while the Ottoman Empire was crumbling at its edges, someone could have said, „Wait a moment here; Macedonia is one of the oldest countries in Europe, if not in the world, it has a long and illustrious historic past, long standing traditions and has not only earned the right but deserves to exist.“ Did anyone, particularly from Western Europe say that (outside of Gladstone)? I don’t think so! But on the other hand it would be very naïve of me to think that anyone who was in power to do something for Macedonia ever cared. Why should they?
The moment Russia liberated Macedonia in 1878, purely for its own interests, the West gave it back to the Ottomans. The Western powers, who at the time decided Macedonian’s fate, had many more options than to just give Macedonia back to its tormentors. But did they exercise those options? No! They didn’t even ask for guarantees to safeguard the safety of the Macedonian people. And why should they have? They could have given Macedonia back to the Ottomans and could have asked the Ottomans to give Macedonia autonomy as an Ottoman province. Isn’t that what the Macedonian people really wanted all along anyway? But that didn’t happen.
When the Macedonian people could take no more and decided to rise against the Ottoman Empire and take their fate into their own hands, what did the West do? Nothing! They did not a thing! They sat around watching the Ottomans pummel Macedonia to pulp and not only did nothing but discouraged others from helping. Then in 1912 and 1913 during the Balkan Wars, when the three wolves Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria attacked Macedonia, instead of stepping in and ensuring the survival of the Macedonian people along with their national identity, culture and language, the West sanctioned Macedonia’s partition and the demise of the Macedonian national and ethnic identity.
Did the Western powers have any other options, outside of allowing Macedonia to be invaded, occupied and partitioned and thus rendering the Macedonian identity defunct, destroyed and therefore non existent in 1912, 1913? Yes they did!
1. The Western powers could have stepped in, saved Macedonia from being partitioned and helped it along to become a free and independent country as per William Gladstone’s call. And now for the sixty-four thousand dollar question, why didn’t they? Was it because they didn’t know that Macedonia existed? Or was it because the Macedonian people were less worthy than the other Balkan people for whom they „made“ countries out of the crumbling Ottoman Empire?
2. The Western powers could have stepped in and forced the Ottomans to take Macedonia back, this time as an autonomous province. But again they didn’t.
3. The Western powers could have given all of Macedonia to any one of Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Albania or even Austria-Hungary as a single state and spare it from being partitioned. They could have spared the Macedonian people from the humiliation, torture and exile they endured while being assimilated into three different nations against their will. But still the Western powers did nothing.
During the First World War the borders of Europe were dissolved and again redrawn in 1919. Here again the Western powers France and Britain, the two Great Powers that brokered that peace treaty, had yet another opportunity to „do something“ for Macedonia and for the Macedonian people. But in spite of Italy, the United States and to some extent Great Britain’s call for creating an independent Macedonia, it did not happen. Worse, „no one“ in power even took the time to ensure the survival of the Macedonian identity. To top it all, the Western powers went along with Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria and silently agreed that „Modern Macedonians did not exist“ and that they never had existed. Why?
Now one century later Western Europe silently sits behind Greece while Greece is demanding that the Macedonian people „sign their own extinction warrant“ and for what, for joining a defunct and dysfunctional club?
And what exactly does this „club“ have to offer a tiny country like Macedonia anyway? Has anyone ever looked at the pros and cons of joining this club?
The most logical reason why Western Europe wants Eastern European countries to join its „club“ is because Western Europe has exhausted its own raw materials and markets and is now looking to expand its imperialistic desires eastward. War, imperialism and occupation by force are no longer options available to it so now it offers „invitations“ to prospective members to join its club so that they can be exploited willingly. If Western Europe truly cared for its Eastern counterpart as it claims and wanted to „help“, it should have welcomed all of „Eastern Europe“ to join its club as a whole instead of this piece meal approach „inviting“ one country at a time and then placing ridiculous conditions on each country separately to willfully „negotiate“ its own surrender.
But it’s neither here nor there for me to question Western Europe’s methods. It’s a „buyer beware“ and „everyone for himself“ situation and each country must decide for itself if it wants to join or not. My motivation for writing this article is not to question why Western Europe has chosen this particular method but rather to question why it is imposing conditions of the „national identity“ type only on Macedonia and on no other country. Is this a coincidence or am I missing something here?
Why is Western Europe „asking“ Macedonia to „give up“ its Macedonian historic name and historic identity, a condition which is not even part of the application, in order to join this union?
Furthermore why is the European Union breaking its own „rules“ and also going against international norms by asking Macedonia to „change“ its name for the sake of negotiating entry into its union? Why can’t a Macedonian be part of the European Union as a Macedonian? I believe the world and particularly the Macedonian people deserve an honest and simple answer to this question. Or are we to assume that the European Union operates under different conditions; one for the elite and one for the rest?
Again it is for the naïve to believe that there is only one rule for all and there is no favouritism, cheating and corruption in great and small institutions. So again I have to remind the reader that this is a „buyer beware“ world so be wary of what you buy and, in this case, in what you join.
This brings me back to the Macedonian people’s desire to join the European Union.
It is obvious, at least to me, that Western Europe does not want Macedonia to join its union as „The Republic of Macedonia“ and if the Macedonians hang around long enough expecting to be invited in, they will realize that Western Europe will not want them to join their union as „Macedonians“ at all. My question to Western Europe therefore is why? Why don’t you want the Macedonian people joining your union as Macedonians? An honest and simple answer would be appreciated! Please none of that Greek propaganda garbage!
As for those in Macedonia who do want to join the European Union, it’s time for you to do the math or as my baba would say „da si go napraet esapo“. Western Europe does not want you in their union; just look around you. Look at our mutual historic relations with Western Europe and you may understand why. Look at what they have done to us in the last century.
How many people truly believe that Western Europe wants Macedonia in its union because it wants to improve our lives?
Macedonia and every other ex-Yugoslav country in the last two decades of the 1900’s could not wait to get out of the Yugoslav union. Does anyone remember this? Why do you suppose they wanted to „exit“ this union so badly; to a point of risking war? Was it maybe because each republic felt powerless, dysfunctional and unable to guide its own destiny under the weight of the others? I guess some people didn’t learn anything from that experience and now want to join another, bigger and more bureaucratic union, a union that supports members who love to see the Macedonians become extinct. The members of this union do not want Macedonians for who they are and would have them change their name before they are allowed in their club. Aren’t these the same Europeans who, only a century ago, allowed their „preferred“ members to occupy and parcel up our homeland? What has changed since then to make us really think that „things“ might be different this time? Why join a union which does not want you because of who you are?
Has anyone bothered to find out how others, particularly other small countries that have joined this union fare? I haven’t seen any reports, have you? What could Macedonia possibly be able to offer the union, economically, politically or otherwise stacked against giants like Germany, France, Britain and others? Are we not the same people who could not follow the dictates of Belgrade only decades ago and are now prepared to follow the dictates of Brussels, in a union where we are not even welcome? And so soon after our independence from Yugoslavia?
If I were one of those Macedonians who wants to join the European Union at any cost I had best listen to my baba and do the math for myself first before I even consider joining this union. I would not want to make a mistake I will later regret.
Rushing to join the European Union without doing your math and without having all your questions answered to your satisfaction is like marrying a person you have never met, know nothing about and are relying on others for advice. It could be a union made in heaven, but what are the chances of that? Or it could also be a nightmare of epic proportions made in hell, so why take chances?
Macedonia can afford to be a bachelor for a while. After all there are many more prospective brides out there to court; the USA, China, Russia, to name a few, so what’s the rush?
Finally, how would the vast unemployed in Macedonia, even those who exist in the gray economy, survive when they have to pay in Euros for goods at „world prices“? Has anyone thought about that? Has anyone done a thorough analysis of what would happen to the unemployed, the poor and the small companies, including the micro economies existing all over Macedonia, when Macedonia joins the EU and the big multinationals invade and take over the Macedonian markets? What would happen to the small farmers who use their land and gardens to grow and sell organic food in order to subsidize their incomes? Maybe someone has done the analysis and I just have not seen it? Have you seen it?