Macedonia Name Issue and Cancelling the Prespes Pre-Agreement
Macedonia Name Issue and Cancelling the Prespes Pre-Agreement:
An Overview and Next Steps
SUMMARY OF ISSUE
Amidst massive demonstrations, on January 24, 2019, the reigning Greek Parliament (dominated by the radical left party SYRIZA) unlawfully maneuvered the passing by “simple majority” of a resolution approving the signing of the Prespes Pre-Agreement – the resolution passed by a very narrow margin as only 153 of the 300 Members of Parliament voted in favour of the resolution with several of those 153 members having been bribed and bought off. Given that the Prespes Pre-Agreement has at its core several issues of significant national importance for Greece, it was unconstitutional for the Greek Parliament to pass a resolution approving the signing of this pre-agreement without first obtaining the support of at least 3/5 of the Members of Parliament (i.e., 180 Members).
For this reason, steps must be taken to cancel the unlawful resolution approving the Prespes Pre-Agreement and to provide the citizens of Greece with the opportunity to have the Prespes Pre-Agreement properly considered and voted on.
It is of the utmost importance to understand that the Prespes Pre-Agreement is not just about permitting FYROM’s use of the name “North Macedonia”. As it is currently written, the Prespes Pre-Agreement literally threatens the territorial, historical, and cultural integrity of Greece and gives away economic and other concessions to FYROM that are not in the best interest of Greece and its future.
FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) is a Slavic country that shares Greece’s northern border. In 1944, Josip Broz Tito changed this region’s name from Vardaska Banovina to the People’s Republic of Macedonia and later to the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. He fabricated a Macedonian language and consciousness in Yugoslavia to indoctrinate his citizens as a pretext to annex the province of Macedonia which is located in northern Greece, but he failed. When Yugoslavia broke apart in 1991, this part of Yugoslavia continued to insist that it be recognized with the Greek name Macedonia and it continued to harbor irredentist ambitions in its Constitution, despite Greek objections. As a temporary solution, this area was given the temporary name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
OVERVIEW OF RECENT EVENTS
In November 2017, the Government of Greece announced that it would be entering into negotiations with FYROM, in an attempt to resolve the problem regarding the “Macedonia name issue” which dates back to 1991. At the heart of the issue is FYROM’s desire to appropriate the name of Greece’s northern region “Macedonia” as its own.
The Government of Greece was supposed to negotiate the Macedonia name issue for approximately six months in order to find a solution that would be fair to both Greece and FYROM. Unfortunately, the end result that was negotiated was anything but fair to Greece and its citizens. All of the negotiations between Greece and FYROM on this issue took place privately between the foreign secretaries. The Government of Greece did not engage its citizens in any public consultations, despite the national and ethnic significance of this issue. Instead, the reigning Greek Government gave the citizens of Greece two days’ notice that it would be signing an agreement (the “Prespes Pre-Agreement”) that would once and for all resolve the Macedonia name issue. How were the citizens of Greece informed about the content of the Prespes Pre-Agreement? By an informal notice which was published in one newspaper only two days before it was to be signed.
MASSIVE DEMONSTRATIONS BY GREEK CITIZENS
Once it was leaked that the Greek Government would be signing the Prespes Pre-Agreement - an agreement in which Greece would concede (among other things) the Macedonian name, language and nationality to FYROM - the citizens of Greece took to the streets in massive peaceful demonstrations across the country to voice their objection. The reigning Greek Government not only ignored the dominant desire of the Greek people, but it also took every measure to violently disperse their peaceful demonstrations. During the largest demonstration of approximately 1.4 Million people, which took place in Athens on January 20, 2019, in front of the Greek Parliament, the Greek Government ordered the use of teargas under the pretext of dispersing the handful of anarchist protesters that were present at the rally. Rather than dispersing the anarchists by some other less disruptive method, the Greek Government chose to use teargas, which resulted in dispersing not only the anarchists but also the hundreds of thousands of people peacefully protesting. In the days following that demonstration, newspapers were filled with disturbing and sad images of senior citizens with canes and families with young children choking on the teargas simply because they refused to allow the reigning Greek Government to decide an issue of “national” importance without their input.
THE VOTE – UNJUST AND UNCONSTITITUIONAL
At the time of the demonstrations, Greece was being governed by a coalition government composed primarily of members from the radical left party SYRIZA, and a few members from the political party known as the Independent Greeks or ANEL. Following the massive demonstrations, ANEL severed its coalition arrangement with SYRIZA. As a result, the radical left SYRIZA no longer had enough Members of Parliament to vote in favor of the Prespes Pre-Agreement. Not to be deterred in its ideological objective, however, SYRIZA then began a campaign to illegally buy the votes of several Members of Parliament from other political parties in order to pass a resolution in favour of signing the Prespes Pre-Agreement.
On January 24, 2019, a vote on the issue was held in the Greek Parliament. In Greece, resolutions concerning issues of significant national importance can only be passed if 3/5 of the Members of Parliament (i.e., 180 Members) vote in favour of the resolution. In this instance, the reigning Greek Government (dominated by the radical left party SYRIZA) maneuvered for this resolution of significant national importance to be decided by a simple majority. As such, the resolution passed by a very narrow margin – only 153 of the 300 Members of Parliament voted in favour of signing the Prespes Pre-Agreement, with several of those 153 members having been bribed and bought off. In this underhanded and completely undemocratic way, the Prespes Pre-Agreement was passed by the Greek Government.
To add insult to injury, on January 30, 2019, when Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was asked by Emmanuel Macron (President of France) about the reaction of the Greek people who opposed the Prespes Pre-Agreement, Mr. Tsipras dismissed the relevance of their protests, mischaracterized those citizens as populist members of the radical right and boldly misrepresented to President Macron that the demonstration which took place on January 20, 2019, had only 70,000 people when the actual number was approximately 1.4 Million. Mr. Tsipras also mispresented to President Macron that the majority of the Greek population was in in favour of passing the Prespes Pre-Agreement – something that is simply not true.
Below is a link to a video capturing the discussion between Prime Minister Tsipras and President Macron on January, 30, 2019.
Below is a link to a video capturing an aerial view of the demonstration that took place in Athens on January 20, 2019 (the one Mr. Tsipras falsely informed Mr. Macron had only 70,000 protesters). Judge for yourself - a picture is worth a thousand words.
REQUEST FOR THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT & NEXT STEPS
The Prespes Pre-Agreement has not come into force yet. In order for the Prespes Pre-Agreement to come into effect, FYROM’s constitution must be revised and approved. According to Article 2 of the Prespes Pre-Agreement, FYROM’s constitution can only be finalized if all the 29 member nations of NATO first agree to admit FYROM as a member of NATO.
Canada and Greece are both members of NATO. Greece is the birthplace of democracy and the cradle of Western civilization and has always been a staunch ally of Canada. Canada is a nation which respects the rule of law, the universal right to freedom of expression and an open, transparent and democratic system of governance.
When 1.4 Million citizens of Greece (a country with a population of less than 11 Million) voice their objection to a matter of great national importance by taking to the streets in peaceful protest, no government with any credibility can claim that the majority of the people are in support of the government’s position without first holding a national referendumon the matter. The only reason a government would choose not to hold a referendum under such circumstances is obvious -- because the government is not confident that a majority of its citizens would support its decision.
Ironically, the Prespes Pre-Agreement allows for the citizens of FYROM to vote on the Prespes Pre-Agreement in a referendum but does not give the same right to the citizens of Greece (see Article 1, paragraph 4, section c). The unfairness of this entire situation will not be rectified unless and until the citizens of Greece have the opportunity to formally voice their decision in a national referendum. Canada, as a democratic and principled nation, must support the right of the Greek citizens to have a formal referendumon this issue. To do otherwise would result in a horrific miscarriage of justice.
For this reason we request that the Canadian government NOT agree to admit FYROM into NATO under the name "North Macedonia" unless and until the citizens of Greece have had the formal opportunity to vote on whether or not to accept the Prespes Pre-Agreement by means of a national referendum.
*A summary of the Prespes Pre-Agreement provisions is provided below.*
**A summary of the consequences Greece is and will experience is provided below.**
*SUMMARY OF THE PRESPES PRE-AGREEMENT PROVISIONS*
A copy of the Prespes Pre-Agreement can be found at the link below. http://www.ekathimerini.com/resources/article-file...
The Pre-Agreement has been drafted in a manner which is not straightforward in an obvious attempt to confuse and mislead those who read it. A summary of the key provisions of the Prespes Pre-Agreement is provided below.
The Prespes Pre-Agreement threatens the territorial, historical, and cultural integrity of Greece and gives concessions to FYROM that are not in the best interests of Greece. We object to this Pre-Agreement because:
• The Slavic country of FYROM will be recognized with the name “Republic of North Macedonia”. The term Macedonia is Greek in origin and is already the name of the northern province of Greece which abuts FYROM (see Article 1, paragraph 3, section a). The ancient Macedonians were Hellenes. The discovery of the tomb of Philip the II, King of Macedon and Alexander the Great’s father, in the ancient capital of Aigia, undeniably proves the Hellenic identity of the ancient Macedonians. In an interview on June 3, 1992, Kiro Gligorov, President of FYROM (1991-1999) was asked if his citizens are descendants of Alexander the Great. He replied that “We are Slavs. There is no connection between us and Alexander the Great. We came here in the 6th century after Christ.”
• It states that the nationality of citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia will be Macedonian even though the majority of FYROM’s citizens are Slavs and Albanians and are foreign to Hellenism (see Article 1, paragraph 3, section b).
• It declares that the official language of the Republic of North Macedonia will be the Macedonian language and that it “is within the group of South Slavic languages” (see Article 1, paragraph 3, section c and Article 7, paragraph 4). Ancient Macedonians spoke Greek. Alexander the Great was educated by the Greek philosopher Aristotle. The Macedonian language never existed as attested to by prominent linguists and scholars. It was fabricated by Tito as part of his plan to annex northern Greece. The Macedonian language that FYROM claims is actually Bulgarian with a few Serbo-Croatian words.
• The Prespes Pre-Agreement attempts to re-define the meaning of the terms Macedonia and Macedonian, even though historians, scholars, and archaeologists from the most prestigious institutions worldwide have all attested that Macedonia was Greek (see Article 1, paragraph 3, section d and Article 7).
• It creates a joint committee of experts supervised by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs instead of the ministries of education. It gives the Prime Ministers of Greece and FYROM the sole authority to approve the revision of school textbooks, maps, historical atlases, and teaching guides which will allow political parties to re-write history at their will to conform to political ideologies (see Article 8, paragraph 5, and Article 12, paragraph 2). This committee can start its mission without the ratification of the Pre-Agreement (see Article 20, paragraph 4).
• It allows for the citizens of FYROM to vote on the Prespes Pre-Agreement in a referendum but does not give the same right to the citizens of Greece (see Article 1, paragraph 4, section c).
• It may lead to bans on peaceful demonstrations and other methods of free expression because they are deemed “likely to incite violence, hatred or hostility”. If entities engage in “such activities”, the government “shall, upon such acts coming to their attention, promptly take all necessary measures as provided by law”, effectively making demonstrations and free speech illegal (see Article 6, paragraphs 1-3).
• It allows FYROM unlimited access to the Aegean Sea while Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone has yet to be legally established (see Article 13).
• It gives to FYROM access to Greek natural gas and oil pipelines and renewable energy resources including photovoltaic, wind and hydro-electric power along with the know-how and expertise without any compensation to Greece (see Article 14, paragraph 4).
**CONSEQUENCES FOR GREECE**
• There have been over 80 demonstrations in Greece alone, including a large demonstration in Athens that drew approximately 1.4 million protestors. Hellenes and Philhellenes have also demonstrated in the United States, Europe, and Australia highlighting the importance of this issue worldwide.
• On November 2, 2018, FYROM submitted draft constitutional amendments to its Parliament. Two articles continue to imply irredentist claims against Greece. Article 36 refers to a Macedonian “people and identity” and the need to protect Macedonian people living outside the country. Article 49 protects the rights of Macedonians living abroad.
• Use of the name “North Macedonia” implies that there is a South Macedonia, further contributing to fears of irredentism.
• It will result in two versions of Macedonian history, FYROM’s fabricated version and Greece’s indisputably correct version which has been attested to by prominent historians and scholars. This will negatively impact the educational system, including history textbooks, maps of the Balkans, and daily discourse.
• Use of the name Macedonia by FYROM is already causing confusion. On August 18, 2016, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12) sent a letter to NBC pointing out that the broadcasters at the Opening Ceremonies of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad held on Friday, August 5, 2016 had “strongly implied that these Greek figures [Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great] descended from FYROM when in fact, they are Greek.” Allowing FYROM to usurp Macedonia’s identity will cause issues for generations to come as FYROM’s textbooks will teach students about history under the guise of the name Macedonia, a stolen identity, and will mislead students of history around the world.
• It will adversely affect Greek export businesses that have existed for many years in promoting their Macedonian products and trademarks and will expose them to unfair competition.
• Greece is a key NATO ally of Canada at a time of significant instability on the Balkan Peninsula due to long-term hostilities among multiple ethnic and cultural groups.
• Greece is surrounded by hostile neighbors. Soon after the Prespes Pre-Agreement was signed, Albania, in its efforts to extend its influence beyond its borders, announced that the border between Albania and Kosovo will be opened on January 1, 2019, possibly hinting at the beginning of a Greater Albania. Turkey continues to provoke Greece as it challenges Greek borders and tries to lay claim to Greek islands, further exacerbating tensions in the region.