The Prespa Agreement: a success for Greece and a feat for Macedonia
Writes: Denko Maleski
The Prespa Agreement was a win for Macedonia and for Greece. Who lost then? The Greek and Macedonian ultra-nationalism. But don’t compromises between countries make both parties equally dissatisfied? I now know that, however, in our case, it is not so. What’s dissatisfied is both ultra-nationalisms, as opposed to the satisfaction of the liberal people that a problem, for the existence of which they are not to blame, was solved. In fact, if the liberal people on both sides of the border were to be asked, that problem would not have existed. Namely, such Macedonians, on this side of the border, have never had a problem to understand that the language and our basic identity are Slavic, whereas the Greeks with liberal views have never had a problem accepting the name of our country filled with such contents.
By refusing to accept this view, ultra-nationalism on both sides of the border lurks the historical fears of people, and then, using propaganda, spreads hate between our two peoples. Extreme nationalism, extreme patriotism, if you like, is the one that creates xenophobia, hate, intolerance, and provokes violence everywhere in the world… All of these things happened to us, to Macedonians and to Greeks. In the long term, the cure for this type of malignant nationalism, filled with fears and hate, is the good education of the population, especially of the young generations, which will be based on objective historical truth. It is before the truth that all nationalist myths and fears piled up in the minds of people are exhausted.
In fact, if for a moment we leave the distant history aside, Macedonia is the last ethnically mixed European province of the Ottoman Empire which crossed the fate of many nations. It was divided during the two Balkan wars, just before the First World War began. When, after its end, the Austro-Hungarian, Turkish and Russian kingdoms disintegrated, the US President Woodrow Wilson arrived at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 with a new principle in international relations called “national self-determination.” European politicians raised their eyebrows: another caprice by an American politician who does not understand Europe’s real politics. The descriptions of Walter Lippmann of how the boundaries of many new states, such as Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary or Austria, had been drawn, for example, are comical.
He recounts how, at one point, there was a great crowd around the table against which the representatives of the great powers were leaning, so they decided to put the map of Europe on the carpet. But, as they stood around it, they couldn’t see well, they got on their knees and started crawling and pushing each other showing where borders should be. At one point, Lippmann writes, I feel the head of the Italian foreign minister bumping in my bottom in order to break through to the map. And it should be known. These weren’t cruel people that enjoyed playing with the fate of the small nations: simply, the great powers had the power to organize and maintain the world frame of the system of states, therefore, like it or not, they are doing it. Otherwise, we would have a constant chaos and continuous wars. According to their own interests, which guide small countries as well, the great powers have done that, sometimes better, and sometimes worse.
Therefore, to our famous Balkan narrative about the evil great powers who always tear us to pieces and divide us, we need to oppose an objective view of the anarchic international system of states in which there is an absence of central power. That is why everybody’s eyes are pointed at them, and at the beginning of the nineties, our main destination became Washington and the powerful European countries. Namely, it is in a new historical context of united Europe that we realized, with their support, our politics of peaceful self-determination and, in the midst of the fire of Yugoslav ethnic wars, we gained our independence in a peaceful manner. Today, twenty-five years later, again with their support, through the implementation of the Prespa Agreement, we become allies. For Greece, that is a great success. For Macedonia, however, it is a feat.