Help us help you
By Denko Maleski
“Help us help you”, the representatives of the great powers used to say at the beginning of our independence whenever we sought their support for the realization of our basic strategic goals – international recognition. Later we were told the same about NATO and EU membership. They alluded, of course, to seeking a compromise solution to our problem with their partner, Greece, against which they simply could not go. Namely, responsible for the two alliances, they could not disrupt the internal unity to please Macedonia. In the real world, namely, alliances are formed to defend the interests of their members. It took us almost three decades to understand this, but with the Prespa Agreement we helped them to help us. Finally, with Prespa, an agreement of historic significance, we have helped America open the door to NATO for us, and Germany and, hopefully, France to the EU. Without Prespa, we would forever have been blocked in our attempt to become part of the modern democratic world.
Yes, it is true that in international politics everything is politics and as long as the interests of the countries did not coincide with those of Macedonia, the norms of international law were not worth much. Hence “help us help you” and do not tell us how right you are because countries cannot go against their own interests. You as a progressive Scandinavian country can certainly act only from a position of principles and recognize the Republic of Macedonia, I told Thorvald Stoltenberg from Norway during his visit to Skopje in the early nineties when we were seeking international recognition for the new country. No way, he said, we have strong interests vis-a-vis Greece in shipbuilding and other spheres, and the parliament could not do it. A way out? Look for a compromise and join us in the international community of nations. This advice, to work out a compromise, we did not take, so the name issue became part of all the electoral battles at home in which the patriots won and the traitors and the people lost. The great powers brought us in the UN with the reference, but they could not do more. Fortunately, we had previously listened to them when we were told not to start a war in the hope that some American cavalry would save us at the last minute. Continue to pursue a policy of peace and thereby help us help you, Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen said. Following our interest in not having a war in Macedonia, we did it and not a year after Slovenia and Croatia we joined the UN. Not ten or twenty years later, but ten months later. And yet the nationalist fever that had engulfed the Macedonian political body repeated that the country was late, with reason saying others were rushing to war. In such an atmosphere, international recognition, that enormous victory of our policy, was overshadowed by the “national defeat” – the country’s admission to the world organization under the reference of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
As the danger of war diminished and no one threatened them in their own sovereign country that they ruled, generations of Macedonian politicians after the nineties became increasingly convinced of the idea of compromise. The benevolent advice from America and Europe that our politicians do not understand the real world of international politics and that the country will remain stuck in a deadlock of intractability was interpreted as an attempt to hurt us. A lot of politicians stuck to the international law as a tool of magical power, even though our problem with Greece is the product of fierce political animosities that are the product of our shared traumatic history, which requires diplomacy rather than judgment.
“Help us help you” over the date for the start of negotiations is the same appeal I hear today to the authorities and the opposition to abandon personal and party interests and unite around the state interest – North Macedonia as a democratic and legal country. And again, as in the nineties when they advised us to seek a compromise with our neighbor, we were powerless. Why? The absence of democratic consciousness, a euphemism for ignorance, greed and aggression, does not allow politicians to understand one elementary truth: that it is not this or that party that saves democracy, but that the democratic system saves us, the citizens from the abuse of power by parties. How long will it take us to absorb the latest lesson this time?
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