Todays Date
May 24, 2022

The Pope has no tanks

Writes: Denko Maleski


The anecdote says that when they warned Stalin that the Pope would not like his decision, he asked: “How many divisions does the Pope have?” The Pope’s power, of course, is in his moral power which, in conditions of peace, is very important for each country. It is well seen in the example of our country, whose official name after the compromise with Greece is North Macedonia. The Pope’s visit, the New York Times writes, is a confirmation that the country is emerging from the three decades of international isolation. “Three decades” and not “perennial”, as I read in the texts of our commentators who, giving the news, want all problems from the past to be attributed only to the “regime”. Of course, the visit would not have taken place without the Prespa Agreement, as the procedure for our country’s accession to NATO would not have begun, and the EU membership path would not have been opened. Namely, without the Prespa Agreement, this symbolic placing of North Macedonia on the map of the world by Pope Francis would not have happened. In that sense, the Pope’s visit has probably been the most important visit of a foreign statesman made to our country since independence. With a resolved problem with Greece, we are, in the true sense of the word, a full member of the international society of countries.

Unaware that without the Prespa Agreement the visit would not have happened at all, outgoing Macedonian President Ivanov used the presence of the Catholic religious leader to complain about the behavior of the international community, in spite of the fact that its strong support assisted the agreement that settled the three decade dispute to be achieved. I say that the visit would not have happened because Vatican, as a sui generis country, is exposed to the same regularities that other countries are exposed to. Especially those that are part of the West, that unite the same values and that are members of the same alliances. Namely, in international relations there is something that, on one occasion I called a “cascading effect” in relations between countries: an unresolved problem with a well-established country in the international system of countries, especially when it comes to NATO and EU membership, overflows to other partner countries because of their common interests, but also common rules of solidarity.

Thus, no matter how much we think we are right, and in relations between countries it is not always easy to determine that, only a solved problem is a formula for good relations. All these ten years, the Macedonian President called on the right to self-determination, but the Greeks were also calling on the same right. Who is right then? When the problem is identical, burdened with the hard past and bitter historical experiences on both sides, it is in vain to think that it will be resolved with the help of the law. Only light problems between countries are resolved with the help of the law. The tough ones are being dealt with by diplomacy and heavy compromises. Since it is political, the problem is solved by diplomatic means whose final is the compromise. It was well explained to us in 1993 when we were admitted to the UN, but, unfortunately, it became clear to a significant part of our political structure a quarter century later. These regularities in international relations have never become clear to the outgoing President. Therefore, the root of the present deep division between the Macedonians is in him and he complained to the Pope about it. Regardless of the fact how such things are not to be said in front of a foreign statesman, the outgoing president is right: we are a divided society. North Macedonia, said the Pope, is the bridge between East and West, referring to our geographical location and the fact that the cultures of the West and the Orient meet on our territory. But we need bridges through divisions in everyday life. Democratically-minded individuals liberated from nationalism are such bridges. Those are the few of us who, having taken the role of a bridge on their shoulders, were ready, all these long years, to pay a personal price: to be stamped by both sides.

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