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President Gjorge Ivanov: NATO invitation will improve Macedonia-Greece relations

08. April 2012. | 18:00

Source: MIA, Kathimerini

President Gjorge Ivanov in an interview with Greek newspaper "Kathimerini" talks about the relations between Macedonia and Greece, the name issue, forthcoming NATO summit in Chicago, the judgment of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, country's Euro-Atlantic integration bid, monuments, naming of streets...

President Gjorge Ivanov in an interview with Greek newspaper "Kathimerini" talks about the relations between Macedonia and Greece, the name issue, forthcoming NATO summit in Chicago, the judgment of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, country's Euro-Atlantic integration bid, monuments, naming of streets...

MIA publishes the interview in full.

Lately, there has been some movement in the relations between your country and Greece? How would you evaluate the result of all that?

There is a breath of fresh air in the personal relations between the leaders of both countries, and this has started several years ago with a series of meetings at the level of Prime Ministers. I regret that there is still no positive response to my invitations sent to President Papoulias. Although I have a very active international and regional agenda, it is unfortunate that despite having sent invitations 4 times, we simply cannot have a meeting. Both countries share the vision of a united and prosperous European family, within which it is difficult to explain the fact that there has been no meeting between the presidents of these two neighboring states for 20 years. The idea for a meeting with my counterpart is sincere; to give an additional positive signal to our two societies. There are thousands of things that are binding us, which are of common interest, and, there is only one difference that is not insurmountable. The goal of the meeting would be to follow the needs and interests of both societies, of our citizens who collaborate, communicate, in a wide range of spheres, including the sphere of economy, tourism, culture, education, etc. That is my consistent policy ever since the first day in office. I hope this meeting will happen soon. We do understand that Greece is in a very difficult situation, dealing with difficult issues. That is exactly the reason why we would like this issue to be resolved, so that we could focus on other important issues that are pressing us all. We also ask for understanding, because our integration into NATO and the EU has a strong impact on our society, our economy.

As the Chicago NATO Summit is coming closer, there are more and more talks on whether there will be a discussion on your country’s entrance to the Alliance. Do you consider submitting a request asking for the Bucharest summit decision to be changed and your country to enter the Alliance by the name FYROM?

The Chicago Summit is the first NATO summit after the judgement of the International Court of Justice in the Hague. After this judgment, it is clear that the decision of the 2008 Summit in Bucharest, when Greece blocked Republic of Macedonia’s NATO accession under the provisional reference, is a clear illegitimate act and an act contrary to the Interim Agreement. ICJ also called on Greece to refrain from repeated blockage of Republic of Macedonia in the future, so it is very clear what should be done at the Summit in Chicago, i.e. what our expectations are. Our position is that the judgment can not be ignored by anyone, neither by Greece, nor by the Alliance as an organization. This illegal act which was found by the ICJ did not happen in a certain international non-governmental organization or association so that it can be ignored. On the contrary, we have a conclusion from a summit, the Summit in Bucharest, which is unsustainable in this new situation that needs to be replaced by a conclusion of another summit, the Summit in Chicago. Compliance with signed agreements, as well as the ICJ judgment and the international law, must not be avoided by calling upon the consensus. What would today’s world order look like if treaties were not respected?

A positive decision that would invite Republic of Macedonia to join, as envisioned in the 1995 Interim Accord, would improve the relations between our two countries, Greece would gain a valuable partner and loyal friend, and the entire region will experience greater stability and security. We want to be friends and partners at the same time, and to build our common future together with Greece.

NATO and the EU will join our military forces and our economies together. That does not mean that we agree on all issues, it does not mean that we agree on our view of history, but it means that we have helped our children not to live with unnecessary annoyance or challenges, and live like real Europeans. Especially now when there are issues we need to devote our urgent and full attention to. The greater communication, interaction and cooperation between our two countries, the easier it will be to overcome the difference.

According to your opinion, is Hague's decision going to change the facts regarding the Euro-Atlantic course of your country, which Athens links directly to the resolution of the name issue?

The judgment is extremely important and we expect it to ease the current or any future leadership in Greece to change perceptions or to change policy towards our country, in a responsible manner. The policy may be changed only with sound and authoritative facts. These new facts are as follows:
- That one leadership of your country acted contrary to the taken commitment that had not been imposed to it, rather it was accepted willingly, which is contained in the Interim Accord, “not to block our admission into international organizations under the provisional reference “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
- That the Court found that Macedonia acted in good faith in the talks on the name differences, and that it did not violate the obligations under the Interim Accord.
- That Greece should refrain from further blockades.
- That Greece, as a responsible international community member, a member of NATO and EU, has acknowledged and is willing to respect the agreements and the international law.

Hence, the legal part is clear. I hope and believe that Greek politicians will realize that the breach of the agreement signed by the current President Karolos Papoulias implies great damage to the reputation of the state and its position as a reliable international partner.

Are you thinking of submitting an appeal to the UNs Security Council against Greece, if there is no solution on the name issue under the auspices of the United Nations, within a reasonable timeframe?

I would rather believe that we can come to a solution. We are a responsible member of the international community and we fulfill our duties responsibly. We are obliged to such a responsible conduct with the UN resolutions and the Interim Accord, and we respect them. I am convinced that a mutually acceptable, dignified solution for both sides can be reached. Simply, political will is necessary and strict adherence to the framework in which the talks are led, the UN resolutions and the Interim Accord. If the talks go beyond the frame, it is normal that it would be difficult to reach a solution. The Hague judgment is also a serious incentive to seek and find a compromise. It is a kind of a framework of the future behavior of both sides.

You are referring to a reasonable compromise on the name issue which will not affect your nations identity and will not slight the pride of your people. Which kind of formula would bring such a compromise? Could you be a bit more specific?

There is a well developed process of talks between our two countries where the negotiator, Ambassador Nimetz, after hearing the positions of both countries, decides whether he should give a new proposal. We constantly urge the talks to be enhanced and we constantly express our view that we are ready for a solution that would allow us to leave this unfortunate issue behind us. Macedonia maintains the position that the name of the country cannot be seen as a threat or a problem between two countries, and that the Greek position here is, unfortunately, irrational. According to my opinion, the framework for what we discuss and we need to find a dignified compromise for is more than clear. We simply must stick to it; every stepping out of it burdens the process and distances us away from its resolution. For sure, stepping out of the frame is the position of Greece regarding the range of usage of the name. While the relevant UN resolutions and the Interim Accord urge Macedonia and Greece to talk about a mutually acceptable name to be used in international organizations only, Greece demanded the solution to be used in all circumstances, bilaterally and even internally in Republic of Macedonia, which is stepping outside the boundaries of this issue, and makes finding a solution impossible. Some of the Greek demands go into the realm of individual human rights, such as the right of self-identification of a person, implying that the possible solution in such case would be reflected also on the Macedonian national identity, which is contrary to the basic civilization principles, human rights and dignity. This is probably the most irrational demand, since it implies that the Republic of Macedonia even has the authority to request from its citizens to determine themselves according to some national identity we agree upon with Greece. Not a single democratic country can impose something like that on its citizens; that is impossible. Thus, there are issues that simply cannot be part of the talks.

Both Athens and Skopje have drawn red lines regarding the name issue. Do you think that under these circumstances, a mutual acceptable solution is possible without any further concessions by both sides?

Precisely due to the red lines, the proposals need to come from Ambassador Nimetz. It is up to him to see and feel if there is a chance to connect the positions of the two countries, and I hope it can be done in a manner that would protect our national interests and dignity. At the same time, Ambassador Nimetz also needs to take care that the talks and the proposals be within the frameworks of the UN Resolutions and the Interim Accord. Indeed, it is these documents he draws his mandate from.

Greeks feel that your government is trying to steal part of their history by erecting statues and giving names to streets and airports like Alexander the Great or Philip. Do you think that all these contribute to a good climate?

I would like to remind that the international factor has been suggesting discreetly the avoidance of such initiatives.

None of the contemporary states can claim exclusive heritage to culture and history that has developed over the millennia. Equally, we all have the right and also duty to celebrate our common legacy. If anything, this should bring us together, not be a reason for divisions. The cultural heritage of the Ancient period, of the Roman period, the Byzantian or Medieval period, the scientific and cultural contributions our region has given to the World, did not exist according to the contemporary borders. The Republic of Macedonia is richly endowed with historical monuments, just as Greece, or Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia or Turkey is. It is nonsense to try to determine, two millennia after the peak of the ancient civilization, which modern nation should be more deserving of its heritage that properly belongs to the entire World, or that some nation should not be allowed to call upon it at all. Especially, we cannot accept that the demands for exclusivity to this cultural and historical heritage are used in order to impute a lesser worth to other nations. I cannot understand why would it offend a modern Greek citizen if someone else also wants to celebrate common historical events? It does not make a Greek less of a Greek, and I do not understand in what way this can be seen as unfriendly or aggressive.
I accept that historians, history enthusiasts, journalists, from different countries, can have disagreements on the proper role this cultural heritage should have in the contemporary state. But, it is a big mistake to put this debate in the political realm. The Macedonian side in a series of occasions in the past 20 years, has officially proposed joint committees to be established of scientists, historians, tasked with a serious scientific debate about historical facts and their translation in the textbooks of our young generations and in the memory of our two societies, following the example of many other countries that have successfully used this model. Unfortunately, at every occasion, these proposals were rejected by the Greek side.

Are you worried by the late incidents between young people of different ethnic groups? Can these incidents fuel tensions and bring you back to difficult times?

No and there is no turning back. Macedonia is unique among the countries of the Balkans with its functional model of cooperation between different ethnic communities, a model which provides that Macedonians, Albanians, Roma, Turks, Serbs, Vlachs, and the other ethnic communities have their voice in the decision making at the central or the local level. This is a system that is still being developed, but a system that has proven that it can endure under the strains that naturally appear in any of the Balkan countries. Our model of integration without assimilation, a model based on centuries-old traditions, cannot be disturbed by isolated incidents.


My Web

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09. April 2012. 07:30:30

| Ime


"Our model of integration without assimilation"

What a bunch of crock. His "ethnic Macedonian" is 100% the creation of assimilation. If FYROM (located in ancient Paonia) was serious about wanting to live in peace and mutual respect it would stop usurping the history of people of neighbouring states. IF they don't want to be called ethnic bulgarians any more whats' wrong with "Paeonia"... or any number of other names?

Basing their identity out of land that exist in Greece, on ancient Macedonians who saw themselves as self-identifying Greeks... certainly isn't a sign of mutual respect. Its more like a sign FYROM ultra nationalist government wants another Balkan war.

09. April 2012. 13:50:52

| Ime


Ivanov is a unprincipled liar with an expansionist agenda (manipulating history and human rights to push his utlra nationalist agenda)

He says "Some of the Greek demands go into the realm of individual human rights, such as the right of self-identification of a person, implying that the possible solution in such case would be reflected also on the Macedonian national identity, which is contrary to the basic civilization principles, human rights and dignity"

ng"The history of the construction of a Macedonian national identity does not begin with Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. or with Saints Cyril and Methodius in the ninth century A.D. as Macedonian nationalist historians often claim"

"Krste Misirkov, who had clearly developed a strong sense of his own personal national identity as a Macedonian and who outspokenly and unambiguously called for Macedonian linguistic and national separatism, acknowledged that a Macedonian national identity was a relatively recent historical development."

"The political and military leaders of the Slavs of Macedonia at the turn of the century seem not to have heard Misirkov's call for a separate Macedonian national identity; they continued to identify themselves in a national sense as Bulgarians rather than Macedonians." - US Anthropologist Loring Danforth, "The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World", Princeton Univ Press, December 1995

The manipulator doesn't mention he doesn't follow his own alleged principles. What he "forgets" to mention is the FYROM governments denies official name recognition to the "Republic of China" (Taiwan)

"The Macedonian side stated once again that it will not establish official ties of any form or conduct official exchanges with Taiwan, and that it opposes Taiwan's accession to any international organization whose membership requires statehood"


Why are you going contrary to "the basic civilization principles, human rights and dignity" Ivanov?

And where did all the "ethnic Macedonians" magically come from? As far as historians of world can tell your modern "Macedonian" identity is fabricated and 100% the creation of assimilation. (mostly from former ethnic Bulgarians) Why else would fanatics like you oppress the ethnic Bulgarian identity in FYROM?

09. April 2012. 07:30:30

| Ime


Ivanov continues to be the guardian of right wing nationaists. As far as the name issue and NATO are concerned Ivanov has no answers but lots and lots of advice from a cyclops perspective. We the young Macedonians of Greece who are the descendents of Alexander the Great, etc. find Ivanov's pathetic rambles typical of Skopjan short-sightedness, attempting to put a Greek veneer on their Bulgarian or Yugislav origins. Hopefully Chicago tells the Skopjan government that as long as they can use their Slavic ethnicity in all relations then they are welcome to join our big family.

09. April 2012. 13:50:52

| Ime


ivanov is like peter the skopjan from canada who has this delusion that he comes from the genes of alexander the great. poor, poor creature one day he'll see that his yugislav blood is all he'll ever have in this world to fall back on. yiasou re petso!!

09. April 2012. 17:57:24

| tom smiley


I feel bad that the Greeks in Macidonia tried to Helinize the Serbians and Bulgarians in the 19th century...then that wiley Animal named Tito and his arch band of Criminals continued the policy of brain washing the people of the Vardar region ,to weaken the Serbian Majority of Yugoslavia in the 20th century...I believe if there is to be a lasting peace in the region we must first understand the problems and then acknowledge them...Bulgarians,Serbians,Albanians,and Greeks ,you all come from Nobel stock...do not allow the New Criminals that hide behind "National identity "to continue the brain washing that your parents and grandparents went through...break the cycle...care for your churches your cemeteries...stop denying who you really are...it is a fact when you look at the people of the various regions that "Alexander the Great" claimed to be Greek...we know this because decendence of his army still to this day, live in the arias conquered by his armies and speak a dialect of ancient greek...it is also know that "alexander the great" lost his soul because of his pride...Emperor Constintane was born in Nisus ,Emperor Justinian was born in Serbia...St.Sava fell asleep in Turnovo Bulgaria and was Half Serbian half Greek...those are three examples that accomplished more than "Alexander the Great " ever dreamed of ...St.Constantine and St.Sava are Saint of us all ...even though I am a Helinzed Venitian, I would rather be Considered a Child of St.Sava and St.Constantine ,who is alive and helps us even now...then Someone like "Megas Alexandros" who is dead and can do nothing for us in this world or the next...if you want to know about truth my brothers and sisters...do a you tube search on the miracle of Holy Fire in Jerusalem...and remember that we will all answer to that power that Manifests its self on Orthodox Holy Saturday...Zivila Serbia,Bulgaria,i Grcka!

10. April 2012. 07:17:56

| Ime


Its unfortune that Greeks cling to the supposed glory of their ancient past so desperately. I guess the very undistinguished modern Greek history and current economic mess leads Greeks to live in an ancient past. Its time Greece realises that in 2012 it really is not a vital modern state.

10. April 2012. 07:17:56

| Peter


Lets get to the point;If Macedonians have no right to claim continuation from Alexander,what right do the "Greeks"have to claim continuation from the City States?.First of all,there was a nation,country called Macedonia in Ancient times,whereas,the word "Greek" did not exist,nor a country called by that name.Furtheremore,the City States were under the Macedonian yoke,not the other way around.Furthere,how can you claim the Macedonian Empire was Greek when you were under the Macedonian yoke?.Are you implying,the prisoner tells the victor what to do?.You people are a plain joke!Your love for fabrications is amazing even in the 21st century.ICJ awarded 15 to 1 in favour of Macedonia,you still argue that Greece won,how can that be!??? No wonder you people twisting anything and everything to suit you.Hey,you are not lying to the World,you are lying to yourselves.The World is not buying your theory any more.Please,don't embaras yourselves.

10. April 2012. 13:49:03

| Ime


People are so twisted in racism, prejudice and segregation. Humanity is one, Alexander the Great is human history and is allowed to be celebrated by all. I can't believe how primitive and immature some comments are. What is a Greek and what is a Macedonian? You are both humans, figure it out amd start sharing human history.

Bottom line, grow up.

11. April 2012. 08:08:18



My Dear Peter, in ancient times "Greeks" were not called "Greeks"...they referred to themselves as Helliens, the Latins called them "Greeks"( let's show respect to peoples identity)...and they Still refer to them selves as Hellines this day...Macadonia ,Thessaly,Epiros,Lankonia,Attica,thrace etc...were and are administrative city states...to be fair...the pagan greeks didn't allow non-hellenes to compete in the olympic games..."Alexander the Great" did compete in the olympic games and he wasn't even a conqueror then ,his father(Philip which translated means lover of horses) was a despot of a northern province of Hellenes ...if you wish to be considered a macadonian then that makes you a hellene...Emperor Calligula named his Horse Consul ...it didn't make his horse consul...lies have been going on through the ages...there isn't a winner and a looser...the truth wins...I personally don't care what you call yourself ...if that makes you happy , then call yourself macadonian...but ,please remember your ancestors know who you are...I am an american, the next guy calls himself german,the next Gaul,the next celt...if we don't have love and respect for one another ...we still won't be Grateful or Happy...about 20 years ago when people useto start with the separation of Yugoslavia...my neighbour who was a croat, wouldn't speak to the neighbor who was muslim ...and I remember asking, him why war was necessary?and he gave me the dumbest excuses for croat national identity ...i asked him, people will die...his response was "truth this, and truth that"...I told him its dumb...your people will start killing each other for what?and then eventually you hill be re unified with the EU ...he told me, no,no,no ...that will never happen...I asked him 3 years ago...how his family is there...he told me how they were betrayed, how wrong he was.. How he wishes he didn't squander his life ..2 years ago Christmas eve, he had a massive heart attack and died in front of his family....Peter, I wonder what that man would say now about these comments???


11. June - 17. June 2012.