by Aggelos Skordas
The nationalistic government of Skopje under Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski back in 2008 appeared ready to accept an agreement with Greece under the name “Republic of North Macedonia” or “Republic of Northern Macedonia”, a previously classified cable of the US embassy in Skopje, released by Wikileaks.
Specifically, the document entitled “What the Macedonians need to resolve the name dispute”, dated July 29 2008, reveals that FYROM has made no concessions towards the Greek side, despite currently ruling SYRIZA and Independent Greeks (ANEL) coalition government’s story surrounding the Prespes Agreement.
Signed by the then US Ambassador to the Balkan country Gillian Milovanovic, the cable shows that FYROM had already set its own “red lines” demanding the recognition of the “Macedonian” language and nationality in order to proceed to a deal with Greece.
“Embassy Skopje assesses that in the context of an agreement that clears the way for NATO membership and the start of EU accession talks, the Macedonian government would ultimately accept the following terms:
— Name: Republic of Northern Macedonia (or: Republic of North Macedonia)
— Scope: in all international organizations, plus bilaterally by any country that does not want to use the constitutional name. (Although we have not discussed this explicitly, presumably international agreements would follow the same pattern, with multilateral ones using the new name and bilateral ones having the option.) Macedonia would use its constitutional name in referring to itself, on passports, product labels, in the media, etc.
— Identity: The language and nationality would be called Macedonian, but this could be handled tacitly, perhaps as a subsequent annexe to a UNSCR, or in some other internal UN document not subject to Greek review/approval. Bottom line is Macedonia needs assurance that their language, nationality, etc. would continue to be called Macedonian, not North Macedonian” the cable reads.
In addition, the document shows that the neighbouring country’s leadership at the time held numerous meetings with the US envoy in Skopje. Among others, Milovanovic thoroughly discussed FYROM’s negotiating positions with President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Hence the US State Department had a clear image of FYROM’s demands as far back as 2008.
The Wikileaks revelation fueled the political debate in Athens triggered by the Prespes Agreement furthermore. Main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated his party’s commitment not to ratify the agreement when this would be tabled in the Greek Parliament, following the referendum to be held in FYROM on September 30.
“Today’s revelation from Wikileaks, that Skopje had been asking since 2008 to name their country ‘North Macedonia’ and their people ‘Macedonians’ who supposedly speak the ‘Macedonian’ language confirms in the most tragic way what I have been stressing all those months. That [Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras, [Defense Minister Panos] Kammenos and [Foreign Minister Nikos] Kotzias wanted to present their extremely damaging agreement for Greece as a success, which satisfied what Skopje demanded for years, and had been rejected by all previous governments,” Mitsotakis said in a statement.
Read the full Wikileaks cable here: