Macedonia2025 is a non-government, non-profit, think-and-do-tank organization. Our goal is to continue to drive, promote and increase the economic prosperity for all our people residing in the Republic of Macedonia, as well as building a stronger nation. In our capacity as a non-political and independent organization, many constituents have asked us to opine on the Prespa Agreement, signed on June 12 between the Prime Ministers of Macedonia and Greece. Therefore, here we would like to provide transparently our views on the matter.
Without question, we are in favor of an agreement that will further normalize political and economic relations between the two countries. We are especially pleased to note that this agreement might stimulate cooperation in the areas of the economy, investments and developing strategic cooperation. It may also accelerate Macedonia’s prospects of joining international alliances, which is important for protecting the country’s borders.
While this agreement is a demonstration of both countries showing cooperation and progress, we would like to highlight a few important items in the current agreement for which we would encourage both parties to discuss and address now, in future discussions and through further addendums.
1. Economic implications
Macedonia is an open economy already integrated into the global trading system. The EU is the main trading partner of the country, accounting for 80% of the total exports and 61% of the imports in 2017* (Source: National Bank of Republic of Macedonia). While the EU integration will bring additional economic benefits for the country, the country is already benefiting from the close markets of the EU, FDIs and the preferential trade relations set out in the Stabilization and Association Agreement between Macedonia and EU.
At present, Macedonia is required to pass all its changes, only then will Greece decide whether to ratify the agreement or not. We believe this can create unfortunate consequences. Macedonians need to have a clear understanding on what will happen in case the agreement is not approved by Greece and what is the alternative, particularly if there is no movement on full integration as an EU nation. So far, the EU has deferred a decision until 2019, well past the intended referendum date. On the other hand, and as a positive development, NATO has recently extended an invitation to join its membership, however the ultimate membership is clearly conditional on Macedonia fulfilling all the terms of the agreement first.
2. Human rights and heritage
Every citizen has the right to self-determination of their identity which is based on their personal feelings and/or historic or national attachment and no one can take that right away. Macedonians who exist in the Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria and Albania are of one origin to the region.
With that in mind and considering these most recent positive developments between Macedonia and Greece, now it is also the time to turn the page and move on from the past. In doing so, there should be recognition of the Macedonian minority in Greece historically as well as currently. A formal apology for the treatment of this minority in the past, without any expected financial implications is required. In addition, Greece should be asked to permit a return of the “Deca Begalci”, children who were exiled from the region over 50 years ago. Many ethnic Macedonians have property or assets in Aegean Macedonia and a pledge to allow these assets to be owned and freely accessed is important and would be following international law on protection of rights, land and businesses. The permission of Macedonian schools and churches in Greece should be included as well. All these actions should help with healing the differences of the past and the overall reconciliation between the countries.
3. Mutual Understanding
We believe that trademarks, brand names etc. should be at discretion of the people who own them, they should not be required to change with this agreement. In principal we do not see the need for the existence of a joint commission that will be reviewing the history, archaeology, and education, including school textbooks, maps, focused unilaterally on Macedonia. This is redundant and unnecessary interference in cultural and educational aspects of a foreign entity into domestic matters of a neighboring country and we believe it creates a very negative historic global precedent.
We should ensure that the modern Macedonian culture and traditions can thrive and flourish while promoting the similar background, culture, tradition, heritage and economic trade between people of the two countries. Greece should acknowledge our history in the region and we should be free to use any geographic references that we currently use (e.g.: Greece continues to call Bitola-Monestiri and Istanbul-Constantinople) like other neighboring nations.
Our mission as an organization is to promote democracy, rule of law and transparency in support of the economic prosperity of Macedonia. The people need to have a comprehensive knowledge of the agreement to be able to make an educated decision. We expect such a referendum to be open and transparent so that whatever the outcome is we stand behind the decision of the people. We also call on the media to be neutral, objective, respect the freedom of speech from all sides and the press to be free from governmental pressure or influence. Our hope is that this referendum will lead to national unity with the resulting participation of as many Macedonian citizen’s as possible participating in the vote.
While we support the country’s integration into the EU and NATO, at the same time, we see opportunities for Macedonia to be successful with and without it. Joining the EU could be beneficial, but we also must plan as if it might not happen. As such we must focus on what drives economic prosperity. The country needs to keep driving for a long-term growth strategy. Macedonia has continually been one of the top reformers according to the World Bank, so whatever the outcome, we continue to encourage Macedonia, its government (current and future) as well its civil society to continue to be engaged in swift reforms that strengthen the democratic institutions and rule of law in the country. This is what ultimately will create economic value and make Macedonia more transparent, and economically developed for future generations. As an economic organization, we want to emphasize there is no such thing as a single accomplishment or a resolution of one issue that will facilitate economic prosperity for our people. It is the hard work, determination, increased trade and investment, eradication of corruption, honorable and independent judicial system and most of all unity that we believe will drive economic growth.
In closing, given the importance of any proposed agreement, we feel that the serious implications of this agreement require national consensus and unity between the parties, the President and the people who live in Macedonia and call themselves Macedonian. All sides need to be aligned going forward, that is the way together, we will lead to our prosperity as a nation and people. Macedonia2025 is always ready and willing to help in any way possible make our nation stronger.