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Ilinden and Self-Reliance
read in Macedonian


On Tuesday, August 2, Macedonians around the world celebrate Ilinden, the uprising against the Ottoman Empire which gave rise to the first modern Macedonian state, the Krushevo Republic.  Although very short-lived (10 days), that uprising helped set the stage for today’s independent Republic of Macedonia, still fighting in a way, against a different sort of empire, an empire, in many ways, of indifference, of rule-changes and without true leaders.   

Although 131 countries have done the right thing and recognized Macedonia by its constitutional name along with recognition of the identity and language, many of those same countries will not – I might say they actually refuse – to step up and take a stand for Macedonia’s inclusion into NATO and the EU.  Instead, they engage in indifference and rule-changing, showing that they are actually not true leaders.  Let’s examine. 

Indifference.  Elected and unelected officials in NATO and the EU continue to trot out the same tired old statement: “We urge the two countries to work toward a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue.” (Some countries, such as the US, actually do the right thing and say “Macedonia” in this statement).  But by repeating this old statement, they show that they are actually indifferent to the issue. 

Rule-changing.  Just a few weeks ago US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Athens (she has made several trips to the region visiting almost every country in the Balkans except Macedonia).  While in Athens, she made the following statement as reported by AFP: “The government in Skopje needs to know that it will not be able to move forward on its European integration until it does resolve this (issue). And, obviously, Greece has to be willing to accept how the name is resolved.” This is the perfect example of changing the rules or, to use sports terminology, this is called moving the goal posts.  As was evidenced by the 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest, Macedonia has earned its place in NATO.  And yet NATO has now changed the rules, moved the goal posts.  And now, it is becoming codified.  This is something every so-called leader now says over and over again: Macedonia must resolve the issue, first, in order to have any chance of joining NATO or the EU.  No other state has had the rules changed on them after they qualified.  Only Macedonia.   

Leadership.  Real and true leaders can take a stand on an issue – and if necessary, take the heat for it. As I mentioned in my article last week Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” because it was.  He didn’t particularly care what the US State Department thought about his blunt language although the State Department was horrified over it, just as the State Department was horrified at much of what Reagan did.  In fact, if Reagan had listened to all of the advice of the State Department, the Soviet Union might still be around. 

The lesson here is the same lesson from over 100 years ago: self-reliance.  Beyond bi-lateral and even multi-lateral assistance from individual countries, Macedonia must rely on itself – primarily its people and its natural resources. Its people must provide hard work, ingenuity, dedication and leadership. The natural resources must provide food, energy, raw materials, recreation, shelter and many other things necessary for a country and people to survive and succeed.  No one else is going to do it for you – not NATO, not the EU, not the US – no one.  And Macedonia – here is the truth – you are not going to get into NATO or the EU unless you change your name and identity – and I certainly do not want you to do that.  Neither do you. 

As you celebrate Ilinden, remember what your forefathers did for you by setting the stage for the creation of the modern-day independent Republic of Macedonia.  They had to rely on themselves for the uprising but they did so because they believed in fighting for an ideal – for independence, for freedom, for the right to self-identity – and they gave their lives for it as well.  But some things in life are worth fighting – and dying – for.   

Happy Ilinden!  And may God continue to bless Macedonia.

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Jason Miko
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