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The Prime Minister’s Speech
read in Macedonian


Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski gave a brilliant, compelling and forceful speech at the UN General Assembly on Saturday in New York City.  It was largely praised in Macedonia and among the Macedonian Diaspora and gained respect from many others including the diplomatic community.   

For me, and for many others, it was a turning point in a way.  Combined with Macedonia’s recent 20th birthday, positive economic data coming out of Macedonia, not to mention a stunning performance in the EuroBasket championship, Macedonia has turned a corner.  The Prime Minister said as much in his speech stating that “Macedonia is on the verge of a great transformation.” This, to me, sums up what has been happening and is happening in Macedonia today.  As I told many of my friends when I was there a few weeks ago, I believe Macedonia has reached a critical mass.  Barring unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, Macedonia is on the way up. 

The most attention paid to the Prime Minister’s speech however, and rightly so, had to do with his powerful statements around Macedonia’s name, identity and dignity.  He summed it up with one sentence: “We are Macedonians, we speak Macedonian and our country’s name is the Republic of Macedonia.”  Bravo! 

Gruevski spoke about the inclusiveness that makes up Macedonia and the national narrative that all citizens of Macedonia are building regardless of their ethnic background.  While recognizing problems still lingering in Macedonia – he said “our system is not perfect and we have many issues to resolve” – he also told the leaders assembled “We, as any other nation in the world, have the right to an identity and to unite around our own national narrative.  In our narrative, there is a place for Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Roma, Serbs, Vlachs, Bosniaks and others…there is a place for all who accept the virtues left behind as an experience throughout the centuries.” How many other countries – especially in Europe – can say that?  

The Prime Minister continued stating “Being the Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia I would be remiss if I did not address the proverbial elephant in the room, that of our name and identity and our friend and southern neighbor’s objection to both our name and identity.  And I mention this not only because of my position and obligation to the people of the Republic of Macedonia, but also because it relates, in many ways, directly to what I have just spoken about, the need to solve conflict and disputes peacefully and the role mediation plays in that which is actually the topic of this debate.” 

And he paid tribute to the late President Boris Trajkovski stating “In a speech to the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia on August 31, 2001, he said ‘…we demand the international community to recognize us by our name -- the Republic of Macedonia -- and not by a fictional derivative. It is high time that the world recognizes us by what we call ourselves -- just like any other country and its citizens. Otherwise, how do you expect us to believe in your values, principals and intentions, if you deny our basic right, the right to identity?’”  Amen to that.  The next time you run into a foreign diplomat, ask them that very question.   

The Prime Minister continued: “We do not like being in the position of having our name and identity objected to by one country and we certainly did not ask for it.  But reality is often cold, hard and brutal.  The fact is our southern neighbor objects to both our name and identity.  And their objection has become our problem and a dispute has arisen.”  The Prime Minister called the situation “artificially created” and – my favorite – “absurd.”     

He concluded by calling the situation what it is – wrong.  “Fortunately 131 countries around the world have made a choice to recognize us by what we call ourselves – the Republic of Macedonia – and for that, we thank you.  Unfortunately, the rules of the world are arranged in a such a manner that we cannot be called by what we call ourselves in this very body – the United Nations – nor can we join organizations we have worked hard to become members of and, in the case of NATO and the EU, have earned a right to be a part of.  And this, frankly, is wrong.  There is no other word for it.  What you chose to do about it – your behavior – is entirely up to you.” 

The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) called it “eloquent” and saluted the Prime Minister. In a statement released to the press, Meto Koloski, President of the UMD, commented saying “Prime Minister Gruevski delivered the most direct speech that any Macedonian leader has delivered in the history of the United Nations as pertains to Greece’s problem with Macedonia’s name.  The entire Macedonian Diaspora stands ready to assist Macedonia and its leadership to protect Macedonia’s name, identity, and language.” 

It was a great day for Macedonia and the speech was one of those seminal moments that people will look back on in years to come and say, “Now that was a  moment when we held our heads high and were proud to be Macedonians.”

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Jason Miko
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