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The ICJ Decision
read in Macedonian


A Facebook friend asked me a question the other day.  He asked “Do you believe in a just outcome over the Macedonian question?”  He asked this after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision for Macedonia and against Greece.  I’ll answer his question in a moment. 

As we all know now, on December 5, 2011 the ICJ at The Hague handed down a decision in a case Macedonia filed against Greece in 2008.  At stake was the claim by Macedonia that Greece violated the 1995 Interim Accord signed by the two countries.  Specifically, Macedonia claimed that Greece violated the Accord by vetoing Macedonia’s NATO application at the 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest.  By a decision of 15-1 (the one being Greek judge Emmanuel Roucounas who should have recused himself), the court found that Greece did indeed, violate the Accord. 

Back on October 27, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen gave remarks at the NATO Review Conference in Berlin titled “Principles and Power.” In his speech, he touched on NATO’s shared principles of “freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.” He spoke about NATO’s use of soft power and military power.  And he spoke about NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999 “on the basis of a clear moral principle.” From this we might deduce that NATO’s leaders do have the tiniest sense of right and wrong, good and evil. 

If that is the case, many Macedonians – and not too few non-Macedonians – are left wondering: where is the sense of moral outrage over Greece’s holding hostage of Macedonia’s citizens?  Macedonians – who overwhelmingly support Macedonia’s membership in NATO and the EU (though the latter is understandably slipping), desire membership in NATO for the very reasons that citizens of NATO member countries do – namely, as Rasmussen spoke about, the shared principles of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  But Greece’s churlish position and continual refusal to recognize Macedonia’s name and identity and its refusal to allow Macedonia membership into these organizations, even under the provisional and temporary reference, is a dangerous game. 

After the verdict was read, many Macedonians, non-Macedonians and even the media pronounced the decision a “moral victory.”  But is it?  In the first place, the Court declined to offer a remedy for Macedonia, per Macedonia’s request.  Macedonia had requested of the Court that it order Greece to refrain from future conduct that violates its obligations under the Interim Accord.  In other words, Macedonia asked the Court to tell Greece that it could no longer object to Macedonia’s membership in international organizations such as NATO or the EU if it applied under the temporary and provisional reference.  But the Court declined stating “…there is no reason to suppose that a State whose conduct has been declared wrongful by the Court will repeat that act or conduct in the future, since its good faith must be presumed.”  

Presumed good faith?  The Greek Foreign Ministry issued an announcement immediately after stating “we recall that its (NATO’s) decisions, including those taken at the Summit in Bucharest (2008), Strasbourg (2009) and Lisbon (2010), were taken unanimously, reflecting its members shared conviction that the name issue of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia be resolved before it is invited to join the Alliance.”  In plain English: Greece will continue to block Macedonia’s NATO application. 

Even Rasmussen essentially gave support to the Greeks by issuing a statement in which he said “The ruling does not affect the decision taken by NATO Allies at the Bucharest summit in 2008.  We agreed that an invitation will be extended to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached. This decision was reiterated at subsequent summit and ministerial meetings.” On top of that the EU – for the third time in a row – declined to give Macedonia a date to begin accession talks because of Greece. 

Back to answer my friend’s question and here is what I wrote:  

“Justice is not always least in this life. But you, Macedonia, must keep pursuing internal reforms and the rule of law while you work to attract foreign direct investment, tourists, and encourage domestic investment even as you build your Republic with a capitalist economic system. Hold your head high: you have lots of friends around the world helping you and willing to help you and remember – most of the world (the thinking world) simply calls you ‘Macedonia’ and ‘Macedonians.’ The credibility of the EU and NATO is bankrupt and their leaders know it. They know they are wrong even if they won’t admit it and they will go to sleep tonight knowing they are wrong. Keep praying and working for justice - I will do the same and I will always support Macedonia, my friends the Macedonians and your history, language, culture, Church and way of life. God bless you.” 

In the end Macedonia will continue to be blocked by Greece on NATO and EU membership.  In the case of NATO, this will be until NATO leaders grow some real moral backbone. And if the organization cannot see the moral issue at stake and take a stand, then it is time for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to stop navel gazing and engage in a heavy dose of soul searching.

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Jason Miko
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