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Daniel Serwer Gets It Wrong
read in Macedonian


Daniel Serwer, a long-time analyst of the Balkans and formerly a special envoy with the US Department of State, recently wrote a blog titled “The zombie that haunts the Balkans.”  As an analyst, Serwer has a lot of experience in and knowledge of the Balkans and all the little intricacies that make the Balkans special.  But in his “zombie” blog, he got it wrong.

Serwer writes, “It would be really nice if Athens came to the conclusion that rule of law requires it to give in on NATO membership for The FYROM (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), even if it believes the December 2011 International Court of Justice decision finding it in violation of a 1995 agreement is wrong.”

Serwer should know better than that.  First of all, Macedonia was not admitted into the UN under “FYROM” and no such word exists.  It is a made-up, fictional derivative.  Second of all, the fictional derivative under which Macedonia was allowed to enter the UN is temporary and provisional and it is a “reference” not a name.  Not even UN Resolution 817 of April 1993 which governs Macedonia’s entrance into the UN denies that Macedonia’s name is, well, Macedonia.  The entire document merely and only governs what Macedonia will be called by “for all purposes within the UN” – and only within – while negotiations go on.

Serwer knows that the “devil is in the details”  a phrase we use in English to mean that the bad things are in the smallest details which few people pay attention to.  While his statement is correct, he knows better than to call the country “FYROM.” This designation gives a green light to Greeks to demonize and call the Macedonian people, language and Church all sorts of made up names based on “FYROM.” Serwer is a seasoned enough diplomat to know that.

Second, Serwer asks: Why is the ‘name’ issue important?”  He then answers his own question: “Because it prevents Macedonia from entering NATO and getting a date to begin its EU negotiations.”  But Serwer gets it wrong here too.  The “name” issue is important because identity and name are sacred, intertwined and vital to a people and because all people desire their own name and identity and because the Macedonians have had a name and identity for a very long time and it should not be changed.

To say the name is important only because of Macedonia’s ability to join two rapidly deteriorating organizations – NATO and EU – is to say that name and identity – core values of who and what you are – are not important and that material things, the shiny beads and trinkets of NATO and the EU (and temporary at that), are more important.  That too, is wrong.

(A day earlier, Serwer wrote in another blog that “Many Albanians in Macedonia regard NATO membership as vital:  it is the ultimate guarantee of Macedonia’s territorial integrity and their own security.” I’ll have to disagree with this too, at least partly.  While many Albanians in Macedonia do regard NATO membership as “vital,” NATO membership is not the “ultimate guarantee” of Macedonia’s territorial integrity.  That is simply not true.  Just as there are several ways to make alliances, similarly there are several ways to guarantee territorial integrity – see statement below by Ronald Reagan.)

Later on, Serwer states that Macedonia should be admitted into NATO as part of Serwer’s overall plan arguing for the “admission of Macedonia into NATO as “The FYROM” in accordance with the 1995 interim accord, with explicit guarantees to Greece on its border if Athens wants them.”

I must respectfully disagree.  First of all, if Macedonians want to be admitted into NATO as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” then that is Macedonia’s business.  I would argue – at this point in my life and 16-years of being with Macedonia – that it is no longer worth it.  Macedonia must enter as the “Republic of Macedonia” or not at all.

Finally, Serwer states “Rather than each country fighting these battles on its own, I’d like to see Europeans and Americans joining with partners in the Balkans to declare unequivocally that no territorial adjustments in the Balkans will be made on an ethnic basis, that the widely known and accepted borders are permanent and will be demarcated bilaterally, and that all concerned will join in an effort to take the measures necessary to prevent any changes.”

Two points, the first small and probably not possible.  What if two distinct ethnic peoples in one country wanted to voluntarily separate on an ethnic basis?  Would that be allowed?  (Think Czechoslovakia).

Second, and more likely: What the Europeans and Americans say now may not hold true 50 years from now.  “Unequivocal” declarations have never been so and the word “permanent” has never really applied to maps.  There is no way to guarantee that a county – any country – will stay together.  It is something a people must fight for daily.  A people must be constantly vigilant.  Former US President Ronald Reagan said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” Don’t rely on others Macedonia; rely on yourselves.

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Jason Miko
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