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Living Well
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Part 1: Spin me around

Last week the EU denied, yet again, Macedonia a start date to begin accession talks.  Most of us knew this was coming.  We even knew that Bulgaria would join their good neighbor Greece in piling on top of Macedonia and blocking it.  But the EU itself seemed strangely upbeat about Macedonia’s prospects.  Or at least they did publicly.  Stefan Fule, EU commissioner for enlargement, was all smiles and optimism.  Then Bulgaria and Greece did their dirty deed.

How did the EU react?  Positively.  Here is how Stefan Fule framed it:

“Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – here I particularly welcome the positive Council conclusions. This constitutes a significant breakthrough in relations between the EU and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and moves us on from the static language of the last four years.”

In the public relations business, this is called “spin.”  You take a piece of news that is not favorable to you and you spin it so that it at least sounds favorable. The above statement is a major act of spin on Fule’s part. And not a word of it is true.  In the public relations business, we also say that when you actually start believing your own press releases, you are in serious trouble.  Now of course we say this tongue in cheek: what we mean is that you know your press release is not true but by believing it you have bought your own lie.  I firmly believe that the EU now believes its own press releases.   It has bought into its own lie.

Fule continued: “The breadth of discussion at the Council and level of engagement with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia demonstrate the genuine interest that Member States take to advance the country on the European path. The conclusions have set out a very real and attainable perspective for the opening of accession negotiations in the very near future.”

Again, more spin.  “Genuine interest?”  If there was “genuine interest” Macedonia would not have been vetoed four times to date.  “A very real and attainable perspective?”  Hardly.  Fule concluded by stating “Let me underline that I hope this new and ambitious language will be taken and understood as opportunity to find a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue and to close this chapter which was left open for too long to the detriment of the people of the countries in that region.”

As always, he did not miss an opportunity to hit on the name issue. And on the name issue, there are those who accuse the Macedonian government (both within Macedonia and outside of Macedonia) of dragging its feet on the name issue claiming that the government does not really want membership in the EU.  Those who say this completely miss the point: first, the Macedonian government has been very constructive in its outreach to Greece offering to meet anytime, anywhere to talk about this issue.  It is Greece which has been completely unresponsive.  Second, the Macedonia government must tread very carefully because it will not trade Macedonia’s name and identity for a figurative bowl of porridge – EU membership (those who know the story of Jacob and Esau from the Old Testament will understand this last).  In fact, the Macedonian government cannot trade Macedonia’s name and identity – Macedonia’s name and identity rest solely with the Macedonian people full stop.  So those who say that the Macedonia does not want EU membership and therefore does not want to solve the name issue are simply wrong.  But as long as the EU (and NATO) continues to say that – in effect – Macedonia must change its name and give up its identity – as long as this happens, Macedonia will not be a member of those two organizations.

Part 2: Living well

So, then, what is Macedonia to do in response to this dilemma? What Macedonia must do is live well.  What do I mean by this?  Low and flat taxes, relatively low debt, low inflation and other instruments the government has at its disposal which, over the long run, will benefit Macedonia.  You might not see it right now, but these things make Macedonia stronger.

Beyond economic indicators, and sometimes more importantly, living well means knowing how to live and enjoy life.  And Macedonians know how to live well – in fact, I hear this more and more and from people I meet around the world.  This past weekend, for instance, I was having breakfast with some Macedonians in Phoenix who have been in the US for many years.  They have seen it to because they spend time with the “average” American.  And the “average” American and Western European lives an un-enjoyable life for a variety of reasons: too busy chasing wealth, denying that truth exists, believing that everything is relative, and believing that all belief systems are equally valid.  Too many feel that their lives, like their culture, are plastic.  But Macedonians know what it means to enjoy their family, friends, faith and food. Macedonians know and value relationships.

Here’s how author Rebecca West put it almost 75 years ago: “I had recognized in Macedonia a uniquely beautiful life of the people…Macedonia was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen in my life and I looked forward to showing it to my husband.”

So take heart Macedonia!  You know how to live and live well.  Do it and enjoy life.

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Jason Miko
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