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The Road Ahead
read in Macedonian


With the passing of Old New Year, we now look to the road ahead as the routine of our daily lives takes over after the long holiday season.  For Macedonia, the year ahead and the road ahead begins with a focus on local elections this March, combined with the opposition’s boycott of parliament; a continued push for the beginning of EU talks under the Irish presidency; NATO obligations; an analysis of relations with two of Macedonia’s most (often) troublesome neighbors, Greece and Bulgaria, the so-called name issue and a drive to bring greater prosperity and jobs to the citizens of Macedonia.

Let’s start in reverse.  The Heritage Foundation, a respected think-tank in Washington, D.C., working with the equally respected financial newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, released its 2013 Index of Economic Freedom which measures the financial freedom in any given country.  It does not necessarily mean that any given country is rich or prosperous, but it does mean that any given country’s government has set in motion broad economic policies which, over time, will produce prosperity, all other things being equal.  To quote from the Heritage website, “When institutions protect the liberty of individuals, greater prosperity results for all.  Economist Adam Smith formed this theory in his influential work, The Wealth of Nations, in 1776. In 2013, his theory is measured – and proven – in the Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide published by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation, Washington’s No. 1 think tank.”

“For over a decade, The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation, Washington’s preeminent think tank, have tracked the march of economic freedom around the world with the influential Index of Economic Freedom. Since 1995, the Index has brought Smith’s theories about liberty, prosperity and economic freedom to life by creating 10 benchmarks that gauge the economic success of 185 countries around the world. With its user-friendly format, readers can see how 18th century theories on prosperity and economic freedom are realities in the 21st century.”

Where did Macedonia come out this year?  A very respectable 43 out of 177 ranked countries, the highest in the Balkan neighborhood.  Greece came in at 117, “mostly unfree” according to Heritage while Macedonia’s closest ranked neighbors, Albania, Romania and Bulgaria, came in at 58, 59 and 60 respectively.  Again, and this is important to stress, what this means is that the Government of Macedonia has adopted broad economic policies that will lead to economic prosperity.  Of course something that goes hand-in-hand with those policies is the drive to bring in foreign direct investment and to encourage domestic direct investment.  Positive results are coming in, even if slowly.  Sticking to this course of action will result, over the medium and long-term, in economic prosperity.

Moving on, the visit of UN name negotiator Matthew Nimetz produced some news and noise but what it actually produces in terms of movement remains to be seen.  As long as Greece continues to insist that its position be the only acceptable position, there will be no movement.  As I have said for many years, Macedonia simply cannot trade its identity and name for a proverbial bowl of porridge, in other words, membership in the EU and NATO.  Your identity and name are more important than that and quite frankly there are other paths to close relationships with the EU and NATO than actual membership.  Macedonia is proving those paths correct even now with its current relationships with those two organizations, among others.  And Greece’s latest charade – the Memorandum of Understanding – is nothing more than an attempt to draw attention away from the fact that Greece is not really interested in a solution.  An MOU has existed for quite some time now; it is called the 1995 Interim Accord.

On Macedonia’s relationship with Bulgaria, I again see Bulgaria’s desire for further talks about “good neighborly relations” as a simple ploy to show that they are being constructive when in fact we all know that they simply do not like the fact there is a country next door to them and a people who identify as Macedonians.  That is the source of all of Bulgaria’s animosity toward Macedonia.

Finally, on local elections and politics, which is a source of never-ending fascination for many: a word of hope – don’t think that Macedonia is the only country with these problems and don’t let others try to insinuate this either – if you have any doubt, I invite you to follow US elections and politics and see how silly things are here. 

The opposition needs to get back into parliament. A specific number of Macedonians voted for them in June of 2011 (in special elections demanded by SDSM I might add) to represent them and the opposition needs to honor their votes by actively and constructively participating in parliament.  The ballot box and parliament are where the business of governing gets done.  Just because the opposition does not always get its way is no excuse for them to sit out.  They need to act like adults, get back into parliament and fight for what they believe in.  Likewise, with the upcoming local elections they must participate, put their best candidates forward, articulate what their vision is for moving Macedonia forward and let the people decide.

Macedonia, 2013 and the road ahead will be a good one but never forget the most important things in life are not politics, relationships with international organizations or other countries or even money.  The most important things in life are family, friends and faith.  Never let go of those.

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Jason Miko
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