Monday, March 24, 2008

Regarding "Macedonia: Reaching Out To Win Latin American Hearts and Minds"

The points made by Zlatko Kovach in Op-Ed piece, Macedonia: Reaching Out to Win Latin American Hearts and Minds, have been responded to by the Ambassador of Greece to the United States of America, Alexandros P. Mallias, in the following letter.

March 19, 2008

I must admit that Zlatko Kovach’s article entitled “Macedonia: Reaching out to win Latin American Hearts and Minds,” published on February 25, 2008, left me with a strong sense of surprise and amazement.

Aside from questioning Mr. Kovach’s dubious historical references regarding Greece as well as his own country, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the article fails to acknowledge Greece’s significant role in the political and economic stability of FYROM and gives, I am afraid, COHA readers the wrong impression about Greece’s true role in the Balkan region.

As a longstanding EU and NATO member, Greece is a strong advocate of these organizations’ perspective as well as a supporter of the FYROM’s political, social and economic stability. In fact, Greece is currently the largest investor in FYROM, with over $1 billion of its capital invested there, translating to more than 30,000 jobs. Moreover, through the Hellenic Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (HiPERB), Greece has pledged the amount of approximately $112,260,000 of development aid for FYROM.

FYROM joined the United Nations and all relevant UN Agencies and Bodies under this official international name. UN Security Council Resolution 817 (1993) specifically provides that “the difference over the name of the state (i.e. FYROM) needs to be resolved in the interest of the maintenance of peaceful and good neighborly relations in the region.”

FYROM, therefore, participates in all international organizations and conferences under this official name. Indeed, it is under that name that it established relations with the European Union and NATO, and gained membership to the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In fact, no single regional or international organization refers to FYROM by any other name. Greece does abide with UN Resolutions 817 and 845 and seeks a solution to the name issue within the United Nations framework.

Your article also fails to recognize that Greece’s stance has very strong support in the United States Congress, which can be no mere coincidence. Senate Resolution 300, introduced by Senator Robert Menendez, and co-sponsored by Senators Barack Obama and Olympia Snowe, urges FYROM to cease hostile activities and propaganda against Greece, and reach a mutually acceptable solution. In addition, over 115 Congressmen have thus far co-sponsored House Resolution 356 on the same topic in the House of Representatives.

Crucial and delicate negotiations are currently in progress under the United Nations auspices, and intensive diplomatic efforts are required on both sides to reach a mutually acceptable solution prior to the upcoming NATO Summit in April 2008. The Greek government has taken a significant step towards that direction by announcing Greece’s readiness to accept a composite name for the FYROM with a geographic qualifier.

It is now time for FYROM and its leadership to reach out and demonstrate the political maturity, which will bring an end to the name issue, and clear the path to its European and NATO perspective. Mr. Kovach may still argue that the current United Nations process, as provided for by the UN Security Council Resolutions 817(1993) and 845(1993), is unfair to his country. But he will once again have forgotten that, as an aspiring EU and NATO member, FYROM needs, first of all, to realize that abiding with international law obligations is not an “artificial dispute” imposed by Greece, but rather a fundamental code of conduct, which applies to all.

Jorge Luis Borges once said: “For the longest time, my contemporaries are the Greeks”, which in itself sums up the profound cultural, intellectual and spiritual bonds between Greece and Latin America. Greece’s longstanding relationship with Latin American countries is furthermore characterized by strong historic ties of friendship, solidarity and cooperation. Despite the geographical distance, Greece and Latin American countries have forged a close bond between their peoples by sharing and defending precious common values, such as security, democracy and peace, concepts enshrined in the UN and OAS Charters.

I am confident that the friendly Latin American countries understand that Greece greatly respects the identity and culture of others. I am also confident that they also understand the importance for countries, which claim to abide by the rules of international law, to also act so, in order to respect the historic and cultural heritage of their neighbors, and not systematically engage in provocative propaganda prejudicial to the fundamental principle of good neighborliness. I am afraid that at this time, this is the case with FYROM’s policies vis-a-vis Greece.