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Thursday, April 20, 2017

MACEDONIA’S LIFE OR DEATH STRUGGLE? Tirana Platform.

Q & A with Dr Chris Popov - Australian-Macedonian activist

1. Since your last interview for Team Uzunov Blog in 2016 - the situation in Macedonia has worsened. What is your assessment now? 

Dr Popov: The situation in Macedonia is incomparably worse than then, both politically, economically and from a security point of view This is due to many factors, such as the corruption and venality of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE [conservative, nominally “nationalist party], the inconclusive nature of the 11 December 2016 general elections, the open and flagrant meddling in Macedonia’s internal affairs by the USA and European Union (EU) and their respective ambassadors and representatives and the willingness of the opposition SDSM [Social Democrats] party to entertain and implement the demands contained in the Tirana Platform which represents a direct threat to the Republic of Macedonia’s continuation as a state of the Macedonian people. In saying this I am not giving a free pass to VMRO-DPMNE. That party like the SDSM did not condemn the Platform when it was announced and negotiated with DUI in the hope that it could “cut a deal” and in so doing, possibly mitigate the worst aspects of the platform in an attempt to stay in power and thus avoid the prosecution of major party leaders and functionaries for what appears to be gross corruption and abuse of public office. 

However for one reason or another VMRO-DPMNE and DUI did not form a coalition government- President Gjorge Ivanov says it was due to a “phone call” possibly alluding to a foreign diplomat, Bujar Osmani of DUI says that they had reached agreement on ”ethnic matters”, but could not agree on the continuation of the mandate of the Special Prosecutor’s Office, while Artan Grubi of DUI stated that the offer made by VMRO-DPMNE on “ethnic matters” was unsatisfactory- and the SDSM party led by Zoran Zaev agreed to form a coalition with the Albanian parties DUI, BESA and Alianza za Albancite. 

On 1 March 2017, despite the fact that Zaev had secured the support of 67 MPs for the granting of a mandate to form government, the mandate was denied to him by Ivanov on the grounds that the acceptance of the Tirana Platform represented a threat to Macedonia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and was thus unconstitutional. SDSM and its coalition partners in turn say Ivanov’s action was unconstitutional. Therefore, the campaign against Zaev and the SDSM, especially in the Diaspora, is being waged simply because it has fallen to him to form government and because he has not renounced the Tirana Platform. Had VMRO-DPMNE been in the same position, I have no doubt that the reaction of Diaspora Macedonians would have been the same.

Since then there has been a stalemate, with the protesters from the “Zaednicka Makedonija” [Macedonia Together] movement supporting the President’s decision with daily street marches for seven weeks now and the EU, USA through their ambassadors and prominent government officials, applying pressure to Ivanov to relent and grant the mandate to Zaev. The cosmetic “concessions” announced by Zaev on March 11-namely that there would be no bi-lingual banknotes or army uniforms- were not enough to convince Ivanov that he had renounced the Tirana Platform. Moreover, the fact that the three Albanian parties have not withdrawn their support for Zaev is evidence that they have reached an agreement on the platform and agreed to implement it. 

The result of all this is a political stalemate, with VMRO-DPMNE filibustering in Parliament to prevent the election of a speaker-most likely the extremely controversial Talat Xhaferi, the former NLA [Kosovo Liberation Army offshoot in Macedonia] commander-and increasingly open interference by the EU in order to get the SDSM-Albanian party coalition into power. The institutions of the state have been paralysed, while at the same time Macedonia’s neighbours are jockeying for position in order to grab a piece of Macedonian territory in the event that war breaks out, which I sincerely hope is not the case. Given the current volatile situation in Macedonia and the Balkan region I do not believe that any armed conflict there would be contained within Macedonia’s borders, but would develop into a regional conflagration, given Macedonia’s central geo-strategic position 

2. You gave what many are saying was a powerful speech at a recent Macedonian rally in Melbourne, Australia against the Tirana Platform in which you said in Macedonian [English translation]: 

“The Republic of Macedonia was not handed to us on a plate. Many generations fought and died for the establishment of a Macedonian state and we are not going to allow it to be taken away from us in order to satisfy someone’s thirst for power and the appetites of those who wish to create a Greater Albania.” 

What has moved you to reach that conclusion? 

Dr Popov: It’s quite simple. Having read the Tirana Platform I am of the firm view that if such a platform is implemented in Macedonia it will eventually spell the end of Macedonia as a unitary state of the Macedonian people. It is the final phase of the plan which began to be realised in 2001 when Macedonia was attacked by the KLA/NLA from Kosovo. The Albanian separatist agenda in Macedonia has been advancing apace since 1991 and steadily achieving its goals; one could say that a de facto federalisation of Macedonia has taken place already and that this would represent the final stage of the plan. Nevertheless, official, constitutionally-sanctioned federalisation would represent a new escalation and acceleration of the separatist agenda. The implementation of this platform would signify the final blow-coup de grace-for the Macedonian state. 

The main demands contained in this document-namely, the declaration of Albanians in Macedonia as a constituent state people, Albanian to be officially designated an official language throughout the whole territory of Macedonia, a debate on changing the flag, anthem and national coat of arms and a declaration that Albanians in Macedonia were subjected to genocide between 1912-1956 are not designed to defend the rights of Albanians in Macedonia (which they have an abundance, indeed surfeit of) but to lay the foundations for the acceptance of a federalist, indeed confederalist and separatist agenda, whose goal is the redefinition and eventual division of the Macedonian state. This agenda is tacitly, but strongly, supported by the EU and USA, as it increases the power and influence in the Balkans of their most loyal vassals, the Albanian political leadership in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia which is willing to do their bidding in return for support for the project of unifying all so-called Albanian lands on the basis laid out by the Prizren League of 1878. Therefore, those who wish to attain power by implementing such a platform must be opposed as energetically as possible, as Macedonia was indeed not handed to us on plate, but fought for by the Macedonian people for centuries so that the Macedonian people could have a country they call home.

In saying this, I am cognisant of the myriad problems which hinder Macedonia’s development as a modern, prosperous state; corruption, misuse of state funds, nepotism and clientelism. Those who have committed such crimes-of whatever political stripe-should be investigated and punished accordingly in a non-selective and non-partisan way. However, in order to have a Macedonia in which such justice is fairly dispensed, there must be a state called Macedonia in existence. The Tirana Platform threatens the very existence of such a state and this is precisely why it must be opposed at this juncture as the most pressing and urgent problem facing Macedonia and the Macedonian people.

3. Many media outlets, including those in Macedonia, have deliberately portrayed opponents of the Tirana Platform as rabid “nationalists,” VMRO-DPMNE “puppets,” Russian “stooges - it harks back to the days of the 1980s when the Greek, Yugoslav and Bulgarian governments, labelled anything that moved or scratched its head not in accordance with the tastes of Athens, Belgrade or Sofia as “extremist” - why is this same template being used now? 

Ironically those who draw support from the US (see left photo) hold pan-Yugo-Slavist / pan-Slavist views, traditionally the preserve of Serbia and Russia, but also support the Tirana Platform. Yet these individuals are never pulled up or scrutinised for their paradoxical views, instead others are labelled as being “pro Russian” and “pro Putin.” Why the blatant hypocrisy?

Dr Popov: People who oppose the Tirana Platform are portrayed in this way in order to discredit them and prevent them from organising effectively in defence of Macedonia’s continued existence as a Macedonian state. While I am certain that there is VMRO-DPMNE involvement in the protest movement, I do not believe that all those attending are motivated by the desire to keep that party in power at all costs. Many of those attending see the danger inherent in the Tirana Platform and wish to resist its implementation by participating in the daily marches. I do not accept that the VMRO-DPMNE is so powerful and all-pervasive that all or a large part of the protesters are regularly “called out” to do their patriotic duty, as it were. 

Those Macedonians who either tacitly support the Tirana Platform or see its implementation as a necessary evil which must be stomached in the interests of removing the “regime” from power ( a strange characterisation given the amount of open and vociferous opposition in Macedonia to VMRO-DPMNE) are routinely portrayed by organisations such as BIRN [London directed Balkan Insight news website], the mainstream Western and European media and pro-SDSM media outlets as “progressive”,”reform-minded”, “committed to fighting corruption” and possessing “European values”. 

The juxtaposition of “conservative, backward” opponents of the Tirana Platform vis-a-vis “modern, progressive” opponents of the “regime” is not only erroneous, but is designed to win support for the EU and USA strategy of bringing Macedonia completely to heel in order for it to become a bulwark on NATO’s southern flank against “ Russian expansionism”. 

I notice that while many SDSM supporters in Macedonia chide Macedonians in the Diaspora for “interfering “ in Macedonia’s internal affairs, no such venom is directed against European officials and foreign ambassadors who brazenly intervene uninvited in Macedonia, often in complete contravention of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The double standard is breathtaking. Macedonia is in many respects a pawn in the struggle between the USA and EU on one side and Russia on the other, for political and economic dominance of the region. 



4. What do you see as likely happening? What would you like to see happen to resolve the crisis, the impasse in Macedonia?

Dr Popov: I most certainly do not want to see the Tirana Platform implemented and the best insurance against this happening is for the street protests and marches throughout Macedonia to continue until Zoran Zaev and the SDSM, as well as VMRO-DPMNE, renounce it in writing. It is clearly in the realm of fantasy to expect VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM to form a broad coalition without the ethnic Albanian parties in order to prevent its implementation, given the level of mutual antagonism which exists between them. VMRO-DPMNE is calling for new elections as a way out of the impasse, but I would not expect SDSM to agree to such new elections, nor that the “international community” (a euphemism for the EU and the USA) will recognise the results of any such elections. There will only be new elections if the EU and the USA believe that the SDSM and its allies can win and are able to convince Zaev and the SDSM to participate. There may be new elections if the regional security situation becomes less stable and this same “international community” sees them as the only way to prevent further deterioration of the situation. However, such elections would most likely be several months away given that the date for local municipal elections has had to be pushed back; such local elections would take priority given that the mandate of mayors and other municipal officials expires in mid-May.

Alternatively, some players may see low level warfare as a way of forcing Ivanov and VMRO-DPMNE to relent, but that option carries with it the danger of the situation spiralling out of control. However, if new elections are held I would like to see a new political party emerge from the ranks of those protesting in the streets, provided that any such political formation was independent of both VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM and remained committed to the protection of vital national and state interests. SDSM and its allies have often spoken of forming a government without a formal mandate from Ivanov which would not only be completely unconstitutional, but also further deepen the crisis and create the preconditions for social upheaval and armed conflict. 

The ethnic Albanian parties have even floated the idea of forming their own Sobranie [parliament] in Tetovo, but that would be an unrealistic option which the Albanians’ international mentors- primarily the USA- would not countenance as it would leave the door wide open for Russia to intensify its pressure on the interim government and VMRO-DPMNE and offer greater assistance and support. Given the entrenched positions of both main Macedonian political parties and the obvious international support for Zaev, I do not see any quick solution to the current deep crisis occurring for at least several months. It appears that the war of political attrition will continue for some considerable time and I do not have a concrete realistic proposal for bringing an end to the situation. My fervent hope is that any solution manages to avoid violent confrontation and armed conflict which would be the worst possible outcome. 

5. In your view what do Macedonians, in both the Republic of Macedonia and in the diaspora, need to do counter the Tirana Platform? 

Dr Popov: The best insurance against the implementation of the Platform is the continuation of the protests and marches throughout Macedonia led by the “Zaednicka Makedonija” movement. This mass movement has to date prevented the formation of an SDSM-led government by providing President Ivanov with the popular backing necessary for him to continue to refuse to grant the mandate to Zaev and has prevented SDSM and its coalition partners from forming a government without the formal consent of the President. Macedonians in the Diaspora cannot directly influence events in Macedonia, however the rallies and protests which have been held in recent weeks around the world, including the biggest to date in Melbourne, have undoubtedly encouraged the movement in Macedonia to persist in its struggle to defeat the platform and have provided strong moral support to it. Such events should occur at regular intervals until the final goal is attained.

6. What will be the knock on effect or repercussions for ethnic Macedonians in Albanian, Greece and Bulgaria if Macedonia is federalised?

Dr Popov: Successive governments in Macedonia have done precious little to advocate for and defend the rights of the Macedonians in Aegean and Pirin Macedonia, Mala Prespa, Golo Brdo and Gora and throughout Greece, Bulgaria and Albania as a whole. The lack of any coherent state strategy in defence of these Macedonian minorities is the result of a desire to not worsen relations further with neighbouring countries that have for decades disputed, denied and subverted the identity of Macedonians in the Republic of Macedonia, not to speak of the policies of forced assimilation of the Macedonians in their own countries ( with the exception of the Macedonians in Mala Prespa, Albania). In other words a continuation of the policy of self-interested appeasement which often marked the period when Macedonia formed part of the former socialist Yugoslav Federation.

Recognition of the rights of the Macedonians in the neighbouring countries would serve to strengthen the security of the Republic itself by creating buffer zones of Macedonians on four of Macedonia’s external borders. However, since independence what we have witnessed is a formal renunciation of the obligation to defend the rights of Macedonians in Egej, Pirin and Albania via formal pledges in agreements signed with Greece and Bulgaria to not defend the rights of persons in those countries who are not citizens of the Republic of Macedonia. The Interim Agreement with Greece in 1995 and the Joint Declaration with Bulgaria of 1999 contained such restrictive clauses. Contrast this policy of retreat with the aggressive nationalistic demands contained in the Tirana Platform signed under the tutelage of Edi Rama in Albania.

The formal-as opposed to the current de facto-federalisation of the Republic of Macedonia would inevitably lead to the further weakening of the position of Macedonians in these neighbouring states where their existence is precarious enough as it is. For under such conditions, the national and moral “beacon of hope” represented by the Republic and the Macedonian character of the Macedonian state would be further diluted, thereby contributing to a concomitant weakening of the Macedonian identity of those Macedonians in Greece, Bulgaria and Albania. The struggle to defeat the Tirana Platform is literally a battle of life and death not only for the Republic of Macedonia, but also for Macedonians in Aegean and Pirin Macedonia and Albania.

--
BIOGRPAHY:

Dr Chris Popov was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1953 to parents originating from the Lerin and Kostur regions of Macedonia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Ph.D. in History. Dr Popov is active in Macedonian community circles in Melbourne and Australia.  He is now retired and was employed for 24 years by the Federal Department of Immigration (Australia).


In the late 1980s he was president of the Australian Macedonian Progressive Society and from 1994 until 2001 he was president of the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee and the Macedonian Human Rights Committee of Melbourne and Victoria. He has served on the Executive of the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee from 2008 to March 2017. He is a regular contributor to the Macedonian press and radio and on-line media both in Australia and Macedonia and has also contributed to the Melbourne Age newspaper, SBS Radio and Television (Australia).




Monday, April 10, 2017

AUSTRALIAN RALLY CALLS FOR MACEDONIAN UNITY





PROTEST AGAINST “TIRANA PLATFORM”

by Sasha Uzunov
Melbourne, Australia

A large rally by the local Macedonian community held outside the Republic of Macedonia’s Consulate in Melbourne, Australia, has thrown its support behind Macedonia’s President George Ivanov in his refusal to grant a mandate to the Social Democrats (SDSM) and its Albanian coalition partners in forming a government over what is called the Tirana or Albanian platform (see link), seen as a threat to the Republic of Macedonia’s very existence.

Dr Chris Popov, a long time Australian-Macedonian activist, (see link), read out a declaration which amongst other things called for the Tirana Platform to be rejected.

Despite the bad weather and a major sporting event which cut off some of the major streets of Melbourne and access to the Republic of Macedonia Consulate, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 or more people were at the rally.

Dr Popov said:


"As you all know we have gathered here today to express our support for the brave decision of Macedonia’s President Gjorgje Ivanov on 1 March to not grant a mandate to form government to Zoran Zaev on the basis that the SDS party and its ethnic Albanian allies have not renounced the Tirana Platform which represents a direct threat to Macedonia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and continued existence as a Macedonian state. We have also gathered to give and express our unreserved support for the those hundreds of thousands of patriotic Macedonians and members of other minorities who have for nearly six weeks now been demonstrating in nearly 40 cities all over Macedonia and have encouraged President Ivanov to hold firm in his determination not to grant a mandate to those who goal is to transform Macedonia into a bi-national state with a watered down Macedonian identity. 

"We wish both President Ivanov and the Macedonian protesters well in their efforts to safeguard and protect Macedonia as the homeland of the Macedonian people and applaud their successes to date. 
The Tirana Platform as you know was signed in Tirana , Albania on 7 January 2017 and contains the following main demands: the declaration of Albanians in Macedonia as a constituent state people, Albanian to be officially designated an official language throughout the whole territory of Macedonia, a debate on the flag, anthem and national coat of arms and a declaration that Albanians in Macedonia were subjected to genocide between 1912-1956. As such it is not a document designed to defend the rights of Albanians in Macedonia, but to lay the foundations for the acceptance of a federalist, indeed confederalist and separatist agenda, whose goal is the redefinition and eventual division of the Macedonian state. 

"We consider that the language, cultural and veto rights granted to the ethnic Albanian minority by the 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement more than satisfy international conventions and accords designed to protect minority groups and cultures. Indeed, this Agreement goes far beyond the provisions contained in such conventions and accords. Ethnic Albanians in Macedonia enjoy legal protections for their language, culture and rights which surpass those enjoyed by any minority group in Europe. Moreover, ethnic Albanians in the Balkans already have two states, Albania and Kosovo, where Albanian culture and language flourishes and dominates. They cannot have another state within a state in Macedonia at the expense of the Macedonian people for which Macedonia is the one and only state.


Dr Popov added that the legitimate battle with crime and corruption in Macedonia should not be used as a pretext to implement the Tirana Platform. He handed the declaration to the Macedonian Consul General in Melbourne, Ms Beti Korunovska.

Mr Nafis Redzepovski (left in photo), of Melbourne’s Macedonian Roma community said he was in support of a unitary state of Macedonia which had guaranteed the rights of the Roma people in that country.

“Republic of Macedonia is one of the most democratic states in the world when it comes to recognising the rights of the Roma…Where is the a Roma municipality in the world? Only in Macedonia…”

“We Roma are grateful for the Republic of Macedonia. We are first Macedonians then Roma.” 




ORGANISER OF THE RALLY: Zhivan Rendev: “All of us here want one Macedonia…one common Macedonia.” 



One of the chief organisers of the rally was Mr Zhivan Rendev (right in the above photo), who began as a student radical in Melbourne’s hothouse of counterculture, Melbourne’s Monash University, during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mr Rendev, than a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War faced imprisonment over his passionate beliefs. He has no political affiliations in Macedonia, neither with SDSM nor VMRO-DPMNE.

Was also instrumental in setting up a Social media page on Facebook called Viva Macedonia and prior to the rally made an emotional appeal to both major Macedonian political parties, VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM to bury their differences and oppose the Tirana Platform.



In 1990 he was the driving force behind a Macedonian academic seminar at Melbourne University which faced fierce Greek opposition. In 1975 Mr Rendev studied as an international student in the then Socialist Republic of Macedonia, then under Yugoslavist rule.



In the Republic of Macedonia, as a consequence of Yugoslavist rule (1944-91), any independent Macedonian behaviour has been collectively and wrongfully labelled as “nationalistic” and there is a tendency to mistakenly confuse Serbian cultural hegemony with genuine internationalism.

Australia’s Macedonian community is largely made up of Macedonians from the Republic of Macedonia and ethnic Macedonians from Greece who identify as Macedonian.

In 1912-1913 Macedonia, which had been under Ottoman Turkish occupation for nearly five centuries, was partitioned by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, and the Macedonian people subjected to brutal assimilation.

The part under brutal Serbian colonial rule (1912-1941), eventually gained de facto statehood, largely by its own efforts, in Tito’s communist federal Yugoslavia (1944-91) but which still fell short of full autonomy because of Serbian hegemony. It declared independence from Yugoslavia in September 1991.

Macedonians in the other parts, in Greece and Bulgaria, fared worse.

ANGER AT GREECE, US & EU TOO

Greece has waged a political campaign to destabilise the Republic of Macedonia by blocking its entry into the European Union and NATO. In the early 1990s Greece imposed an illegal economic embargo with the intention of strangling Macedonia to death.

In 2001, Albanian nationalists from the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA or UCK in Albanian), with US backing, launched an invasion of Macedonia to take territory in trying to establish a Greater Albania. (see The Guardian story - link here ). Ethnic Albanians make up about 15 to 20% of Macedonia’s population but because no accurate census has been held in decades it is hard to discover their true number.

In the 2001 war, Macedonian Police and Army forces were initially on the back foot until recovering the initiative and about to destroy the KLA when US, NATO and EU involvement threw a lifeline to the KLA and with the Macedonian government strong-armed into signing the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) giving the Albanians a de facto state within Macedonia. Also the ringleaders of the war, such as Ali Ahmeti were given an amnesty by the Macedonian state, largely by behind the scenes US pressure, instead of facing war crimes charges in The Hague.

Many Macedonians still feel enormous resentment and view the OFA as rewarding violence and partition of Macedonia by a thousand cuts.

In 2004, a territorial and administrative reorganisation of Macedonia was implemented which created ethnic Albanian majority areas and to “sweeten” this and cut off opposition the US recognised Macedonia by its constitutional name of Republic of Macedonia, instead of the humiliating FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) as imposed by Greece post 1991. Macedonian majority cities such as Struga in the west became Albanian because of the reorganisation. Struga has become a base for Albanian nationalist leader Ziadin Sela, who has gone on record as saying he would burn down the Macedonian Parliament if his demands were not met and recently in a racist manner questions the existence of Macedonians, inferring they are Serbs.

The Tirana Platform and its incredible and unrealistic set of demands reveals a desire for Albanian step by step separation from the Macedonian state and subverting Macedonian national identity under the guise of a “bi-national state Macedonia, which would leave the other ethnic groups at a disadvantage such as the Turks, Roma, Aromanians (Vlachs) Serbs and others in order to satisfy Albanian nationalist demands--And also a manner in which to change Macedonia’s name.

Some are saying that implementing the platform will lead to federalisation and partition of Macedonia between Kosovo and Bulgaria; another variant is partition between Kosovo and Serbia.



Yesterday’s rally also vented anger at the US and EU and their kowtowing to the Albanian nationalist bloc and neighbouring Greece over Macedonia and silence over ethnic Macedonians being denied full rights in Albania, Greece and Bulgaria, the latter two are both EU and NATO members. see link here


Australian Foreign Affairs reports from 1988-89 highlighting Greece’s intransigent behaviour towards anyone who identifies as Macedonian and the then Yugoslav, Greek and Bulgarian governments’ attempts to falsely portray Macedonians seeking independence as “extremists - no bomb throwers, hostage takers, etc. Alarmingly, a similar “template’ is now being used to tar Macedonians who oppose the Tirana Platform - even though it was the KLA which illegally invaded Macedonia in 2001.



Dr Chris Popov’s above statement in full, English translation:

Dear Fellow Macedonians , Dear Friends

It is a great honour for me to have been asked by the organisers of this rally to address you on this historic occasion.


As you all know we have gathered here today to express our support for the brave decision of Macedonia’s President Gjorgje Ivanov on 1 March to not grant a mandate to form government to Zoran Zaev on the basis that the SDS party and its ethnic Albanian allies have not renounced the Tirana Platform which represents a direct threat to Macedonia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and continued existence as a Macedonian state. We have also gathered to give and express our unreserved support for the those hundreds of thousands of patriotic Macedonians and members of other minorities who have for nearly six weeks now been demonstrating in nearly 40 cities all over Macedonia and have encouraged President Ivanov to hold firm in his determination not to grant a mandate to those who goal is to transform Macedonia into a bi-national state with a watered down Macedonian identity. We wish both President Ivanov and the Macedonian protesters well in their efforts to safeguard and protect Macedonia as the homeland of the Macedonian people and applaud their successes to date. 


The Tirana Platform as you know was signed in Tirana , Albania on 7 January 2017 and contains the following main demands: the declaration of Albanians in Macedonia as a constituent state people, Albanian to be officially designated an official language throughout the whole territory of Macedonia, a debate on the flag, anthem and national coat of arms and a declaration that Albanians in Macedonia were subjected to genocide between 1912-1956. As such it is not a document designed to defend the rights of Albanians in Macedonia, but to lay the foundations for the acceptance of a federalist, indeed confederalist and separatist agenda, whose goal is the redefinition and eventual division of the Macedonian state. 

We consider that the language, cultural and veto rights granted to the ethnic Albanian minority by the 2001 Ohrid Framework Agreement more than satisfy international conventions and accords designed to protect minority groups and cultures. Indeed, this Agreement goes far beyond the provisions contained in such conventions and accords. Ethnic Albanians in Macedonia enjoy legal protections for their language, culture and rights which surpass those enjoyed by any minority group in Europe. Moreover, ethnic Albanians in the Balkans already have two states, Albania and Kosovo, where Albanian culture and language flourishes and dominates. They cannot have another state within a state in Macedonia at the expense of the Macedonian people for which Macedonia is the one and only state.

We therefore condemn the acceptance of the so-called “Tirana platform” by the SDSM party as a condition for forming government with its three Albanian allies. Promises of greater economic development and higher living standards-albeit illusory-and the continuation of the fight against official crime and corruption do not justify the acceptance of a platform which was drafted in a foreign capital and has serious implications for the survival of the Macedonian state. We do not accept that the so-called concessions made by Zaev on 11 March-that is, that there would not be bi-lingual banknotes or insignia on army uniforms- amount to a rejection of the platform. Indeed, he has still left the door open to discussion with his Albanian partners on matters such as the flag, coat of arms and anthem and has accepted Albanian ultimatums for the greater official use of the Albanian language. Zaev must tell us what he has bargained away in his naked lust for power. President Ivanov rightly refused to grant him a mandate after these so-called concessions.

The attempts by the Albanian parties, especially DUI, to impose the Albanian language as an official language in the whole of Macedonia, including in those areas where no or very few ethnic Albanians live, will do very little to improve the living standards and quality of life of those it claims to represent and will increase ethnic tensions in the country. DUI did not promote any such language policy during the recent election campaign and its focus on this issue as a condition for forming or supporting a SDSM-led government can only be viewed as an attempt to deflect public attention from its involvement in the corruption and plunder of public money and resources which marked the years in power of the VMRO-DUI coalition government. The acceptance by SDSM of the so-called Law on the Use of the Albanian Language which reportedly contains huge fines for non-compliance, is nothing more than a shameless capitulation in its quest to regain power and will further erode Macedonian identity and culture, not only in Macedonia, but throughout the Balkans where Macedonian minorities are denied even the most basic of human rights.

We call on the membership of both VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM to vehemently oppose any attempts by their parties’ leaderships to grant formal official status to the Albanian language as the price for forming government. We also call on the Macedonian people and those Macedonian citizens belonging to smaller minority groups such as the Turks, Roma, Serbs,Vlachs and Bosnians to peacefully employ all legal means at their disposal to prevent the adoption of Albanian as a second official language. 

The leadership of VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM are put on notice that any such agreement which further erodes our sovereignty and independence will be treated as a treacherous act for which they will never be forgiven by the Macedonian nation.

We demand that the Republic of Macedonia ceases this degrading charade of discussions with Greece about our name. Our name is Republic of Macedonia and no one has the right to negotiate any change of our name now or ever.

We demand that the EU and its emissaries,Western European governments and the USA via its ambassador Bailey, stop their blatant meddling in Macedonia’s internal affairs in order to bring Zaev to power.

Finally, we demand that an urgent, credible Census of the Population in Macedonia be undertaken to conclusively and fairly determine the size and percentage of the various ethnic minorities. This will bring an end to the false assertions and manipulations being used by the Albanian parties to extract benefits and advantages far in excess of those commensurate to their actual numbers and percentage.

The Republic of Macedonia was not handed to us on a plate. Many generations fought and died for the establishment of a Macedonian state and we are not going to allow it to be taken away from us in order to satisfy someone’s thirst for power and the appetites of those who wish to create a Greater Albania.

That is why ladies and gentlemen I call on you to continue to support and express your support for the protests in Macedonia and President Ivanov’s refusal to grant a mandate to form government to Zoran Zaev.

The Republic of Macedonia is the only homeland we have and it must be defended with all our strength. Long Live Macedonia, long live the Macedonian people.