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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.

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