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Australian bipartisan support needed for Macedonia and its diaspora in Australia

By Ordan Andreevski - posted Tuesday, 4 June 2013


With the 2013 Australian federal election looming, a foreign policy area that is in need of political leadership is for the Australian Government and the Coalition to show bipartisan support by recognising the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name.

It is time to review the biased and discriminatory policy and to ask who benefits from it? The current bipartisan policy on this issue was crafted in 1994 as a backroom deal between the major parties. This was a case of placing domestic special interest politics ahead of good public and foreign policy, solid democracy and robust multiculturalism. The policy decision on Macedonia's name was made without any debate in the Australian Parliament, without any scrutiny in the mainstream media and think tanks and without any input from the 100,000 strong Australian Macedonian community.

The policy of delegitimising Macedonia is not in Australia's national interest. It also does not contribute to its international reputation as a creative middle power with leadership responsibilities at the UN Security Council. The policy is at odds with 135 countries that have recognised Macedonia under its constitutional name including the USA, UK, Canada, Russia, China, India, Indonesia and many others in our region. The unsustainable policy also does not contribute to peace and development in South East Europe. The primary beneficiaries of the status quo are the Hellenic Republic which continues to engage in 19th century ultra-nationalistic policies despite being a discredited member and a huge financial burden on the European Union. Australia's international reputation suffers, because the major parties continue to place the interests of the bankrupt Hellenic Republic ahead of its own national interest and out of balance with the rest of the world.

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It is also time to conduct a contemporary and pragmatic review of Australia's relationship with Macedonia, whose commitment to peace, democracy, multiculturalism and NATO lead security partnerships is unquestionable.

Australia and Macedonia enjoy friendly relations based on sharing common interests, common values and 100 year strong people to people ties. The formal relations between the two countries were established in 1994. At the time Australia chose to establish diplomatic ties with Macedonia without questioning the Greek influenced UN resolutions that forced Macedonia to be given a temporary name for use in New York and to enter into lengthy, un-necessary and unprecedented negotiations with it Hellenic neighbour over Macedonia's legitimate constitutional name. Today, the Australian Government and the Coalition are continuing with the same dysfunctional and discredited policy despite the significant progress and transformation that Macedonia has achieved since it gained its independence in 1991. Macedonia and Slovenia were the first states that made up Yugoslavia to meet the EU requirements for membership. Macedonia like Slovenia, transformed itself into a robust democracy, a vibrant market economy and a strong partner of NATO missions in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Slovenia was quickly admitted into the EU and NATO without any question whereas Macedonia is still exposed to humiliating discrimination at the UN, NATO, the EU , the Olympic Games, at Eurovision and in the Australian Parliament. Such institutional discrimination is totally unwarranted and incompatible with the UN Charter which guarantees every sovereign nation the right to self-identification.

For the last 22 years, the Macedonian community in Australia has organised street protests, made submissions and sent letters to the Prime Minister and to the Foreign Minister of Australia to put an end to the injustice and to recognise the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name.

The United Macedonian Diaspora has also been presenting a compelling case for need to open an Australian embassy in Macedonia as outlined in its UMD Submission to the Inquiry into Australia's Overseas Representation which is currently under active consideration by the Australian Government. Such a diplomatic post will serve the unmet needs of Australians who regularly travel there and help expand Australia's business, investment and other interests in the region. It will also enable the indigenous Macedonian and other communities in the region to have easy access to Australian diplomatic and consular services without the need to travel to other countries which are not very welcoming to them. This is especially the case in the Hellenic republic which has seen the rise of neo-Nazism through dangerous political parties like Golden Dawn.

Most recently the United Macedonian Diaspora has asked Senator Bob Carr and his counterpart the Hon Julie Bishop to meet at their earliest convenience with the members of the Australia Macedonia Parliamentary Friendship Group Co-Chaired by Stephen Jones MP and Luke Simpkins MP and to help address the modest and legitimate demands of the Macedonian community of Australia. Both leaders have been advised that their leadership will be deeply appreciated by the Republic of Macedonia and its diaspora in Australia. The United Macedonian Diaspora is organising a Gala Dinner in Sydney on 5 July 2013 to celebrate the Advancement of Australia Macedonia Relations. Let us celebrate together something very positive, timely and of best diplomatic impact. The United Macedonian Diaspora will be recommending to the President and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia to name two prominent streets in Skopje after the Hon Senator Bob Carr and after the Hon Julie Bishop in recognition of their leadership.

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About the Author

Ordan Andreevski is Director of Australian Outreach, United Macedonian Diaspora.

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