After more than 25 years and countless of rounds of UN-mediated talks, the governments of Greece and the FYROM finally announced they had agreed to end the row over what to call the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, coming up with the compromise name of “Republic of Northern Macedonia”.
Australian groups representing the interests of Skopje and Athens are disappointed with this decision. They may desire polar opposite results, but they are on the same page as far as their condemnation of the Prespes agreement is concerned. And it is clear that both Macedonian Australian Pride, representing the interests of FYROM and the Greek Pan-Macedonian Association for Melbourne and Victoria (PMAMV) would like to see the agreement scrapped.
Greek Australian Chris Moutzikis, chairman of the PMAMV, said that he was disappointed that the Parliament of Skopje had ratified the agreement last week. “We were hoping that it would be rejected before it reached Greece,” Mr Moutzikis told Neos Kosmos.
“We believe that the Prespes agreement doesn’t do enough to alleviate our concerns.”
MORE: Read the full Prespes agreement transcript here: Prespes Agreement.
He points to red lines, such as “the recognition of a Macedonian language and ethnicity and even though there is an asterisk regarding a Macedonian Slavic language.”
“We are concerned that the current government entered and accepted an agreement with inaccuracies for the sake of convenience,” Moutzikis said.
Macedonian Australian Pride President Nemas Pojmanovski agrees. “Our concerns are broader than the agreement itself, which in many aspects has flaws and unappraised concessions. When one looks at how the contentiously elected government (of Skopje) conducted itself over the past 12 months, it is clear that the decision to ratify the Prespes agreement was against the will of the citizens as only 37 per cent of the (FYROM) population participated in the referendum. Despite the failed referendum the Zaev led government proceeded to lobby with minorities to sustain a two-thirds majority in Parliament and commence amending the constitution. The entire process lacked transparency.”
As a member of Skopje’s diaspora in Australia, he believes that FYROM’s constitutional amendments were not necessary to resolve the dispute. “The name, history and identity, although disputed, should not be compromised to obtain entry into organisations such as EU/NATO,” he said.
Australians from Skopje are currently working together to present a formal document outlining the viewpoints of the diaspora to be presented to FYROM President Gjorge Ivanov who has the power to block the agreement despite its ratification by FYROM’s Parliament.
Mr Pojmanovski even empathises with Greeks opposed to the agreement. “The major concern that Greeks may have is what concessions would (Greek PM Alexis) Tsipras make with other parties to get the necessary votes, and what price would Greece pay for it. Just like how the process unfolded in FYROM,” he said.
“Moving forward we hope to see the Prespes Agreement replaced with an straightforward agreement for the purpose of the two nations without constitutional amendments,” said Pojmanovski.
The Greek side would also like to see amendments, with Mr Moutzikis also pointing out that the “agreement doesn’t correct the wrongs of the past”. He supports the rally taking place in Athens on 20 January. “We do not feel the need for further rallies in Australia as the Australian government is more supportive of our position than the Greek one is, and we are very grateful for that,” he said.
He hopes that the rally will be enough to sway Greek politicians to make the “right” decision. The diaspora of Skopje hopes for the same thing – for different reasons, of course.