The Australian Hellenic Council in Western Australia (AHCWA) has written to John Hyde, WA’s Shadow Minister for Culture, Multicultural Interests and Citizenship, requesting clarification of statements he allegedly made in recent meetings with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) parliamentarians.

Hyde met with the Chairman of FYROM Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Antonio Milososki in Skopje on July 22. The Macedonian Information Agency reported the meeting under the headline “Efforts made towards speeding up the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name,”

A separate report published on the website of the Assembly of Macedonia stated that “the MP Mr Hyde underlined that Australian MPs are working on proper acknowledgement of the Republic of Macedonia by Australia”. The letter to Hyde from Con Berbatis – the AHC’s National Coordinator – asked the WA Shadow Minister to confirm if such statements were made, and goes on to request that if the media reports prepared in Skopje are accurate, that a formal retraction be issued by Hyde’s office, re-affirming the Shadow Minister’s adherence to the Australian Federal Government’s policy in relation to the ongoing discussions regarding the renaming of the FYROM.

The letter from the AHC sought to remind Hyde that arrangements for the interim measures (agreed in 1994 by the United Nations) to refer to FYROM as the required nomenclature still apply, and such a policy will be maintained until agreement is reached by Athens and Skopje.

Meanwhile, there are strong signs that the United States’ position on FYROM, and the issue of its renaming, has moved significantly under the Obama administration. Legislation proposed last week by the House of Representatives, under the title of “The Foreign Relations Authorisation Act” proposes new limitations on US aid to FYROM. Further irritating Skopje, the Bill referred to the FYROM under that name, rather than under the name ‘Republic of Macedonia’, as US official documents have done since the Bush administration chose to unilaterally recognise FYROM as the ‘Republic of Macedonia’ in 2004. The legislation states: “Greece has demonstrated an enormous good will gesture in agreeing that ‘Macedonia’ may be included in the future name of FYROM, as long as that term is combined with a geographic qualifier that makes it clear that there are no territorial ambitions on the part of the FYROM with regard to the historical boundaries of the Greek province of Macedonia.”

The proposed legislation also made clear the view view that “FYROM continues to utilise materials that violate provisions of the United Nations-brokered interim agreement between FYROM and Greece, regarding incendiary rallies, rhetoric, [and] propaganda”, and that future assistance offered by the US to the former Yugoslav republic “should be conditioned on the FYROM’s willingness to engage in meaningful discussions with Greece.” The Bill places limitations on the use of US assistance funds for programs and activities “that directly or indirectly promote incendiary rallies, rhetoric, or propaganda by state-controlled agencies or encourage acts by private entities likely to incite violence, hatred, or hostility, including support for printing and publishing of textbooks, maps, and teaching aids that may include inaccurate information on the histories and geographies of Greece and FYROM”. The legislation is seen as yet another setback for Skopje, after Hillary Clinton stated during her recent visit to Athens that FYROM must work to reach a compromise with Greece if they are to be allowed to accede to the European Union and NATO. The Australian Macedonian Advisory Council have said they welcome the Bill and would like to see further action taken by the US Government to discourage the provocative and unproductive attitude of the Government of the FYROM.