As Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are preparing to once again start discussions to resolve their ongoing dispute, an Australian politician decided to offer an opinion and urge the Federal Government to sanction the appropriation of a historical name.
Speaking at a Queanbeyan ‘Macedonian’ Community event to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas, to an audience that included FYROM’s Ambassador to Australia, Vele Trpevski Acting Premier of New South Wales and member for Monaro John Barilaro called on the Australian Government to recognise the Republic of Macedonia.
The Deputy Premier of NSW began by a reference to Australia Day as a celebration of the country’s multicultural nature and praised the “Macedonian Community” for its contribution to the state. “Of course, I’m the son of Italian migrants and I understand the story of migration and immigration the great story of culture, religion and faith,” he said. “What I have always loved about the Macedonian community in Queanbeyan is how tight you have remained tight, how you have remained proud of who you are and you raise your children to be proud that they are, of course, the sons and daughters of the immigrants who chose Australia to be their home.”
Addressing an audience that included the FYROM’s ambassador to Australia, Vele Trpevski, the Acting Premier went on to state that he “will always acknowledge the Republic of Macedonia” and called for the federal government to do the same: “I hope 2019 – and I know that the Ambassador is very strong on this – is the year that the world comes to its senses, that Australia as a nation, the Federal government comes to its senses and acknowledges as the only rightful name the Republic of Macedonia”, he said.
Deputy Premier Barilaro finished his speech by offering a present to the community, a NSW Government grant of $150,000 for the “Macedonian” Community Centre. The whole incident was captured on video and circulated through social media, much to the dismay and anger of the Greek-Australian community of NSW.
Given that these comments were made while John Barilaro was Acting Premier of NSW, this attempt to weigh in on a matter of Australian Foreign Policy, raises questions. Neos Kosmos tried to contact the Deputy Premier, as well as premier Gladys Berejiklian, requesting an official statement. “This Government has always been a proud supporter of Greece and the Greek community,” a spokesperson to the Premier stated. “Mr Barilaro’s comments do not in any way reflect the NSW Government’s position on this issue.”
The Deputy Premier has yet to offer a response.
Watch the video here: