Interviews and Speeches

Address by Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov at the Parliamentary Committee on European Affairs on the Agreement with Greece.



Nikola Dimitrov: Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.

Dear Artan,

Distinguished citizens,

Distinguished Committee members,

I will not be particularly brief in my address. These days are historic, and even more so because of the signing of the Agreement, the adoption of the Law Proposal by the Government and this Committee debate and probably tomorrow, the general debate in the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia.

I believe it is obvious why we have a shortened procedure and why the Government decided to propose that the Law Proposal on ratification of the Agreement between Macedonia and Greece is considered in a shortened procedure. We don't have a lot of time, on Tuesday we have a very important discussion at the level of Foreign Ministers within the General Affairs Council of the EU in Luxembourg, and if we want to do everything we can to catch the European train, in accordance with the Agreement, it is important to do everything in our power so that we can inform Greece in time that we have done so, provided you decide to adopt the Law Proposal on ratification, for Greece to inform the Council of the European Union that it withdraws its objections.

Also, I think it hardly needs explaining why this Law Proposal is marked with the European flag. We have been a candidate country since 2005. We received the ninth recommendation to start accession negotiations by the European Commission. We have become experts on waiting and this difference with our neighbours in Athens was the door which kept us locked in the waiting room.

Why did Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn attend the ceremony of the signing in Prespa or the Prespa region? Because it is evident that this Agreement is our attempt to unlock that door and to leave the waiting room.

Allow me to make a personal remark – I have been involved in this issue personally for a long time, since 2003, when I was appointed as a special envoy to the discussions for overcoming the difference regarding the name with Greece. The date on the two Resolutions 817 and 845, shows how long we have been dealing with this problem – since 1993 – and even before that, we were dealing with this problem and we adopted the first constitutional amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia in the context of our membership in the United Nations.

When I was the Ambassador to the United States, in Washington, I was among the key people who worked on the recognition of our constitutional name by the United States. When I was in The Hague, my home away from home, as Ambassador Plomp knows [N.B. indicating to Ambassador Plomp], I was a co-agent of the Republic of Macedonia in the dispute we had before the International Court of Justice. This is my third and greatest challenge to be a part of a new generation, a new way of making policies by a Government which decided to face the problem and to do everything it its power to resolve it. This is a problem which, like a stone, drags back our prosperity, statehood and progress; a problem that, in a way, makes us a country with uncompleted statehood, with a provisional reference we have been looking at for years – especially those of us which were involved in international relations – at all meetings in the United Nations, at all OSCE meetings, at all meetings of the Council of Europe, at all meetings of the European Union. The European Union, our goal in addition to the NATO Alliance, where it is a problem to mention the Macedonian language, and with which we have not signed a single agreement mentioning the Macedonian language or which is signed in the Macedonian language, even though in the United Nations it is stated that our language is Macedonian.

What do I mean by historic days? I mean that we are entering the final phase of an era of creating independence, building our statehood, obtaining international legitimacy, and a phase filled with challenges and uncertainties, primarily regarding the Macedonian people and I am very grateful to the members of the other communities in the Republic of Macedonia for the unity we demonstrated during this process for an issue which is so crucial and essential for the Macedonian people.

Is our language Macedonian, are we Macedonians? I believe we are also at a crossroads, and we have to choose between the past and the future. Yesterday, or the day before, in an interview for a foreign medium I said that we are also at a crossroads between the forces of patriotism and the forces of nationalism. I think I made a mistake. I think that it is also important, for the aim of reconciliation and unity at home, to admit that those who have a different opinion regarding this historic moment and this historic crossroads are also patriots who see things differently. They may not be completely aware of what is at stake and of the future, they may be not informed enough, but I think that is important in this debate, in this highly important issue, to accept that we all love our Macedonia and we all want to succeed, we all want to preserve our identity, we all want to open the doors to our future for future generations, irrespective of our different opinion.

The regional, global context is also very important. We live in a time when the world is uncertain, when systems of rules of play, how countries cooperate and communicate with each other, are shaken, we live in a region where there are still major issues unresolved, and since we have been locked in the waiting room for so long, missing one train after another, maybe we are not sure, but we have to think about what and when might the next opportunity come if we miss the one we have now.

It is a fact that for several years the Balkan was not particularly in the focus of the European Union. It is a fact that this year, with the Strategy, with the Bulgarian Presidency, the spotlight is back on the Balkans, and it is a fact that despite all major problems that the European Union is facing internally, the European future is also being taken into account, and it is a fact that in Sofia we had a Summit 15 years after the first Summit at which the European promise to the Balkans was given.

We, in the way make policies and political decisions, in the past 27 years of independence, are very aware of the responsibility that comes with making decisions and policies. However, we are not aware enough of the responsibility that comes with not making decisions and policies. It is easy to judge with this historic perspective. As I already mentioned, I have been involved in this issue since 2003; I cannot say that there weren't periods in the past – we even heard some such claims – when we could have received better solutions than those we have now. The missed opportunity is an enormous responsibility; because we have a lost generation and because those who govern the country and think about the direction in which we are headed tomorrow, next year, in five years, in 10 years, have the duty to do their best and, following their conscience and consulting the entire expert public, to sincerely see what it is that time can improve, so that we could eventually come to the decision to wait two or five years for the next opportunity.

I believe that there are not many, our estimate is that there are no elements that would give us the right to step aside; for any Minister of Foreign Affairs, for any Prime Minister, for anyone who feels the responsibility for their homeland it is the easiest thing to step aside and say – when it comes to this issue, I maintain my positions, this issue is too “hot”, I will not touch it, I will not try to resolve it. The responsibility for missing the opportunity is big, particularly when we take into account the global and the European and the regional context. It is a fact that Macedonia's membership in NATO will support, strengthen and guarantee the statehood and security of the Republic of Macedonia. It is a fact that the start of accession negotiations with the EU will create a track, a framework – and I think we started on that path ourselves, regardless of the negotiations – where the old policy will be replaced with a new policy of accountability, transparency, rule of law, equality before the law of everyone, particularly of public office-holders, politicians. It is a fact that this is the path which leads to prosperity and this is the path which will allow future generations to compete head-to-head with other Europeans in things which are important today – the state of our education system, our healthcare system, employment, salaries, our economic production etc.

Furthermore, it is important – and I am still discussing the context – to mention that we scarified our reality in the name of – I am trying to be delicate here, to find the proper adjective – a mythology. What we are doing today is we are scarifying the mythology to get the reality. We, and honestly, I, foremost as a citizen– maybe I do not have the right to say this as the Minister of Foreign Affairs – am offended and I think it implies an inferiority complex for us not to be firm and confident in ourselves, in our identity without wandering two thousand years in the past. And I believe it is important to break with that mythology or ethno-mythology, even apart from the dispute with Greece and apart from the Agreement we signed. Even if we leave them out, for our collective mental health as a Macedonian people it is important that we are our own people and we are proud of what we are.

And the things that made us a subject of ridicule, including New York Times headlines naming Skopje the capital of kitsch, are not something which we should pride ourselves on. We should preserve our culture and our identity in an authentic manner, not by basking in other people’s glory. Not to mention that nations are a category of the XIX, perhaps early XX century.

For me this Agreement – and I have to be honest and concise – this Agreement understandably is not perfect, is not ideal because it reflects a compromise. The fact that both oppositions, in Macedonia and in Greece, call it a disgrace and capitulation indicates that it is a compromise.

With this compromise we and our Greek friends aspired during the past months to preserve that which is most important to us. We, on our part, tried and succeeded in preserving the identity, and all attributes of the Macedonian people, whereas Greece tried, successfully, to get a distinction – between the country Macedonia and the Greek region of Macedonia. That is the essence of this Agreement. I will present the main articles one by one and explain what we discussed, how we understood the articles etc.

Had this agreement been written by the Macedonian side only, it would have undoubtedly been better for us, from our perspective, but it would not have been accepted by the Greek side. Had it been written by the Greek side, it would have been much better for them, but we would not have accepted it. That is what a compromise is. For me this text is a responsibility, patriotism, courage – I already mentioned something particularly important, in my opinion – we are sacrificing the myths for the reality. We did everything we could in defence of our national interests, making sure we did not bring the possibility of the Agreement into question. I think our Greek friends did the same. It is very important that we ask ourselves what is the alternative and where does it lead us and what are the uncertainties and risks if we do not follow this path. Perhaps it would be good if those who are opposed, both oppositions, come up with their own agreement. I believe that we will read it wholeheartedly, and if it contains these basic identity elements we will have the dignity to accept it.

Since there are not any members of the opposition present, I will try to debate with a virtual opposition and say something about the various things I heard in the past days – fears, uncertainties, dilemmas etc. This morning, at the plenary session of the Assembly I was surprised to hear something regarding the constitutionality and competence of the Government to conclude international relations on behalf of the Republic of Macedonia, and I would like to mention some such agreements. I do not have the text of the law in front of me, but Article 3 of the Law on international agreements and ratification stated that the President of the Republic of Macedonia concludes international agreements on behalf of the Republic of Macedonia; however the Government of the Republic of Macedonia has the competence to conclude international agreements on behalf of the Republic of Macedonia as well. Furthermore, it states – thank you [N.B. a copy of the Law is handed to the Minister] – in which cases and in which fields the Government has the competence to conclude international agreements on behalf of the Republic of Macedonia, and many of them are encompassed in this agreement. Among them are security, diplomatic and consular relations – this agreement, among other things, upgrades the relations from the level of liaison offices to embassies, which is a basic and elementary level of relations between two countries – economic cooperation, cooperation in the field of education, healthcare etc.

I am surprised that a leadership which dragged us into a corner, cost us numerous friends, made our job more difficult because of ethno-mythology...that not only does this leadership not help when we finally have people that are ready to carry this burden without thinking about their political future, but they obstruct and attack and call this agreement an illegal construction and capitulation and unconstitutional etc. And what did they do for so many years? Who stood in their way of finding a solution? On 14 July 2017, when I was in Athens, the decision was mine; I consulted the Prime Minister, who agreed, we jointly made the decision to visit the Republic of Greece first. This process was initiated because we decided to do so. We did not feel pressure from our friends from the West, but we felt the responsibility to face the highest mountain. The Prime Minister agreed and, if you remember, our first joint visit was to Brussels, and I visited Athens individually as a Minister on 14 July. Who stopped them from initiating these processes, and if there was any… For, the path to NATO and particularly to the European Union was much more open and well-paved and wider then. The path today is much narrower and steeper because of the crisis that the European Union has been facing in the past years, beginning with the crisis resulting from the crash of the financial markets in the United States. What was their reasoning, and it is simply rude – but I will refrain myself because I do not think that it is very useful to widen the gap and criticise – but there needs to be an elementary, moral virtue; they dragged us into a hole, we climbed out of it, took a breath, stepped out of the trench, looked the problem in the eye, and it is fair that if they are not helping, they should at least not hinder us.

As regards the Constitution, since constitutional amendments are also mentioned. The procedure for constitutional amendments is familiar. Is there a more honest and more patriotic duty for this Government and for all of you, for this composition of the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia at this moment than, with a clear conscience and thoughtful look – for this is not an easy task, resolving historic problems is not an easy task – to create an opportunity for our citizens to decide about their future and the future of their children. When we appeal to the people, we cannot have 100 or 1000 or 5000 or 1000 persons claiming to be the people. We know how the people express themselves, how they decide in a democracy, by the most sacred direct expression – the referendum. Therefore, there is no more sacred duty for me, the Government or you, than to create an opportunity for the citizens to decide and to explain to them why we took this burden upon ourselves, why we chose to look the problem in the eye and carry the weight of this mountain.

This means that it is not the Agreement that changes the Constitution, but the will of the people, and if we have their support, we will work on a two-thirds majority in Parliament, respecting the procedures of our Constitution and of the Rules and Procedure of the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia on how the process starts and develops.

Now I will go through the Agreement, skipping the Preamble, and moving on to Article 1, which is much more substantial. Because of the distress and confusion on social media, I will speak in details about several elements of Article 1. The official name will be Republic of North Macedonia or the short name North Macedonia. Does this mean – and I appeal to you, journalists, present in the gallery as well – does this mean changing or adding a reference in front of the main essence of the name Macedonia? “Republic” is also a reference which indicates that in our type of government, we elect the President, and we do not have a Royal Family. “Socialist” was a reference as well, “People’s” was a reference, and “North” is a geographic reference. “North” is an adjective. The noun in the name “North Macedonia” is “Macedonia”. This is the distinction and this is a fact and we cannot escape from it. It is a fact that of the historical region of Macedonia under the Ottoman Empire we have one part, Greece has one part, Bulgaria has a part and Albania has a small part. The nationality will be Macedonian/Citizen of North Macedonia, as will be registered in all travel documents; this is line B of Article 1. Thus, Macedonian or, keeping in mind that we are not all Macedonians and that we live in a multiethnic society, both will be registered in travel documents. This is nationality [N.B. in English]. There was an odd debate regarding the translation, in our language both North and Northern are translated as Severna Makedonija [N.B. in Macedonian] so, there are no dilemmas here. The official language will be the Macedonian language. It is true that our language has been listed as Macedonian in the UN system since 1977, but it is also true that we, as a country, have had a problem with signing international agreements in the Macedonian language, we have had problems with mentioning it in the cabins where the interpreters are – thank you for the interpreting [N.B. addressing the interpreters] – where it says “press 1 for Macedonian”, it was difficult to have Macedonian listed among the languages, whereas now we will have the Macedonian language, and when we join the EU we will have the Macedonian language there as well. This means that Greece is recognising our right to feel as we feel, we are Macedonian, I am Macedonian and will always be Macedonian, who speaks Macedonian; I speak a little English as well and I would like to learn other languages, but I will always speak my native Macedonian language. This puts an end to uncertainties; we will finally be able to sign international agreements. Do you know how we signed them until now? The majority of them, sometimes even with countries which bilaterally address us with our constitutional name – always by exchange of letters, particularly in the context of the United Nations, in the context of the EU, the Council of Europe, and many others. Thus, when we have a multilateral agreement and 50 countries are signing the agreement, the Republic of Macedonia joins the agreement, but does not sign it because it says former Yugoslav – also adjectives – Republic of Macedonia, but in a letter it says “we join, we accept the rights and obligations under this agreement”, so it would not be obliged to sign as former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It always felt as if we were not completely involved, as if we were not equal. This Agreement puts an end to this phase and therefore I claim that this is the end of an era, of uncertainties and challenges regarding our identity and issues of identity, and even our statehood. The terms Macedonia and Macedonian have the meaning stated in Article 7 of this Agreement. What is the idea of Article 7? Article 7 refers to the different meanings of Macedonia and Macedonian for Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, and I think that there is a shared growth here, both on our part to understand what this means for them and on their part to understand what this means for us. The big mistake of the antiquisation and the reason why this antiqusiation was met with such intense opposition in Greece was that it led to the blending of the two meanings. So, in Greece the concept Macedonian and their Macedonia are mainly connected to the Hellenic ancient cultural heritage of that time and how they interpret those relations, that connection etc. is their business, including the regional belonging of the region Macedonia in Greece. In my understanding, maybe I am oversimplifying it, this is it. Here there is also a big delusion that we have given something up. I am the son of a Refugee Child. My father came to the Republic of Macedonia when he was 11 in 1948. I will finish my address with a point from that part of our history. We say that these terms, Macedonia and Macedonian, designate our territory, our language and our people. This means Macedonian people, Macedonian man, Macedonian woman, Macedonians etc. and their attributes with their own history, culture and heritage. This is the idea of Article 7, that in order to resolve this problem, we need to find a way to accept that we understand it differently than them and that these two understandings are not contradictory and opposed but complementary.  

I will go back to Article 1 – you remember that we skipped to Article 7 because of the line “the terms Macedonia and Macedonian have the meaning given under Article 7”. The country code, with the exception of licence plates – where it will be replaced with NM or NMK for North Macedonia, MK with an added N for North – for all other purposes will remain MK or MKD as officially assigned by the International Standardisation Organisation. As regards line F, the adjectival reference to the country, its official organs, and other public entities will be in accordance with the official or short name i.e. “of the Republic of North Macedonia” or “of North Macedonia”. Other adjectival usages, including those referring to private entities actors, that are not related to the state and public entities, are not established by law and do not enjoy financial support from the State for activities outside of the state may be in line with Article 7, where it is stated that we have a different understanding of what Macedonia and Macedonian refer to. The use of the adjective for activities may, of course, be without restrictions. What does this mean? This means that the Embassy of – in the future, provided that the process is successfully completed, provided that Greece ratifies the Agreement and following the accession protocols of the NATO Alliance, this Agreement will enter into force; I will speak about the implementation shortly – the Embassy of the Republic of North Macedonia in Berlin, the Federal Republic of Germany, will be able to organise Days of Macedonian Culture or Days of Macedonian Poetry etc. There is an attempt to use the official name when it comes to the state and state organs, and to freely use Macedonia and Macedonians as well when it regards identity. In relation to commercial use, we are creating a process which states that all possible problems will be solved through good faith and that no provisions in this Article which regulate the commercial use will not affect the status quo, will not affect the situation, until a mutual agreement is reached as provided in the process. Furthermore, as regards the procedures, one of the procedures is the ratification of this Law proposal in parliament. As soon as this is done, we will notify Athens that we have done so, and Athens will notify the EU and NATO that it withdraws its objections. Following this, the next steps are a political decision to start negotiations with us, and an invitation for membership in the Alliance.

Because I have been involved in this process for a long time, I would like to say something about the scope and about the relation between the name and the scope, in a way replying or referring to the position that we will not permit constitutional amendments in order to change the constitutional name. The name and the scope have always been closely related. If there is a name which is easily acceptable, for example the name State of Macedonia, all political parties regardless of their ideology, have always accepted the broadest possible scope. This means that there cannot be a position regarding the scope only. Also, I want to personally assure you, given that we had different meetings every week, that there would not have been an agreement without resolving this issue and this is not nice, but that was the choice between having an agreement and not having an agreement regarding this issue of overall use. And now that I see the reactions in the Greek political debate and public I am not surprised and I believe that someone who was not involved in the discussions could make that assessment. As a matter of fact, I would like to reduce this position ad absurdum – if we had accepted some name, for example some sort of Balkan Republic, for international use, and Greece had agreed for us to keep the Republic of Macedonia as our constitutional name domestically, would that have been a more acceptable option? Therefore the name and the scope are inseparably linked, and you cannot have a position on the one, without having a position on the other as well.

Article 2 of the Agreement refers primarily to Greece’s obligations regarding not objecting to other memberships, other integrations; it states what I have already said about the letters from the EU or NATO.

Article 3 notes the inviolability of the existing border, the respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political integrity of both parties, mutual respect, and states that we will refrain from threats and use of force etc.

Article 4 concerns irredentism, each of the parties commits to not make or authorise any irredentist statements or endorse any such statements made by those who purport to act on behalf or in the interest of one of the parties. There will be no unfriendly activities.

We already discussed Article 7.

Article 8 is something we inherited and in a way results from the Interim Agreement which, it is worth noting, was also signed by a Minister of Foreign Affairs, but was a much more restrictive document than this one regarding the fields it encompasses and regulates. If either party believes one or more symbols constituting part of its historic or cultural patrimony is being used by the other party, it shall bring such alleged use to the attention of the other party, and the other party shall take appropriate corrective action to effectively address the issue and ensure the respect for the said patrimony. This is the substance of Article 8.

We have obligations regarding the flag bearing the Kutlesh or Vergina Sun, which are not particularly respected, especially by citizens and private actors. This obligation is nothing new. This obligation comes from the Interim Agreement of 1995. I think that, at least while I was growing up – and I do not see a reason not to say this or be ashamed of it… I was becoming an adult when Macedonia became independent, my maturity and its independence happened in the same period – we did not grow up with that symbol, i.e. the old flag, and we should ask ourselves how did this happen and how did it come about etc. We should look into this issue realistically and directly, without fear and complexes.

I will not go back to the antiquisation, Article 8 deals with this topic at length, but, as I said, even without the Agreement it is healthy for us [N.B. to break with antiquisation]. We chose a particularly poor means to defend our name and identity that we complicated our identity at home; we lost friends abroad; and practically, by defending the name and identity in a poor way, we began to endanger our statehood. These were the consequences of that process and, regardless of this Agreement, we should put an end to it for the benefit of the mental health and personal self-confidence of each of us individually, and all of us together as a nation as well.

We will also establish a Committee which will consider historical narratives of both countries on a parity basis, and I think it will be a difficult process, both for ourselves and for Greece. However, it is a process essential for a true reconciliation. It is a process which the two major pillars of Europe, France and Germany went through, and the Czech Republic and Germany as well – I think they signed a Declaration in 1997 – and it is only in a state of initial trust and elementary political closeness that we can consider these issues and I am convinced that we cannot do good unless we start on a good note, and we cannot expect for the good to be reciprocated.

The second part of the Agreement contains the future positive agenda, intensification and enrichment of bilateral relations, upgrade of the relations to the level of embassies.

Article 10 provides for cooperation in the context of international and regional organisations and forums, political and social cooperation, economic cooperation, education, science, culture, research, technology, healthcare and sport, police cooperation and cooperation in the sector of civil protection, defence and contractual relations.

Part three focuses on settlement of disputes, gradually, ending with the International Court of Justice, and the final clauses in Article 20, which outlines the outcome if this Agreement does not enter into force – and we should note that in accordance with the Agreement, it enters into force upon the ratification by both parties, of this Agreement and the NATO Accession Protocols for the Republic of Macedonia and our steps towards the international use of the name with the reference. The use of the geographically qualified name of Macedonia – North Macedonia – begins with that step, and that is the protective mechanism. It is not possible for Macedonia to make a step and to be left hanging, because the two things are linked. The domestic use is linked with the technical implementation and with political implementation as well, which in turn is linked with our progress, chapter by chapter, towards EU membership. If this Agreement does not enter into force, the overall Agreement and each provision separately have no force or application, whether temporarily or in any other way, and are not binding in any way for any of the parties. The reason why we will do the ratification today and Greece when our process is complete is because we initiated it, it concerns us, we do more, but also we get more, they do less, but also they get less. We demanded the opportunity to hold a referendum for the citizens and therefore it makes no sense for Greece to ratify the Agreement this week or the next one – for, what will happen if the outcome of the referendum is not positive? Essentially, we have a double ratification by the Assembly and the citizens, and they ratify the agreement together with the NATO Accession Protocols. I will finish here; I hope there will be opportunities for expert debates, article by article, point by point, but I think that I covered the main and essential aspects of the signed Agreement.

I would like to say something about the international community, about how the world received this agreement. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warmly commends the two parties for resolving this long-standing dispute, demonstrating leadership within the region and beyond. He notes that the resolving of this issue will have positive repercussions for Europe and hopes that the parties in other prolonged conflicts will find inspiration in this development and will negotiate solutions without further delay.

Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, on 12 June, said in a joint statement that they wholeheartedly congratulate us for the determination and leadership, which contributes to the transformation of the entire region of South-East Europe. Together, we must now make good use of the window of opportunity that has been pushed wide open to accompany and consolidate the winds of peace and cooperation in the entire region. This is not only merited, in recognition of the considerable reform results of the country, but it will contribute crucially to the full implementation of the agreement. They advocate for the start of accession negotiations. The European Commission – Skopje and Athens make us Europeans proud of the ability to find a win-win solution through diplomacy and dialogue for the name issue which dragged on for decades. This is an inspiration for all of us. They also made separate statements but I will not focus on them. Zaharieva on behalf of the Bulgarian Presidency – Time will show that it was worth the effort Today is a good day for Bulgaria, too – nobody is prosperous and happy, if their neighbours are not. The German Minister of State for Europe – it is a historic day for all of us, I am proud and grateful. The Italian Prime Minister said that it was a bright day for the Balkans and Europe, etc.

 Just two more things and I will finish; perhaps I have worn your attention down, so I will finish by quoting a profound excerpt, sent to the Balkans 104 years ago in 1914, and I will ask for your close attention. But before that, I would like to say that I would not be in this Hall and I would not have allowed myself to sign the Agreement if my conscience was not clear. I know we did the best we could, I know that this is worth it. I know that this is undoubtedly bigger than me and bigger that this entire generation of politicians today and I believe that the least we can do for our citizens and their children, taking into account where we are and everything that is going on, is to create a chance. This Agreement creates that chance and step by step we will come to the moment when we will ask our citizens where they wish to be and we will set them before that historic crossroads. Furthermore, I am very happy that we are putting an end to this. There will be more statements and articles, but this creates a platform that will soon end all uncertainties on whether we are Macedonians and whether we speak Macedonian, not only in Macedonia but in the rest of the world as well. I will finish with this, in my opinion, unfortunately still relevant excerpt written by a French intellectual, for which I am indebted to my father, who remembered it last night when we talked and referred me to the Introduction of the Report on the Balkan Wars.

The real culprits in this long list of executions, assassinations, drownings, burnings, massacres and atrocities furnished by our report, are not, we repeat, the Balkan peoples. Here pity must conquer indignation. Do not let us condemn the victims. Nor are the European governments the real culprits. They at least tried to amend things and certainly they wished for peace without knowing how to establish it. The true culprits are those who mislead public opinion and take advantage of the people's ignorance to raise disquieting rumours and sound the alarm bell, inciting their country and consequently other countries into enmity. – I will emphasise the part which, in my opinion, is unfortunately still true today: those who mislead public opinion and take advantage of the people's ignorance to raise disquieting rumours and sound the alarm bell. – The real culprits are those who by interest or inclination, declaring constantly that war is inevitable, end by making it so, asserting that they are powerless to prevent it. The real culprits are those who sacrifice the general interest to their own personal interest which they so little understand, and who hold up to their country a sterile policy of conflict and reprisals. – Here again I will emphasise several words: those who sacrifice the general interest to their own personal interest and who hold up to their country a sterile policy of conflict and reprisals. – In reality there is no salvation, no way out either for small states or for great countries except by union and conciliation. This is the message we are finally accepting in Macedonia and Greece today and we are working for the cause, and the least we can do is to invest our personal interest and all calculations, particularly regarding our political future, in the general interest, and the general interest prescribes that we put a full stop to this issue, turn the page and open the future of the Republic of Macedonia.

Thank you.