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President Ivanov at UNGA: The only truth is that we are Macedonians and our country is the Republic of Macedonia

In his speech at the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov told his compatriots that it is their right to vote in the referendum, not their obligation.

“In accordance with Article 7, Item 3 of the Referendum Law, ‘no one shall be held responsible for voting or not voting in a referendum’. Every citizen has the right to decide how to act as regards this referendum – to go out and vote, or stay home and boycott,” he said.

Ivanov mentioned that several high-level foreign officials had visited Macedonia in the past few weeks noting that he was aware that many of them had sincere intentions to help the country become part of the EU and NATO.

“And I thank them for their good intentions from the bottom of my heart. But I am afraid that they too have been misled. Their message is that if the referendum fails and the Prespa Agreement is not accepted, then we should not hope for membership in NATO and the European Union. And I ask them – if you take away our hope, what will we be left with? Help us by unblocking the process of EU and NATO membership of the Republic of Macedonia without violating the right to self-determination in the process,” said Ivanov.

The President stated that many of them have been persuading Macedonian citizens. “Many of them have been persuading them to accept the Greek proposal. I ask them, would they accept a derogation of the right to self-determination of their own peoples and countries? Would they accept interference in their internal affairs, a breach of sovereignty and political independence? Why are then we asked to accept something that no one else in the world would accept?”

“Do not try to persuade us to eat from this poisoned fruit. It is high time for this poisonous tree and its poisonous fruit to be rooted out,” Ivanov pointed out.

Just as the referendum on September 8, 1991 led to sovereignty and independence, he said, this referendum on September 30 may lead to a state of subordination and dependence towards another country.

“If this referendum succeeds in accordance with law, then not only will the name of the existing country be changed, but a new, semi-sovereign country will be created, with a new name and a new internal and international legal identity. We will be a state only by name, but not in substance, because others will regulate our way of life. However, if the referendum fails, a new possibility will arise. A possibility to discuss and explore new options for resolving the issue in accordance with international law, and by respecting our fundamental right to self-determination. To renew the national consensus that we achieved at the beginning of our independence,” Ivanov said in his speech.

As a citizen, I have made my decision, the Macedonian President stressed.

“On September 30, I will not go out to vote. I believe that you, my fellow citizens, will make a wise decision. I also wish to address you, representatives of United Nations Member states. This irrational dispute has had detrimental consequences for the Republic of Macedonia and its citizens. Due to Greek blockades, we were denied the right to prosperity. Unfortunately, all of this has reflected on the sustainability of the Macedonian multiethnic, multireligious and multilingual society. A society which has actively contributed to peace, stability and security in the region and in Europe for the past 27 years,” stressed Ivanov.

According to him, the position of official Athens is not only contrary to international law and the decision of Macedonian citizens, it also goes against the will of almost 140 member states of the United Nations which have recognized the fundamental right to self-determination of the Republic of Macedonia and use its constitutional name.

“As President of the Republic of Macedonia, I urge all states that have already recognized the Republic of Macedonia and established diplomatic relations under its constitutional name, not to change their decisions. Demonstrate your sovereignty by remaining faithful to your principled decisions, made without any kind of pressure. Help us by being the guardians of our right to self-determination, thus safeguarding your right to self-determination,” Ivanov said.

He said he had always advocated for building a true and lasting partnership between Macedonia and Greece.

“However, if the only way to accommodate the irrational demands of the Greek side is through imposed measures on the Macedonian side, what we get are relations without trust. This agreement does not bring Macedonian and Greek people together – it sets them apart.”

The Greek and Macedonian societies should learn how to live together in spite of their deepest differences. In order to reach a real, sustainable and lasting agreement, we need dialogue instead of monologue, arguments instead of imposing by force, mutual respect instead of denial, according to Ivanov.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly, the President said that ‘the only truth is that we are Macedonians and our country is the Republic of Macedonia.’ “Respecting this unique truth about our identity, you respect our human dignity that is part of the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

“25 years ago, the Republic of Macedonia became a member of the United Nations. And yet, in this community of equals before the law, the Republic of Macedonia was admitted as less equal, with a derogated legal personality and a violated right to self-determination. Today, 25 years later, talks within the United Nations should end by the adoption of the so-called Prespa Final Agreement that according to some, should put an end to the name dispute with Greece and open the way to membership of the Republic of Macedonia in the European Union and NATO,” President Ivanov elaborated.

The right to self-determination was violated when Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations, he added.

“The Interim Accord and the Prespa Agreement have been adopted in order to justify that violation. You should know that the text of that so called Prespa Agreement was prepared without my knowledge and without my consent as President of the Republic of Macedonia. Moreover, the Agreement violates a clause of our domestic law which is of fundamental importance. The knot that started entangling with Resolutions 817 and 845 and the Interim Accord, has now, with the Prespa Agreement, taken the shape of a hangman’s noose. The Republic of Macedonia is now asked to commit a legal and historical suicide, so that the legal abolition of Macedonian people could then be interpreted as its own will. I wonder what this says about global leadership and shared responsibility of the United Nations?,” Ivanov wondered.

Greece, he said, insists on an erga omnes implementation of the imposed name, thus making the violation of the right to self-determination erga omnes as well.

The right of self-determination means that only the nation itself has the right to determine its destiny, that no one has the right forcibly to interfere in the life of the nation, to destroy its schools and other institutions, to violate its habits and customs, to repress its language, or curtail its rights. The right of self-determination means that a nation may arrange its life in the way it wishes. It has the right to arrange its life on the basis of autonomy. It has the right to complete secession. Nations are sovereign, and all nations have equal rights,” President Ivanov said.

The right to self-determination is the source of the right of people to choose their own name and the name of the state they created, according to him.

“The right to choose a name is an inalienable part of the right to self-determination. Only by respecting the right to self-determination will the United Nations be relevant for all peoples. As a people, we have been bearing the name Macedonians for centuries, and as a state for 74 years – even before the existence of the United Nations. Our attachment to this name was confirmed when, 27 years ago, we used our right to self-determination and proclaimed an independent and sovereign Republic of Macedonia,” stated the Macedonian President.

With the Prespa Agreement, Ivanov said, Greece is imposing a new name and is asking for an erga omnes implementation – both for international and domestic use.

“It is foreseen that we change our Constitution, whereby Greece would become the ultimate authority that would approve constitutional amendments. Through this settlement, Greece would be given a permanent monitoring over how we name ourselves, but also over how you. Member States of the United Nations, will address us. Greece will be authorized to rename our institutions, to censor the contents of schoolbooks for our children, to prevent citizens from expressing their Macedonian identity. This also regulates the appellation of our Macedonian language. A very important part of our way of life will depend on Greek will. It is a censorship of the world and an auto censorship of the collective conscience of Macedonian people. It is violence against our historical memory. There are hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and testimonies in the UN archives, detailing what the Greek state used to do to Macedonians in Greece. Now, with the Prespa Agreement, the Greek state wants to do the same to the Macedonians in the Republic of Macedonia. The aim is to limit the use of the name Macedonians to the smallest possible space – and that is the space between our two ears, all while keeping our mouth closed. It is a flagrant violation of the right to self determination,” President Ivanov said at the UN.

He called the Prespa Agrement ‘a detrimental compromise based on the 1995 Interim Accord.’

“At a time when we were internationally isolated, the Interim Accord achieved under the auspices of the United Nations was supposed to be a guarantee that Greece would not block our integration in international organizations. However, there is a serious problem in this sense as well. No one can transfer to another more rights than they have themselves. And yet, with Article 5 of the 1995 Interim Accord and under the UN-led process, Greece was allowed to negotiate with the Republic of Macedonia about its name. It is a violation of the right to self-determination,” Macedonian President Ivanov concluded speaking at the 73rd UN General Assembly.