NATO's Thirtieth Member

BERLIN/ATHENS/SKOPJE (Own report) - With her visit to Athens, beginning tomorrow, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is continuing a series of unprecedented interference by NATO and EU members into the domestic affairs of two Southeast European countries - this time in a dispute over a name between Greece and Macedonia. Because of Greek objections, Macedonia is known internationally as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). In line with a June 17, 2018 agreement, the country is to change its name to North Macedonia. Because the renaming is a prerequisite for the country's admission to NATO and its negotiations for EU membership, the NATO war alliance and the European Union are urging that the name change process be sped up. This is also the reason behind Merkel's talks in Athens. The West is exerting massive pressure, and justifying renaming the country with allegations of Russian interference. The renaming is in violation of the Macedonia's referendum results and is dependent upon the votes of the opposition in the Macedonian parliament's forthcoming final vote. Corrupt methods are obviously inducing members of the opposition to vote in favor of changing the name.


Unambiguous Demand

In the run-up to the September 30, 2018 referendum on changing the country's name to North Macedonia, the western powers flooded Skopje with waves of unprecedented interference, "unambiguously demanding the Macedonian population to vote 'Yes'," according to a report.[1] During her visit to the Macedonian capital on September 8, Chancellor Merkel declared that the citizens should not miss the "historic opportunity" to rename their country and that she expects a "positive outcome" in the referendum.[2] Just prior, the US President's letter to his Macedonian counterpart was published, wherein Donald Trump praised the change of name and declared that the United States "stands ready to support Macedonia, especially with respect to upcoming discussions on your membership in NATO."[3] Two days before Merkel's visit, the General Secretary of NATO announced in Skopje that the war alliance is "ready to welcome" North Macedonia's admission. The day before Merkel's visit, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz declared in the Macedonian capital that changing the country's name is a "historic milestone on the road into the EU." This was reiterated by EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Federica Mogherini on September 13 - during her visit to Skopje.

"Russian Interference"

Finally, US Secretary of Defense arrived in Skopje September 17. Mattis declared that the upcoming referendum is "the most important vote in the history" of the country. NATO is of course "ready, to welcome Macedonia ... as its 30th member."[4] The US Defense Secretary also spoke out against "Russian interference" in Macedonia. "We do not want Russia doing here, what it is trying to do in so many other countries." Mattis also alleged that Moscow is promoting "pro-Russian movements," also here in Macedonia, which has him worried. In fact, politicians from the Russian government had not made appearances in Skopje during the run-up to the September 30 referendum. One observer remarked, "Russians say 'if we had called for a 'No' as openly as the West was calling for a 'Yes,' they would be immediately complaining of Russian propaganda and manipulation."[5] The pro-western spectrum in Macedonia is being lavishly financed. Back in January 2017, the US Congress authorized US $8 million to "combat Russian disinformation campaigns." Another US $2 million have been allocated for the promotion of "rule of law."[6]

Disastrous for the West

In view of the massive interference by top western politicians, the defeat of the referendum must be seen as a disastrous setback for the EU and NATO. Although, 94.2 percent of those who voted on September 30, had voted in favor of the name change, participation in the referendum was, however, a mere 36.9 percent. Fifty percent participation was needed for the referendum to be valid. The overwhelming majority either followed the opposition's boycott campaign or was not interested enough in NATO and the EU to vote. This means that the western powers can rely on only a third of the population - which, in light of their massive interference, is for Berlin, Brussels, and Washington a disastrous result.

Wrangling in Parliament

However, the West has not given up. Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has had parliament legislate the change of name that had been refused by two-thirds of the citizens. Because the change of name is of constitutional significance, it requires a two-thirds parliamentary majority, which the government does not have. For the vote on October 19, Zaev was able to convince nine parliamentarians of opposition parties to vote in favor of the name change. Just prior to that vote, a special prosecutor had opened criminal investigations on more than a dozen parliamentarians of the opposition, accused of having participated in an outbreak of violence in the parliament back in April 2017. With the help of a parliamentary "reconciliation commission," the prime minister had promised an amnesty and it had been understood that that amnesty would be linked to their voting in favor of changing the name to North Macedonia. Of course, Zaev officially denies this - illegal - linkage.[7] Jurists see this procedure as untenable and assume that it will be invalidated by Macedonia's Constitutional Court. Until now, however, it is proving effective for advancing the name change through parliament. A decisive final vote will be held either this or next week. Between today, January 9 and January 15, a constitutional amendment must be passed, requiring another two-thirds majority - therefore at least the support of nine members of the opposition. Should this dubious amnesty maneuver again prove successful, the road will be clear for that country joining the EU and NATO.

Merkel in Athens

However, a Greek parliamentary vote is also still pending, which is the main reason for the German chancellor's trip tomorrow to Athens. The government in Athens has, in principle, the necessary parliamentary majority. However, it is uncertain whether the far right-wing ruling coalition party "Independent Greeks" (ANEL) will vote in favor of the name change. It is generally expected that ANEL will leave the government following the vote. According to opinion polls, the conservative Néa Dimokratia (ND) under its president Kiriákos Mitsotákis would win new elections. Mitsotákis and the ND, which, at EU level, are members of the same family of parties as Germany's CDU and CSU - the European Peoples Party (EPP), oppose the name change. Last week, Mitsotákis was on hand at the CSU's closed party conference in Seeon, Bavaria, and will now meet again with Chancellor Merkel for further talks.[8]

The Western Community of Values

If Macedonia's renaming process can be successfully completed, North Macedonia probably could be admitted to NATO by mid-2020 - thanks to massive foreign interference - including German - in the domestic affairs of two Southeast European nations, thanks to a violation of the referendum's result, and thanks presumably to illegal wrangling in Macedonia's parliament.


[1] Michael Martens: Hochachtungsvoll, Donald Trump. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08.09.2018.

[2] Merkel spricht sich für die Umbenennung Mazedoniens aus. 08.09.2018.

[3] Michael Martens: Hochachtungsvoll, Donald Trump. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08.09.2018.

[4], [5] Michael Martens: Sei ein Frosch! Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.09.2018.

[6] Marc Santora, Julian E. Barnes: In the Balkans, Russia and the West Fight a Disinformation-Age Battle. 16.09.2018.

[7] Valentina Dimitrievska: Macedonia close to crucial parliament vote on name deal constitutional changes. 08.01.2019.

[8] Vassilis Nedos: Athens awaits outcome of final name deal vote in Skopje Parl't. 07.01.2019.