Foreign relations of the Republic of Macedonia
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politics and government of
the Republic of Macedonia
The foreign relations of the Republic of Macedonia since its independence in 1991 have been characterized by the country's efforts to gain membership in international organizations such as NATO and the European Union and to gain international recognition under its constitutional name, overshadowed by a long-standing, dead-locked dispute with neighboring Greece. Greek objections to the country's name have led to it being admitted to the United Nations and several other international fora only under the provisional designation Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Macedonia became a member state of the United Nations on April 8, 1993, eighteen months after its independence from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It is referred within the UN as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", pending a resolution, to the long-running dispute about the country's name. Unusually, the country's flag was not raised at UN Headquarters when the state joined the UN. It was not until after the country's flag was changed that it was raised at the UN Headquarters. Other international bodies, such as the European Union, European Broadcasting Union, and the International Olympic Committee have adopted the same convention. NATO also uses the reference in official documents but adds an explanation on which member countries recognise the constitutional name.
All UN member states currently recognise Macedonia as a sovereign state, but they are still divided over what to call it. A number of countries recognise the country by its constitutional name – the Republic of Macedonia – rather than the UN reference, notably four of the five permanent UN Security Council members (the UK, the United States, Russia, and the People's Republic of China) and over 130 other UN members.
List of countries and entities recognising the country and establishing diplomatic relations
List of countries and entities with no formal diplomatic relations with the country
- Georgia, Malta, San Marino.
- Bhutan, South Korea.
- Liberia, Mali, South Sudan, Tunisia.
- The Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago.
- Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga
- State of Palestine, and the rest of states with limited recognition
Recently (Aug. 2008) they signed a treaty enabling visa-free movement between the countries. Both countries support each other's ethnic minorities in cultural, political and educational aspects. During the ethnic conflict in 2001, the Albanian government did not interfere and supported peaceful resolution. Albania had recognized Skopje under the UN provisional reference of the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", abbreviated as FYROM.
Macedonia and Bulgaria have cooperative neighbourly relations. On 15 January 1992 Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the independence of Macedonia. Bulgaria has however refused to recognise the existence of a separate Macedonian nation and a separate Macedonian language. It argues that the Macedonians are a subgroup of the Bulgarian nation, and that the Macedonian language is a dialect of Bulgarian. This leads to some complications when signing treaties between these countries—they are signed with this long phrase in the end: "done in the official languages of the two states—Bulgarian language, according to the Constitution of Bulgaria and Macedonian language, according to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia".
Macedonia has generally good relations with Bulgaria in the political, economic, and military spheres. The governments of the two countries work to improve business relations. Bulgaria supports the Macedonian bid to enter the EU and NATO. Bulgaria has also donated tanks, artillery, and other military technology to the Macedonian Army.
The rules governing good neighbourly relations agreed between Bulgaria and Macedonia were set in the Joint Declaration of February 22, 1999 reaffirmed by a joint memorandum signed on January 22, 2008 in Sofia.
Reacting to the publication of a controversial encyclopedia by the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MANU) in 2009, Bulgaria warned that “it is unacceptable for a country aspirant for NATO and EU membership to resort to terminology typical for the ideology of the Cold War era,” and that the encyclopedia “gives no contribution to strengthening of the neighborly relations and curbing down of the ‘hatred speech’.”
In connection with the administrative, police and other types of pressure allegedly being exercised on Bulgarian citizens and Macedonian citizens with Bulgarian self-identification in Macedonia, on 4 August 2009 the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry declared that “Bulgaria will examine the approach of the Macedonian side in such cases as one of the criteria on the basis of which to assess the country’s readiness to make the changes that would allow the European integration of the Republic of Macedonia.”
Bulgaria has proposed to sign a treaty (based on that 1999 Joint Declaration) guaranteeing the good neighbourly relations between the two countries, in order to enable Bulgarian support for the accession of Macedonia to the European Union.
During the last few years thousands of citizens of Macedonia have applied for Bulgarian citizenship (amongst them Macedonia’s former PM Ljubco Georgievski), with 42,372 having already received Bulgarian passports. In order to obtain the passport, the Macedonian citizens who apply for Bulgarian citizenship must prove that they have a Bulgarian origin and a Bulgarian national consciousness. Between 1 January to 18 November 2011, the Bulgarian council for citizenship considered 22,241 applications for citizenship, of which 13,607 were approved.
P.R. China and R.O. China
On 12 October 1993, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and the Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) established diplomatic relations with Macedonia expressly declaring that the Government of the PRC is the sole legal government of China, and Taiwan as an inalienable part of the Chinese territory. The Government of Macedonia affirmed it would not establish any form of official relations with Taiwan.
Notwithstanding the above, Macedonia and the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC) established diplomatic relations on 27 January 1999. This development increased the number of the ROC's diplomatic allies in Europe from one to two (the other being the Holy See). The PRC was opposed to this and in retaliation vetoed the UN resolution renewing the mandate of the UNPREDEP (a peacekeeping force) in Macedonia. On 28 April 1999, Macedonia opened an embassy in Taipei, ROC. The Republic of Macedonia and the PRC normalized their relations on 18 June 2001. On the same day, the ROC severed diplomatic relations with Macedonia. In the joint communiqué between Macedonia and People's Republic of China, Macedonia recognized "emphatically that there is but one China in the world, that the Government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory".
Mexico and Macedonia established diplomatic relations in April 2001 . Both countries are members of the United Nations and have accredited Ambassadors to each other. Mexico is represented in Macedonia through its embassy in Belgrade, Serbia . Macedonia is represented in Mexico through its embassy in Washington, DC, USA. Mexico has left the naming dispute between Greece and Macedonia to the United Nations for the issue to be resolved .
Macedonia and DPRK diplomatic relations from October 11,1993. They have a friendly relations. DPRK is represented in Macedonia through its embassy in Sofia. Macedonia is one of just three of the 191 UN member states (along with Cuba and Syria) with which South Korea (Korea, Rep) does not have diplomatic relations. But interestingly, South Korean citizens do not need to obtain a visa if they stay in Macedonia for less than 90 days.
Macedonia and Serbia traditionally have friendly relations. Serbia is a main trading partner and recognizes its neighbour under the constitutional name - Republic of Macedonia. Macedonians in Serbia are a recognized national minority, same as Serbs in the Republic of Macedonia. However, the non-recognition of the Macedonian Orthodox Church by the Serbian Orthodox Church and Macedonia's recognition of Kosovo as an independent state are disturbing the relations of these two countries.
Macedonia and Kosovo have very friendly and cordial neighbourly relations which mainly are due to the ethnic Albanian populations that live inside Macedonia. In October 2008, Macedonia recognized Kosovo as an independent state with plan to establish diplomatic relations. Kosovo recognized the neighbouring country under the constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia. Also in October 2008, a bilateral agreement was signed between the two countries after the border between the two was physically marked by a joint committee. Kosovo and Macedonia have signed a Free Trade Agreement in 2005 to facilitate trade opportunities, investment conditions and improve good-neighbourly relations. Macedonian investments are the largest in Kosovo since its independence on 17 February 2008 year.
Macedonia and Greece have excellent economic and business relations, with Greece being the largest investor in the country. However, the indeterminate status of Macedonia's name arises from a long-running dispute with Greece. The main points of the dispute are:
- The name: see Macedonia naming dispute, and the section Naming issue (below in this article).
- The flag: the use of Vergina Sun, claimed by Greece as an exclusive state symbol, on the initial national flag used between 1992 and 1995 (resolved, see below)
- Constitutional issues: certain articles of the constitution that were seen as claims on Greek territory (resolved, see below).
The naming issue was "parked" in a compromise agreed at the United Nations in 1993. However, Greece refused to grant diplomatic recognition to the Republic and imposed an economic blockade that lasted until the flag and constitutional issues were resolved in 1995.
Macedonia and Slovenia have very close political and economic relations. Once part of SFR Yugoslavia, the two republics declared independence in 1991 (Slovenia in June, Macedonia in September) and recognised each other's independence on 12 February 1992. Diplomatic relations between both countries were established on 17 March 1992. Slovenia supports Macedonia's sovereignty, territorial integrity, its Euro-integration and visa liberalisation. A significant number of Slovenian investments ended up in the Republic of Macedonia. In 2007, about 70 million euros were invested. In January 2009, the Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski announced, that he expects more Slovenian investments in infrastructure and energy projects. Over 70 Slovenian companies are present on the Macedonian market.
Due to historical and cultural mutualities and human bonds Macedonia and Turkey have very close and friendly relations. Shortly after Macedonia declared its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 Turkey was among the first countries to recognise Macedonia's sovereignty. Bilateral relations were established on 26 August 1992. Macedonia has an embassy in Ankara and a consulate–general in Istanbul, while Turkey has an embassy in Skopje and a consulate-general in Bitola.
The United States and the Macedonia enjoy excellent bilateral relations. The United States formally recognized Macedonia on February 8, 1994, and the two countries established full diplomatic relations on September 13, 1995. The U.S. Liaison Office was upgraded to an Embassy in February 1996, and the first U.S. Ambassador to Skopje arrived in July 1996. The development of political relations between the United States and Macedonia has ushered in a whole host of other contacts between the two states. In 2004, the United States recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name - Republic of Macedonia. The consul in New York City is Zvonko Mucunski.
Macedonia's first post-independence flag caused a major controversy when it was unveiled. The use of the Vergina Sun on the flag was seen by Greece as territorial claim to the northern Greek region of Macedonia, where the golden larnax containing the symbol was unearthed in 1977 during excavations in Vergina by Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos. The Greek viewpoint was summed up in an FAQ circulated on the Internet in the late 1990s:
- The Vergina Sun, the emblem of Philip's dynasty, symbolizes the birth of our nation. It was the first time (4th century BC) that the Greek mainland (city-states and kingdoms) with the same language, culture, and religion were united against the enemies of Asia in one league. At the same time the fractured Greek world grew conscious of its unity. And, in this sense, we have never been apart since then. The "Sun" was excavated in Greece in 1978, and it is sacred to us.
The Vergina Sun, claimed by Greece as an exclusive state symbol, was removed from the flag under an agreement reached between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece in September 1995. The Republic agreed to meet a number of Greek demands for changes to its national symbols and constitution, while Greece agreed to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic and end its economic blockade.
Macedonia's first post-independence constitution, adopted on November 17, 1991 included a number of clauses that Greece interpreted as promoting secessionist sentiment among the Slavophone population of northern Greece, and making irredentist claims on Greek territory. Article 49 of the constitution caused particular concern. It read:
- (1) The Republic cares for the status and rights of those persons belonging to the Macedonian people in neighboring countries, as well as Macedonian expatriates, assists their cultural development and promotes links with them. In the exercise of this concern the Republic will not interfere in the sovereign rights of other states or in their internal affairs.
- (2) The Republic cares for the cultural, economic and social rights of the citizens of the Republic abroad.
The Greek government interpreted this as a licence for Macedonia to interfere in Greek internal affairs. Given long-standing Greek sensitivities over the position of the country's minority groups, the government saw this as being the most serious of the three main issues affecting relations between the two countries; the issue of the republic's symbols, by contrast, was seen as being of much less substantive importance, even though it aroused the loudest political controversy. The Greek prime minister at the time, Constantine Mitsotakis, later commented that
- What concerned me from the very first moment was not the name of the state. The problem for me was that [we should not allow] the creation of a second minority problem in the area of western [Greek] Macedonia [the first minority being the Turkish-speaking Greeks of western Thrace]. My main aim was to convince the Republic to declare that there is no Slavomacedonian minority in Greece. This was the real key of our difference with Skopje.
The offending articles were removed under the 1995 agreement between the two sides.
- List of diplomatic missions in the Republic of Macedonia
- List of diplomatic missions of the Republic of Macedonia
- List of state visits made by Gjorge Ivanov
This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html.
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