Politicians of two parties from two neighboring countries, with courage, determination and a vision, decided to open a new chapter of collaboration, communication and the development of their relations as a whole, for the good of their people.
A major event took place, a historic moment when the ministers of foreign affairs, in the presence of their prime ministers and top international officials, signed the Prespes agreement on June 17, 2018. The agreement points to a process that will take place in both countries and will be a major priority for their governments for a long time.
The reaction of the citizens on both sides to the agreement was meticulously orchestrated by the political parties, both those in power and those in opposition. The opponents, as always, were filled with anger, describing the brave politicians as traitors and promising the voters that they would make a better deal in which they would not sell the name. The name is only a name of a larger geographical region and nothing more. Nobody has the right to claim ownership of it, or to forbid someone else from using it. International agreements and academic conferences have long discussed such questions and civilized nations have found solutions in order to concentrate on what is most important for the people: the economy, trade, improving the quality of life. True politicians look toward the future.
Sunday’s referendum is the beginning of the implementation of quite a large number of obligations stipulated in the Prespes agreement. The agreement is in a certain sense asymmetrical, but it is part of the current political situation. The position of each country is important in many aspects. What is also important is of course the global geopolitical development of relationships in a still uneasy situation in the Balkans as well as throughout Europe and the world.
Because of this, my opinion is that the referendum (which is consultative) is an act that decides a very important position of our country and its road to the European Union and NATO. A positive outcome should secure a better future for the younger generations and open new roads for them. It does not bode well to leave unsolved old problems and burdens from history which usually reflected the wishes and interests of the greater powers.
Full membership of the EU and NATO will mean that the two countries will be allies in the same organizations and share the same goals.
As people vote in the referendum, the screening process in Brussels has begun for the necessary steps to be taken to build a law-abiding state which will respect human values and promote expertise and professionalism. Corruption, crime and the nepotism of the institutions, as well as the things that held us back for nearly a decade – an imprisoned country which made steps backward with monuments and references to history concerning things that happened thousands of years ago – must be dealt with.
Pressure to vote for or against the agreement, and instructions on what to do on the day of the referendum, are wrong. Positive or negative, every vote is the right of the citizen. Everyone votes for their own future.
It is more than certain that this referendum is not a referendum for the name change as the opposition wants to portray it. With a positive outcome the people will see that their awareness will change. It is necessary that each individual understands that they are a link in the chain and that they have the power to change things.
If the outcome of the referendum is negative, the procedure according to the agreement will continue as provided by the relevant laws and regulations, with a discussion in the Parliament and its ratification. If things move as planned, the procedure will then be discussed and voted on in the Parliament of the neighboring country.
A negative outcome in the referendum means uncertainty and taking a step backward. It means running away from the responsibility of dealing with the crimes as the international community has suggested that the Parliament do. A special public prosecutor’s office has been working tirelessly on hundreds of court orders whose legal finalization is expected and for which appropriate penalties are demanded. A negative development in this process is something that every citizen should vote to block.
There is no country that can stand alone. Globalization, the current connections of the international capital markets and the synergy of economic entities require it. If our country remains outside these systems, it will become isolated and vulnerable. I believe that this is not something that the people nor their elective representatives will want.
Ljupco Arsovski is a former ambassador of the FYROM to Greece.