By Aleksandar Bozhinovski, Nova Makedonija, number 21432
Translated and edited by Risto Stefov
July 5th, 2008
Macedonia has two strong cards against Greece. The first is the suffering of the Macedonians who by descent are from Aegean Macedonia now under Greek control. The second is International laws which by the Norwegian principles of 1946 can legally force Greece to compensate for its wrong doings undertaken against the ethnic Macedonians in Greece.
Sam Vaknin, an expert in this area, who has experience in analyzing and documenting such situations from the Jewish holocaust, has also analyzed the fate and rights of the Macedonians from Greece.
According to Vaknin, the Republic of Macedonia and the Macedonians from Greece have an exceptionally strong case if the case is supported by the Republic of Macedonia. For this to work two things are vital. First the government of the Republic of Macedonia must immediately offer citizenship to all Macedonians from Aegean Macedonia no matter where they live. And second, the Republic of Macedonia must immediately declare these Macedonians and their inheritors as refugees. Doing that will qualify them to fall under the protection of International law for refugees
Vaknin thinks the Jewish experience can help the Macedonians because there are close similarities between the two. For example even though Israel did not exist as a state when the holocaust occurred and these Jewish people, citizens of Germany, were not citizens of Israel, the state of Israel was able to help them. Here is what was done;
In 1951 all Jewish organizations got together and held a conference with the Israeli government where all their demands were consolidated and documented. At this point Israel became the guarantor of rights for all Jews. Afterwards the demands were presented to the West Germans and when all the talks were concluded West Germany agreed to pay compensation. From 1953 to 1967 Germany paid 3 billion marks to Israel, 450 million marks to Jewish organizations and 700 million dollars to the holocaust survivors.
It is essential and imperative that Macedonia follows Israel’s example and become the successor-country and protector of all Macedonians.
Following this example the Jews launched around 100,000 disputes against Germany, Swiss banks, insurance companies and other companies which had robbed the Jews of their assets and all of these disputes have been resolved.
The Norwegian principles were adopted immediately after the Nazi trials which recognized the eviction of people from their homes as criminal acts against humanity. “Before the adoption of the Norwegian principles, evicting citizens from their homes was legal,” says Vaknin.
It is interesting to note that most countries that were occupied by the Nazis worked the hardest to settle their accounts with the exiled Jews. Denmark and Norway over the years have paid over 200 million dollars for damages. Besides this, says Vaknin, thousands of Jews who were used as slaves by the German companies like “Mercedes” “BMW”, “Alliance”, “Siemens” and others, were also forced to pay indemnities.
The Macedonians from Greece have been evicted numerous times from Greece between 1913 and today. Many were evicted during the Metaxas dictatorship in 1936 but the most to be evicted was during the Greek Civil War in the late 1940’s. The Norwegian principles are very important for those who were evicted at this time. Also Macedonia was in a better position than Israel to help the Macedonian people because the Peoples’ Republic of Macedonia (under a Yugoslav Federation) was already established at that time and was able to provide the exiled Macedonians with a home.
Now 80 countries subscribe to the Norwegian principles which have become law. The Norwegian principles do not discriminate against ethnic origins, nationality, or citizenship. If people’s assets have been confiscated, it does not matter if Greece has labeled these people Bulgarians or Slavs or if they are Greek citizens or not, the Norwegian principles apply. The key to enforcing these principles lies with the Republic of Macedonia which much choose the role of mother-country, protector and guarantor of rights for all Macedonians.
Let us also not forget that Greece returned assets only to people declared “Greeks by birth” which is discriminatory and according to Vaknin is illegal by US law.
There are examples of past agreements that Macedonia can use as arguments to build its case. In 1923 Greece and Turkey signed such an agreement (Treaty of Lausanne) where Turkey was obliged to pay Greece an indemnity for the assets of evicted so called Greeks from Asia Minor. The same year Bulgaria had to pay compensation to Greece for the evicted so called Greeks from Bulgaria. Bulgaria had to pay Turkey for the evicted 350,000 Turks who were evicted by Todor Zhivkov in the period from 1948 to 1949.
With the help of the Republic of Macedonia the Macedonians of Greece living in the USA too can lodge a complaint against Greece under Resolution 562. The United States Congress enacted resolution 562 on October 13th, 1998 and gave it exterritorial powers, which means that USA law under certain conditions can be enforced outside of the USA.
If a Macedonian from Greece launches a dispute against Greece for confiscated property in an American court, Greece, if found guilty will have to pay indemnity otherwise the USA will freeze all Greek assets which are part of the Greek national reserves in the USA. Eighty countries in the world support such laws and among them included are all Western European countries.
Aegeans in the Government: Our aims are clear
On the occasion of the Association of Child Refugees from Greece holding its 4th World Reunion in Skopje from July 18th to the 21st, the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski held a meeting with Association representatives to inform them that their concerns regarding their confiscated assets were now relayed to Greece.
“The opening of such a question by the Republic of Macedonia is a giant step for the Macedonians from Greece who have been waiting for a long period of time for this” says Georgi Ajanovski, president of the World Reunion Organizational Committee of the Child Refugee Association of Aegean Macedonians.
Athens hopes that after Gruevski’s victory it can have an agreement
In the “Guardian’s”, the British newspaper’s estimation, it is believed that Gruevski’s majority win in the Macedonian elections will have a positive effect on the name dispute. According to the Guardian, now that Gruevski has a majority it will be easier for him to make a change to the name without much risk to his position.
The Greeks believe that now that Gruevski has strengthened his party’s position he will be more amicable to reaching a compromised solution that will put an end to the 17 year old name dispute. This may be hard to believe but the Greeks are grasping at straws here believing that Gruevski will do such a thing, who in fact was given a mandate by the voters to do the opposite; protect the Macedonian identity and the Republic of Macedonia’s name.
The Greeks also believe that Gruevski’s stubbornness will ultimately land him in trouble with the Macedonian Albanians and with the western countries which want him to reach a compromise with Greece.
The Guardian newspaper, to a large extent supports the Greek side, emphasizing that the older generation of Macedonians sees themselves more as Yugoslav while the younger generation sees themselves more as Macedonians and refusing to change the only name they know. “It is hard not to have a little compassion for the Macedonians, especially for the younger generation, who knows itself as Macedonian and finds itself hard against changing the name of its country” says the Guardian.
The leftist “Guardian” calls Gruevski a “hardliner” and a nationalist, who is willing to climb to warrior status just to anger Greece.
The Guardian also writes that Greeks are their own worst enemy in this dispute and that no one outside of Greece’s borders understands why Athens is so hypersensitive and unfriendly towards this mini state which calls itself the Republic of Macedonia.
What does it say in Resolution 562?
Resolution 562 says “Countries which have not returned wrongly confiscated assets to their rightful owners, or have not made appropriate compensation according to the principles of law, should remove all restrictions which are hampering such compensation or the returning of assets to the people who may or may not be citizens of those countries”.
According to this resolution, Greek law which is requesting that the claimant of compensation declare himself Greek by birth is illegal and contrary to US law.
Not a single refugee has sued Greece to this day!
Not a single Macedonian has ever sued Greece before the current lawsuit was launched by the Association of Refugee Children from Aegean Macedonia in the Human Rights Court in Strasburg.
“Yes it is sad, that’s the way it is. For a long time our actions were blocked by Yugoslavia so that Yugoslavia could have good relations with Greece. There were also many people who were afraid of retribution from the Yugoslav secret service if they instigated such actions. But what Vaknin is proposing is truly interesting,” says Gjorgji Donevski, Association president.