Because of our Macedonian identity, we are being denied the right to prosperity - аddress by the President Ivanov on the occasion of August 2 – Ilinden
Wednesday, 02 August 2017 11:25   


ilinden1Distinguished citizens of the Republic of Macedonia,
Distinguished descendants of the known and unknown heroes who sacrificed their lives for our homeland Macedonia,

Many happy returns of this glorious day of Ilinden; the day of light and freedom. Our first Ilinden began in the heroic town of Krushevo. Although the free Republic lasted for only ten days, yet, the memory of it lasted for four decades – until the second, victorious and state-establishing Ilinden, until ASNOM (Anti-Fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia). A name deeply encarved in the foundations of our statehood is that of Metodija Andonov – Chento, the first President of the ASNOM Presiding Committee. The first President of Macedonia.

However, today I will not speak of his participation in NOB (National Liberation Fight) and ASNOM. I will not mention his merit, contribution and numerous sacrifices for Macedonia. Instead, I have decided to speak about his messages addressed to us and the last days of his life.

In the beginning of July 1957, exactly 60 years ago, Metodija Andonov - Chento shared his last words with his sons. Those words, noted in his unfinished auto-biography, are his last authentic testimony about the struggle for freedom and statehood of Macedonia.

The last happening he managed to tell was his last meeting with Kuzman Josifovski – Pitu. According to Chento, in September 1943, Kuzman sent him a letter inviting him to a meeting in Skopje. On September 24, 1943, here, in then occupied Skopje, Chento had a secret meeting with Kuzman. They talked until the late night hours. At the meeting, Kuzman spent a lot of time trying to convince Chento to join the fight, to become a partisan, so that later he could become member of the Headquarters and President of the Initiative Board for convening ASNOM. Kuzman also reminded Chento of his very own words that "we are the only ones who can fight for our freedom, united, and the time for that is now".

In these words of Kuzman, Chento recognized the call of his homeland. Faced with the choice of making a step forward or a step back, Chento finally agreed to join the partisans. This is followed by the last sentence in his unfinished auto-biography: "When I learned that Kuzman died, I was very sad and it was very difficult, because I had lost my support, and honest and reliable friend and peer".

ilinden6Fellow citizens,

These are perhaps the very last words of the great Metodija Andonov – Chento, noted when he was on his deathbed.
With these words, it seems as if Chento is pointing his finger undoubtedly showing us that Kuzman is the leader and ideologist of the Macedonian national liberation and anti-fascist fight; that Kuzman is the Goce Delchev of NOB.
Showing us that Kuzman is the visionary of ASNOM and author of its state-establishing documents; that Kuzman is the driving force behind the front for liberation of Macedonia.
It seems as if Chento was testifying that without Kuzman Josifovski – Pitu, ASNOM would not have been possible. And with that, neither September 8 and independent and sovereign Republic of Macedonia.
Without Kuzman Josifovski – Pitu, today, we would have been a footnote in someone else's interpretation of history.

On this day, Ilinden, as we pay tribute to the founders of our two Ilindens, celebrating their deeds, we remember and mention their aspirations, hopes but also principles. This truth is most vocally represented in the three principles of Kuzman's fight, that later became Chento's principles, and with that, the principles of ASNOM.

The first Kuzman's principle was continuity with Ilinden. At the Prespa Council held on August 2, 1943, among other things, Kuzman said: "Macedonia lost many of its best sons during the glorious Ilinden. But hose victims did not turn into graves. Their heroic endeavors shed a light over Macedonia, becoming a guiding star for the troubled Macedonian people. They lighted up the path and hearts of all honest Macedonians and heroes, as an eternal memory. Since Ilinden, until this day, many known and unknown heroes lost their lives in the fight for Macedonia. Following in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers, many young Macedonians, many new fighters, died as heroes and martyrs in the fight against today's occupiers. The bones of all those victims, spread across the fields and towns in Macedonia, rooted in the Macedonian soil, became the rock solid foundations for tomorrow's freedom..."

Reading his discourse today, one must ask oneself whether Kuzman actually borrowed the Christian narrative to preach a political liberation of Macedonia. Kuzman spoke about truth and freedom, path and light, struggle and sacrifice. He spoke about life and death, empty graves and foundations, martyrs of the first and followers of the second Ilinden. Martyrs and followers that he himself related not only by words, but by action. Thanks to Kuzman, the old Ilinden fighters Brashnarov, Vlahov, Shatev and Germov also became part of ASNOM.

The second principle of Kuzman was anti-fascism. Kuzman knew that the fight against fascism is a fight for freedom. He constantly reminded that "the Macedonian people are now in the most decisive days of their difficult history, and salvation is in the general fight against fascism". Just like Chento, he was aware that only if the Macedonian people liberate themselves from fascism on their own, they would be able to acquire their right to self-determination. Thanks to Kuzman, the fight against fascism became a fight for national liberation of the Macedonian people.

Here we arrive at the third principle of Kuzman – that the fight for freedom implies a wide Macedonian front. Although he was a member of the Communist party, Kuzman did not recognize any political party, ethnic or religious key. He opposed a wide civil concept to the existing narrow political party concept of the Communist party, based on ideological obedience and eligibility. His concept encompassed all layers of Macedonian society. In spite of party pressures, he was persistent, insisting that "the Macedonian national front should embrace all honest Macedonians, regardless of their affiliation, nationality, religion or gender". He advocated for filling in the key positions with people who are not first and foremost affiliated to Communism, but to Macedonia. This is how Chento became the first President of the Presiding Committee of ASNOM.

But why is this so important? Because the three principles of Kuzman, that later became the principles of Chento, stem from a single value. That value is freedom.

ilinden3Fellow citizens,

Throughout his entire life, Kuzman Josifovski – Pitu fought for the national and social liberation of Macedonia. And he saw the entire sense of human existence in the fight for national and social freedom.
In this life aim of his, we can recognize the two faces of freedom. First, the negative freedom from slavery. Second, the positive freedom for prosperity.

Kuzman knew very well that freedom from slavery is just freedom in half. And as just a half of the whole, it is, in itself, insufficient and unsustainable. The uprisings and revolutions in human history that only ended in new regimes, dictatorships and tyrannies are a clear example of this. Since, people can be formally and politically free, but economically and culturally dependent, and with that, essentially enslaved and incapable of moving forward. In order to be sustainable, freedom needs its other half – that being the positive freedom of self-identification, self-realization and prosperity. That freedom is much more difficult to acquire, having in mind its tight bond to truth.

We should first know who we are in order to know who we want to be.
We should first know where we are in order to know where we want to be.
We should first know what we have in order to know what we wish to acquire.

And if Kuzman and Chento would have the chance to look at their homeland today, our homeland, they would most certainly rejoice the 26 years of independence and sovereignty, for those were the aims of the fight for national liberation of Macedonia. However, I believe that at the same time, both Kuzman and Chento would be bitter, seeing us still being denied our freedom of self-identification, self-realization and prosperity.

Kuzman's motto, that later became the one of ASNOM, was: "Free Macedonia in free Balkans". Today, both the Republic of Macedonia and the Balkans are free of external occupiers and conquerors. Empires disappeared, and dictatorships and totalitarian regimes collapsed. However, neither the Republic of Macedonia or the Balkans as a whole are completely free to build their own prosperity. This because neither the Republic of Macedonia or the Balkans are a part of the European Union. And the European Union is the only force that motivates or states and societies to voluntarily transform. Therefore, we still lack that second half of freedom, and that is a European Macedonia in European Balkans.

In order to create the conditions for prosperity in this globalized world of ours, it is necessary to become part of the European Union and NATO. It is this membership that was supposed to enable us to finally reach our aim – freedom. However, as a country walking down that road, we have been blackmailed. And the price to pay is high, too high.

In these years of independence, we have been deprived of the right to prosperity. Although we met all the criteria for NATO membership and opening accession negotiations, we have suffered an injustice. None of the Member States, on its European path, ever had to face the issues that we invest time, energy and patience in every day. None of the other Member States was asked to do what is asked of us – to deny the right of human dignity and self-identification. This is not an alibi for the mistakes and errors we have made thus far. But, while we were preoccupied dealing with the injustices that were committed against us, in the form of denials and double standards, the world around us changed.

ilinden4Dear fellow citizens,

In the past five years, two now former presidents of two neighboring countries, Member States of the European Union and NATO said the same thing. The first one warned us that Macedonism will keep the doors to EU and NATO closed. The second, on the other hand, said that Macedonia should join the European Union, but not Macedonism. At first glance, both gave us a good-intentioned advice to throw away the robe of Macedonism and leave it at the door of the Euro-Atlantic home.

Both probably starting with the assumption that that robe is something that belongs to someone else, a stolen good that someone gave or illegally sold to us. They claim that Macedonism is a lie with which we cover the truth about who we truly are.

Their advice would be welcome, if that robe or cover was indeed false. But things are not that simple. Macedonism is Macedonhood. It is a part of our being. Macedonhood is our face and identity, what we are recognizable for to others and what we recognize ourselves by when looking at the mirror of history. Macedonhood is our name and heritage, our culture and tradition, our Macedonian language, our 7/8 musical rhythm, our Macedonian model of coexistence and respect of diversity. Macedonhood is that authentic worldview that makes us who we are. Macedonhood is the expression of our self-identification.

The only way to accept their advice is to revert to some sort of metaphorical plastic surgery and remove our skin in order to make us unrecognizable. This means renouncing the truth that our predecessors, the Ilinden and ASNOM fighters, fought for and won.

Dear fellow citizens,

Let us not fool ourselves. Without the Macedonhood of Macedonian enlighteners from the 19th century, the first Ilinden would not have happened.
Without the Macedonhood of Macedonian partisans, the second Ilinden would not have happened.
Without the Macedonhood of Macedonian citizens, we would not have an independent and sovereign Republic of Macedonia.

Because, without Macedonhood, Macedonia is only form without substance. Without Macedonhood, Macedonian people would be reduced to a mere amorphous mass that can be modeled according to the will of foreigners. The fight for national and social freedom of Macedonians necessarily means Macedonhood. Therefore, the memory of our fighters and heroes is also cherished through the monuments that we see around us in this square and in this city. For, without memory, there is no future.

However, Macedonhood is not only memorial days and monuments dedicated to our heroes. Macedonhood is so much more than that. Macedonhood is consistent respect for their actions, following in their footsteps, spreading their values, that should have become our values by now: truth, justice, solidarity, freedom of conscience and thought, democracy, human rights, unity in terms of state interests and above all, love for Macedonia. The problem is that we did not stay faithful to their oath. We stepped down from the road and we got lost in mutual accusations and fatal revanchism. We brought ourselves in the position of being blackmailed as a country. And the price is high, too high.

Because of our Macedonian identity, we are being denied the right to prosperity. And in such circumstances, there are two questions upsetting the public. First, the name issue with Greece. Second, the issue of the Agreement on good neighborly relations with Bulgaria.

Fellow citizens,

We have been leading the talks regarding the name difference with neighboring Greece for more than 20 years now. I believe that we can reach a mutually acceptable, dignified solution for both sides. This requires political will and strict observance of the frame in which these talks take place. That is namely the Resolution of the United Nations, the Interim Accord and the judgment of the International Court of Justice. If the talks go beyond that frame, it will be very difficult to find a solution. Therefore, it is necessary to respect international law and to be consistent with the internationally assumed obligations. The Republic of Macedonia will continue participating in the United Nations – led process, because it is necessary to create a positive ambiance aiming at better understanding and respect.

I welcome the constructiveness of the confidence building measures between the two countries. At the same time, I urge for their expansion with new content. For years, the Macedonian side has been giving continuous constructive contribution and initiatives aiming at building trust between the two countries and societies. It is necessary for both sides to give an additional impetus to overcoming this issue, which is of essential importance for the stability and prosperity of the entire region.

ilinden5Dear fellow citizens,

The second issue is related to the Agreement on good neighborly relations with Bulgaria.

Since the very first day of my mandate, I have been an advocate of promoting good neighborly relations with all neighbors, based on the principles of mutual respect, assistance and support. This is why I supported the initiative for transforming the Declaration on good neighborly relations of 1999 into an Agreement on friendship, good neighborly relations and cooperation with the Republic of Bulgaria. I believe that, as neighbors, we are naturally prone to mutual cooperation. At that time, I gave a proposal on how to approach the two key aspects: common history and the nature of this agreement.

Experience has shown that all problems in the Balkans arise when politicians deal with history, and historians with politics. Some might say – well, President, even this Ilinden speech of yours is dedicated to history. However, I speak about the values and principles that were the foundations of our fight for freedom, and those are uncontestable historical facts. My duty, as President, is to protect the acquisitions that our ancestors fought for and won. And those inevitably include the truth about our past as a basis for our present and future.

If we start opening old wounds, we will easily find reasons for dispute. Therefore, at the very beginning I pointed out clearly that with Bulgaria, we should celebrate only the glorious dates from the common history of our two neighboring, sovereign and equal states.

That common history began on January 15, 1992, when the Republic of Bulgaria, led by President Zhelu Zhelev, became the first country to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia. With that, Zhelev opened the way for international recognition of Macedonia and dispersed the dark scenarios for new divisions of Macedonia. This is the reason why I proposed a joint celebration of January 15 – the day when Bulgaria recognized our independence. For that can be considered as the beginning of our common history.

When, on December 19, 2009, the visa liberalization for Macedonian citizens came into effect, together with the former Bulgarian President Prvanov we raised the ramps on the Gjueshevo – Deve Bair border crossing. With that, we symbolically raised the bareer dividing Europe into two parts. This is why I also proposed a joint celebration of May 9 – Europe Day. Because this is where our common future is oriented at.

I am pleased that the Agreement on good neighborly relations foresees celebrating this undisputed period.

However, there are figures of civilizational importance that should be celebrated jointly not only by Macedonia and Bulgaria, but all other Slavic speaking countries, such as Ss. Cyril and Methodius.

The second aspect is related to the nature of this Agreement.

Since the beginning of this process, I insisted for the agreement to be symmetrical. What does this mean? Good neighborly relations are a two way street. This agreement means that the same rules apply for the left and the right side of the street. What applies for Macedonia, applies for Bulgaria as well. Observing the principles of equality and reciprocity, we are closing an open issue that used to burden our relations. At the same time, we are opening the door for building mutual trust and cooperation.

The agreement is a result of compromise that can never satisfy absolutely everyone. These sorts of agreements are an expression of compromise that should be viewed from the point of view of future, and not the past.

I call upon the two Governments to contribute to the fulfillment of the aim of this agreement, including the Joint committee whose aim will be to build trust and friendship.

Fellow citizens,

For several months now, we have a new Government, with which we have several shared competences. In that sense, I wish to underline several points.

Firstly, we are bound by the Constitution to cooperate in the area of foreign policy. According to the Law on Foreign Affairs, as it has been the case thus far, I will continue to participate in the creation of our foreign policy in cooperation with the Government.

I expect an improvement of coordination between the relevant institutions in charge of foreign affairs, in order to make the voice of Macedonian diplomacy unique, clear and well argumented. Only those candidates for ambassadors who will fulfill the criteria for professionalism, expertise and experience will receive my approval. As for the current and future ambassadors, I expect an intensified engagement in terms of realization of the set strategic goals of the Republic of Macedonia – Euro-Atlantic integration, good neighborly relations, regional cooperation and openness towards all well-intentioned partners. We must strengthen the existing and create new friendships and partnerships, both at the bilateral and multilateral level.

Secondly, with the rebalancing of the budget, the new Government is making an attempt for financial consolidation of the country. I wish to remind you that representation, security and defense of the state are not a luxury, but a necessity. The budget used for representing the country abroad is not an expenditure but an investment in new friendships and partnerships for Macedonia. The budget used for security and defense is not an expenditure but an investment in providing conditions for normal functioning of the state. Intelligence is the first line of defense, and its main pillar is the Army of the Republic of Macedonia. The Army is not only fulfilling its constitutional obligation to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Macedonia, but is often handling the tasks of other institutions. The operational environment is changing. We will deal more often with disasters and unconventional threats. Therefore, the Army should be ready, and this requires a bigger budget.

Thirdly, I support the systemic reforms of the entities in the system of national security, in accordance with the constitutional competences of the Security Council of the Republic of Macedonia.

Fourthly, the highest priority for every Government is to contribute to the economic prosperity of Macedonian citizens with a successful economic policy.

Finally, cohabitation means that we should work together on finding solutions for the benefit of the citizens who elected us. Solutions that will not be contested and will not cause any negative consequences. Solutions that will last not only to the following elections, but will be of benefit to future generations. Therefore, I am ready for the process of cohabitation in terms of any law that will build the European image of Macedonia.

ilinden0Fellow Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Serbs, Roma, Vlachs, Bosniacs,
Fellow Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists,
Dear fellow citizens,

The aim of the Ilinden fighters, partisans and ASNOM fighters was freedom from slavery. The aim of our generation is freedom for prosperity.

Membership in the European Union and NATO will inevitably require a sacrifice. But for every sacrifice, there needs to be a wide national and state consensus. Let us be careful not to sacrifice what our ancestors sacrificed their lives for. Let us not lay our identity at the altar.

Just like Chento, we stand and listen to the call of our homeland. We should decide whether we will make that brave step forward or step back. But we must never lose sight of Kuzman's three principles.

First, to preserve the continuity of the first and second Ilinden, the Krushevo Manifesto for coexistence and the ASNOM statehood documents.

Secondly, to continue the fight against the new fascism, against exclusion, xenophobia and hatred, against radicalism, extremism and terrorism.

Thirdly, to establish a wide Macedonian front in which there will be space for prosperity of all honest Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Vlachs, Serbs, Roma, Bosnacs, regardless of their ideological or political affiliation. Let us leave aside the fatal mutual accusations and revanchism. Let us unite for the sake of the state and national interests of the Republic of Macedonia. Because it is only united that we will be able to build a European Republic of Macedonia, and thus finally walk until the end of the road to freedom.

Long live Ilinden!
Long live our freedom, independence and sovereignty!
Long live the Republic of Macedonia!