An internal Australian government document released to the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC) under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that in relation to the use of the term ‘Macedonian’, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) advises that:
“…Greece eventually will have to accept the use of ‘Macedonian’ to describe nationality and ethnicity”(Ministerial Submission, 09-1054, 26/05/2009, page 12).
The confidential and frank Ministerial Submission prepared by DFAT for the Minister for Foreign Affairs provided background information and advice on the “name issue” between Macedonia and Greece. The document, although heavily redacted on alleged national security grounds, also contains information on the 1994 “Slav Macedonian Directive” which renamed the Macedonian community. The brief claimed that a change in the Australian Government’s “Slav Macedonian” policy might lead to a reaction from the Greek government and Greek community in Australia “who would fear a subsequent change in policy on the country name” and that a change in policy would “advantage” the Republic of Macedonia (Ministerial Submission, 09-1054, 26/05/2009, page 11-12).
On 13 February 2012, the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC) announced that after a sustained lobbying campaign, the Australian Government finally withdrew its discriminatory and racist “Slav Macedonian” Directive which renamed the Macedonian community in 1994. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has also confirmed the re-adoption of the term ‘Macedonian’ in relation to the Macedonian community.
In relation to Greece’s refusal to accept the official name of the Republic of Macedonia, the Australian Government has “encouraged” both sides to find a mutually acceptable “solution” to this issue. The Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee (AMHRC) encourages the Australian Government to convey its own advice to the Government of Greece that it will “eventually have to accept the use of ‘Macedonian.’ This advice should also be extended to include the inevitable acceptance of the recognition by Greece of the Republic of Macedonia’s right to its democratically chosen name.
Over 130 countries (two-thirds of UN members) recognise the official name of Republic of Macedonia in their bilateral relationships. Despite the fact that all of Australia’s major allies have recognised the Republic of Macedonia (eg USA, UK, Canada) as well as other powers such as Russia, China and India, Canberra continues to use the so-called “provisional reference” which was only intended for “all purposes within the United Nations”, ‘pending resolution of the so called name issue’.
Whilst the AMHRC is pleased with the Australian Government’s current shift in policy toward the Macedonian Community, it now reiterates its call upon the Government to take the sensible step of recognising the Republic of Macedonia by its democratically chosen name. We also reiterate our call upon the Macedonian government to end all name “negotiations” with Greece.