Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd's recent visit to Athens this year, was justified to the Australian public as harnessing support for Australia's UN Security Council bid. During the visit, Greek Foreign Minister Droutsas expressed deep gratitude for Australia's position in relation to the name issue with Macedonia. The Hellenic Republic is delighted that for the last 20 years, Australia has maintained an unscrutinised bipartisan foreign policy position on Macedonia.
Few Australian elected representatives, let alone the wider Australian community know that under pressure from Greece in 1993, the United Nations passed two illegal resolutions which had a detrimental impact on Macedonia and the reputation of the UN. First, the UN passed a resolution which imposed an illegal interim name as a condition for Macedonia's accession in to the family of nations. No other sovereign nation on this planet has ever been required to have an interim name. Second, the UN passed a resolution for Macedonia to engage in absurd negotiations with Greece over how the Republic of Macedonia should be identified. As if Australia would negotiate or allow its neighbours to dictate how it should be called.
Australia has unfortunately hitherto chosen, for domestic political reasons, to abide by these two illegal UN resolutions as an excuse for not recognising the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name. By following this path, Australia has been assisting Greece with its delegitimisation campaign of the sovereign Macedonian state and at the same time harming its own reputation and national and international interests.
The Australian Macedonian community is dismayed and concerned with the bipartisan policy position on Macedonia. Since, Macedonia's independence in 1991, the Australian Macedonian community has been calling on the Australian Government of the day to recognise and support Macedonia constitutional name and sovereignty. Large protests have been staged in the past in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra and resolutions have been sent to the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament to little effect.
What is most disturbing is that Australia's foreign policy on Macedonia has never been debated or carefully scrutinised in the Australian Parliament or in the media. Rather, the foreign policy on Macedonia is a product of back room deals that has excluded the wider Australian society not to mention the Australian Macedonian community and its civil society and cultural organisations.
If such scrutiny did take place by an independent panel of foreign policy experts, then it would show that the policy position on Macedonia is not in Australia's national interest and does not contribute to improving its international image and influence. The policy on Macedonia is at odds with 131 member states in the UN who have recognised Macedonia under its constitutional name on a bilateral and or multilateral basis. These countries include the USA, Canada, Britain, Russia, China, India, Indonesia etc.
France is the only member of the UN Security Council not to have supported the legitimate rights of the Macedonian people to self-identification simply because it has sold billions of dollars of expensive and unnecessary arms to Greece, thus accelerating its path to bankruptcy.
As 'a creative middle power' Australia can indeed play a positive and significant role on the world stage at the UN, at the G20, at APEC. Australia can also act as a honest broker to help find innovative solutions to real and to artificially created crisis in South Eastern Europe.
This is unlikely to happen until a new 'open source' foreign policy system is put in place. Such a system would allow Australia to significantly improve its foreign policy innovation capabilities and close its diplomatic deficit with the help of research and progressive diasporas.
Fresh thinking and new leadership is required to put Australia's national interests ahead of the interests of Greece which has been pursuing a destabilising and unsustainable foreign policy toward Macedonian and Turkish integration into the EU. The Hellenic Republic and its increasingly isolated lobby in Australia, have invested large sums of time and money to prevent foreign policy innovation on Macedonia. They have mastered the art of using scare tactics to prevent change.
Improvements to Australia's foreign policy performance can be facilitated by the Opposition if it abandons its support for outdated and unsustainable policy positions. The Australia Greens can also bring about innovation in foreign policy by developing an evidence based and nuanced policy on Macedonia and the region.
The Australian Macedonian community, through its peak state, national and international organisations, has worked in the past and will continue to work in the future with all responsible stakeholders in the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament. In 2009/2010, a Roadmap for Advancing Australia Macedonia Relations was presented to the Australian Government and the Opposition. The recent signing of the Australia-Macedonia Social Security Agreement is a step in the right direction but more can and needs to be done. The voice of the Australian Macedonian community is being heard in the places that matter using stakeholder consultation, facts and cooperation as a basis for moving forward. Will Prime Minister Gillard show fresh thinking and new leadership in foreign policy promised by Rudd?
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