Call for recognition of Macedonia by constitutional name

04 June 2013

Visit_to_Macedonian_Community_Centre_16_nov12_018.jpgTonight I am calling for bipartisan political leadership to recognise the Republic of Macedonia under that constitutional name. It is unfortunate that in Australia we are expected to use the anachronistic name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in formal address. The constitutional name of the republic is the Republic of Macedonia. One hundred and thirty-five countries have recognised Macedonia under its constitutional name, including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, China, India, Indonesia and many others in our region.

The antecedents for the use of the anachronistic name go back into history. The Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on 17 September 1991. It is well known that Greece objected to Macedonia's application to join the United Nations under its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, leading to the country being admitted to the United Nations under the provisional name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 1993. Since that time negotiations to resolve the naming dispute have been held under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, but no agreement has been reached.

Australia and Macedonia enjoy friendly relations based on sharing common interests, common values and 100-year-strong people-to-people ties. I personally experienced the strong bond of friendship between our nations during my visit to Macedonia last year. Formal relations between our two countries were established in 1994. Australia recognised Macedonia, under the anachronistic name, as an independent state on 15 February 1994.

It is a matter of historic record that the Yugoslav Republic was in existence for 48 years. It was constituted of six republics: Bosnia, Herzegovina; Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and Macedonia. It would be perverse if Macedonia, which has existed now for 22 yearsand for 48 years as a state bearing that name within the republic of Yugoslaviawas still referred to as a former republic of Yugoslavia for longer than the existence of the former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia itself.

I am pleased to inform the House that the Macedonian community in the Illawarra is by far the largest ethnic community in the region, with well over 25,000 members. Macedonian migrants in the Illawarra arrived in large numbers during the period 1960 to 1975. Macedonians have made an immense contribution to our postwar economic effort and formed a large part of the workforce, particularly in the heavy industries like the iconic Port Kembla steelworks. Today, the subsequent generations of the Macedonian community are well established in various trades, professions and business in many electorates across Australia and they make a fantastic contribution.

However, it remains unfinished business for this proud community that their home country is not recognised here under its constitutional name. For the last 22 years, the Macedonian community in Australia has sought every opportunity to draw attention to this issue. I am pleased to note that the Macedonian community has organised a gala dinner in Sydney on 5 July 2013 to celebrate the advancement of Australian and Macedonian relations. This event creates an opportunity for a long-overdue act of bipartisan recognition. It is a position that could be embraced by all sides of politics. Nothing would be more significant that a bipartisan agreement to recognise Macedonia by its constitutional name.

I understand that the Macedonian will be shortly recommending to the President of Macedonia and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia to name prominent streets in the capital Skopje after the Hon. Senator Bob Carr and the Hon. Julie Bishop in recognition of their leadership and their importance. Let them truly earn this honour by this act of recognition and join other countries in acknowledgement of the importance of the Macedonian community to Australia's history and its culture.