The Treaties That Divided Macedonia Now Online
By Victor Bivell
Macedonians can now access and read the key treaties that divided and
shaped Macedonia under a new project by Pollitecon Publications which
brings these documents together on the internet for the first time.
The new web page is titled Treaties and Legal Cases, and has the full
text of 16 international treaties and when complete will have the texts
for at least 22 treaties. See www.pollitecon.com/html/reprints/index.html.
The key treaties that affected Macedonia and Macedonians were the:
* Secret Protocol Between Greece And Serbia,
* Treaty of Bucharest,
* Treaty Concerning The Protection Of Minorities In Greece,
* Convention Between Greece And Bulgaria Respecting Reciprocal Emigration,
* Convention Concerning The Exchange Of Greek And Turkish Populations.
It is interesting, if not coincidental, that I found some of these
were also the treaties most difficult to find and some were not available
on the internet. Their republication on the Pollitecon web site now
makes all of them easily accessible for the first time.
Other treaties in the project include the major treaties signed at
the end of the First World War: the Treaty Of Neuilly between the Allied
Powers and Bulgaria, and the Treaty Of Sevres and the Treaty of Lausanne
between the Allied Powers and Turkey.
A second section of the project reprints major legal and human rights
cases by Macedonian political and other organizations. There are eight
initial legal cases in the project - five by Macedonians against Bulgaria,
two by Macedonians against Greece, and one by Macedonians against the
State of Victoria.
The aim of the project is to enable Macedonians to have a better understanding
of the legal documents and procedures that divided the Macedonian land
and people. At present most Macedonians are aware of these and their
contents only through second hand sources and have not read the primary
It is also possible that a better understanding of these documents
could lead to improved human rights for Macedonians in Greece and Bulgaria.
International law is certainly one method that Macedonians should explore
further to begin to right the many current and historical wrongs against
the Macedonian people. Sidiropoulos and Others, Vinozhito, and OMO Ilinden-Pirin
have already had initial success in the European Court of Human Rights.
But these ground breaking cases should be seen as only the beginning.
Macedonians have many more injustices that need to be rectified. There
may also be other international courts and forums available to the Macedonian
It would be an interesting exercise to commission one or several of
the leading practitioners in international law to give an expert legal
opinion on the current standing of all of these key treaties and whether
there are any opportunities that can be utilized to improve the well
being of all or part of the Macedonian people, particularly in Greece
and Bulgaria which are the most difficult countries for Macedonians.
It would also be useful for the Macedonian people to have a more vigorous
and rigorous public discussion about these treaties. With that objective
in mind I would like to make three observations of a general nature
that could be relevant to understanding these treaties, and which I
hope will be interesting topics for public discussion.
The first is that there is not one signature on any of these treaties
by a Macedonian Government, Macedonian organization, Macedonian individual
or anyone appointed to represent the Macedonian people.
Since the Macedonian people were not signatories to these documents,
many Macedonians cannot see how there could be any expectation that
the Macedonian people should agree with or be bound by these documents.
To take one example - the Treaty of Bucharest that divided Macedonia
between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. It is a fact that Macedonians have
never accepted this Treaty and never will. Macedonians find it extraordinarily
unjust that the fate of their land and their fate as a people was decided
without their input or consent. The Treaty does not have the consent
of the native population, and particularly the Macedonians of Aegean
Macedonia and Pirin Macedonia, nor of the other ethnic groups who lived
in these lands at the time. Without this consent, there will always
be the shadow of moral illegitimacy over the Treaty and over the initial
occupation and continued possession of these lands by Greece and Bulgaria.
It would be interesting to explore these issues at the highest levels
of international law, including whether the Macedonian people have options
for any legal redress, or whether the problem ultimately requires a
The second observation I would like to make is about the Treaty Concerning
The Protection of Minorities In Greece.
Apart from its initial intent, nothing kind can be said about this
Treaty. While the document purports to protect all ethnic and religious
minorities in Greece, the fact is that in the years after signing this
piece of paper Greece went on to commit cultural genocide against the
Macedonian people and to this day does not recognize a single ethnic
minority and only one religious minority within its borders. This comprehensive
failure makes this Treaty a major international tragedy and probably
one of the great failures of international diplomacy and law.
The question about this Treaty is not which article Greece may have
broken, but whether there is an article it has not broken. Encyclopedias
could be filled with examples of where this Treaty has been ignored,
particularly in regard to:
* Article 7 paragraph 1
* Article 7 paragraph 3
* Article 7 paragraph 4
* Article 7 paragraph 5
* Article 8
* Article 9 paragraph 1
* Article 9 paragraph 2
Let's look at a small number of examples.
Article 7 paragraph 1 states "All Greek nationals shall be equal before
the law and shall enjoy the same civil and political rights without
distinction as to race, language or religion."
If so, why does Greece allow the return to Greece of fighters from
the Greek Civil War who are "Greek by genus" but not the return of those
who are Macedonian by genus? Why is the concept of "Greek by genus"
necessary if everyone is equal?
Article 7 paragraph 3 states "Differences of religion, creed or confession
shall not prejudice any Greek national in matters relating to the enjoyment
of civil or political rights, as, for instance, admission to public
employments, functions and honours, or the exercise of professions and
Yet Macedonians, and especially those employed in the public service,
still fear they will suffer discrimination if they openly identify as
Article 7 paragraph 4 states "No restriction shall be imposed on the
free use by any Greek national of any language in private intercourse,
in commerce, in religion, in the press or in publications of any kind,
or at public meetings."
Yet Macedonians have been forced to take pledges not to speak their
Macedonian language, and to this day languages other than Greek and
religions other than Greek Orthodox are restricted.
Article 8 states "Greek nationals who belong to racial, religious or
linguistic minorities shall enjoy the same treatment and security in
law and in fact as the other Greek nationals. In particular they shall
have an equal right to establish, manage and control, at their own expense,
charitable, religious and social institutions, schools and other educational
establishments, with the right to use their own language and to exercise
their religion freely therein."
Ethnic Macedonians in Greece have been struggling for decades to have
their own religious and social institutions but are prevented from establishing
Article 9 paragraph 1 states "Greece will provide in the public educational
system in towns and districts in which a considerable proportion of
Greek nationals of other than Greek speech are resident adequate facilities
for ensuring that in the primary schools the instruction shall be given
to the children of such Greek nationals through the medium of their
own language. This provision shall not prevent the Greek Government
from making the teaching of the Greek language obligatory in the said
Is there a single primary school in Greece that teaches the Macedonian
Macedonians are not alone here. Other ethnic minorities including the
Turks, Albanians and Vlachs, and other religious minorities including
the Catholics, other Orthodox, and Muslims also face similar discrimination.
My third observation is really a question: can Greece be held accountable,
and do the Macedonians and other minorities have a remedy?
Under Article 16 Greece agreed for its obligations to be placed under
the guarantee of the League of Nations, and that "any Member of the
Council of the League of Nations shall have the right to bring to the
attention of the Council any infraction, or any danger of infraction,
of any of these obligations, and that the Council may thereupon take
such action and give such direction as it may deem proper and effective
in the circumstances.
"Greece further agrees that any difference of opinion as to questions
of law or fact arising out of these Articles between the Greek Government
and any one of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers or any other
Power, a Member of the Council of the League of Nations, shall be held
to be a dispute of an international character under Article 14 of the
Covenant of the League of Nations. The Greek Government hereby consents
that any such dispute shall, if the other party thereto demands, be
referred to the Permanent Court of International Justice. The decision
of the Permanent Court shall be final and shall have the same force
and effect as an award under Article 13 of the Covenant."
Although the League of Nations was dissolved, its successor organization
is the United Nations. Likewise, although the Permanent Court of International
Justice was dissolved, its successor court is the International Court
Article 37 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice says
"Whenever a treaty or convention in force provides for reference of
a matter to a tribunal to have been instituted by the League of Nations,
or to the Permanent Court of International Justice, the matter shall,
as between the parties to the present Statute, be referred to the International
Court of Justice."
Thus the International Court of Justice has jurisdiction to hear a
dispute regarding a League of Nations Treaty or Convention.
The next question is who has standing to bring a dispute, and who would
be prepared to do so? As well as Greece, the signatories to the Treaty
were: Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
South Africa, and India. What legal and moral obligations do these countries
have to enforce the Treaty? Can one or more of these countries be persuaded
to bring an action?
Article 20 states "All rights and privileges accorded by the foregoing
Articles to the Allied and Associated Powers shall be accorded equally
to all States, Members of the League of Nations." Does this mean that
any member of the United Nations may also bring a dispute? Could the
Republic Of Macedonia do so? If so, would it be prepared to do so? If
not, is there another country that could do so, either on behalf of
the Macedonians or on behalf of some or all of the ethnic and religious
minorities in Greece?
It is obvious that Greece had no intention of fulfilling the Treaty,
and to this day continues to violate the spirit as well as the letter
of the law. Greece claims that the Treaty only refers to a "Moslem"
minority. Yet the Treaty clearly speaks of "racial, religious or linguistic
minorities" in the plural. Perhaps a country with standing could bring
a dispute to clarify this and the many other issues that arise from
Action by the signatory countries could in one move redeem their past
inaction, and at the same time offer the international community a relatively
quick and painless way to improve the very low level of human rights
in Greece and raise them to an acceptable European standard.
If these issues are not resolved, the treaties that divided Macedonia
will continue to raise legal and ethical questions and continue to generate
discontent among the Macedonian people around the world. My hope is
that the answers to these questions may lead to a better life for Macedonians
and other ethnic and religious minorities in Greece.
Published in Australian Macedonian Weekly, 11 September 2007
© Copyright, September 2007