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Old 03-27-2017, 12:35 AM   #351
Risto the Great
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Default Macedonia to George Soros and USAID: Go Away

https://spectator.org/macedonia-to-g...usaid-go-away/

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Small but mighty Macedonia is the mouse that roared this year, declaring war on George Soros, 86, and his U.S. Government handmaidens, who, incredibly, have financed a left-wing agenda to divide the nation and bring a socialist-Muslim coalition to power.

It was the kind of Obama Administration manipulation that was so routine that it passed unnoticed in 2012, when USAID/Skopje selected Soros’ Foundation Open Society Macedonia (FOSM) to manage $2.5 million in taxpayer dollars earmarked for oxymoronic “democracy building,” an amount increased to $4.8 million two years later.

As we speak, and yes, I mean currently, Macedonia’s Open Society Foundation is a USAID partner recruiting candidates for “Youth Engagement Support (YES) grants” — concept papers were due five days after Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. It’s some part of a $9.5 million, five-year “civic engagement” boondoggle kicked off last year, which surely would be squelched if the Tillerson State Department were running on all cylinders.

Collusion between the Hungarian-American billionaire and the U.S. against Macedonia’s national interest is outlined on the website, StopSoros.mk, launched in late January by journalists in Skopje, the capital city and, incidentally, birthplace of Mother Teresa.

Over the last three weeks, inspired by the Trump Revolution, tens of thousands of Macedonians have held peaceful rallies for national unity, an end to chaos-creating Soros/USAID largess, and the removal of the U.S. Ambassador. One of the most common posters is a black and white, “No Soros Government.”

Macedonia’s plight has caught the attention of Capitol Hill: six Republican House members wrote to U.S. Ambassador Jess Baily on January 17, quizzing him about “disturbing reports” that the U.S. Mission “actively intervened” in domestic politics to promote “parties, media, and civil society groups of the center left.” They followed up with the Government Accountability Office, requesting an investigation. Last week, six Republican Senators directed a similar letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Unfortunately, conservative Members of Parliament from Macedonia have trouble finding Administration interlocutors to listen to their complaints — though several have flown to D.C. over the last three weeks to brief anyone who will listen. (USAID, they consider an utterly lost cause.)

Paging Mr. Trump

“Soros was Clinton and Clinton was Soros in the Balkans,” explained an agitated Macedonian MP, member of the Christian democratic VMRO-DPMNE party (commonly known as VMRO, pronounced VOOM-row), cooling his heels last week in a Dupont Circle cafe.

“Soros was Obama and Obama was Soros,” added the MP, who asked not to be named.

He fanned a stack of papers on the table before me, eager to make two well-documented points: First, Macedonia, the only nation to escape Yugoslavia without war, has been led by VMRO’s pro-growth, low-tax, family-values government for the last 11 years.

Macedonia is currently ranked #10 in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” standings, higher than any other Central or Eastern European country — and just two places below the U.S. Five years ago, the Financial Times lauded VMRO for introducing a 10% flat tax on personal and corporate taxes, the lowest in Europe.

Besides being fiscally conservative, the nation of 2.1 million is socially conservative. Macedonia is the only European country where restrictions on abortion have tightened. Since 2013, a waiting period and personal counseling is required when a woman seeks abortion; the government runs a multimedia public service campaign, “Choose Life!”

“We became a Soros target because we’re a conservative nation,” the politician ruefully observed.

Wordy but historical, VMRO-DPMNE refers to the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO) an 1893 movement for autonomy within the Ottoman Empire, updated in 1990 as Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (DPMNE), when the center-right party was founded in newly independent Macedonia.

Second, the MP’s file demonstrates, rather than applauding Macedonia’s progress — or at least, leaving it alone — U.S.-funded programs have provoked Saul Alinsky-style violence and ethnic division, inspiring a political crisis since 2015 as well as the empowerment of VMRO’s only political rival, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), a socialist party led by Zoran Zaev, who has close ties to the Soros network extending beyond his homeland.

“It’s still going on, despite the new Administration!” the clean-cut, 40-something, MP exclaimed, waving a copy of the Soros/USAID YES grants Request for Proposals in my face.

“Awaiting Hillary Clinton’s coronation, they extended this fusion between Soros and the U.S. Government through 2021!”

Inviting me to consider what it means to pour $6-$7 million, Soros’ estimated annual budget for Macedonia, into a country of some two million people, the distraught man attracted attention from neighboring tables when he bellowed, “They are destroying my country!”

Hoping my new friend was exaggerating, I contacted several smart, reasonable, conservative analysts in Macedonia and a few in the U.S. who travel there frequently. All agree: Not only has the U.S. played negative, counterproductive games in Macedonia, they report our foreign policy has destabilized the country and promoted Islamic extremism.

U.S. goals are so unsavory to the majority Orthodox population that many are beginning to look toward Russia as a more sympathetic — not to mention Christian — ally.

Non-Electoral Tactics for Gaining Power

A fascinating 1995 New Yorker article describes how, and why, Soros jumped into newly independent Macedonia with both feet.

Unconvinced by Bulgarians who say there’s no such thing as a Macedonian ethnic group (Macedonians and Bulgarians speak virtually the same language; Macedonia was controlled by Bulgaria intermittently from the tenth century until 1918) and resentful of the Greek government’s efforts to snuff out the tiny country over its name (Athens imagines Macedonia has territorial designs on its northern region, known as Macedonia), Soros was enamored with the country’s first post-Communist president, Kiro Gligorov, a top boss under Marshall Josip Broz Tito, who competently staked out the country’s independent course.

With a sizable Albanian minority of some 25% of the population (at least, that was the percentage in 2002 when the last census was taken), Soros considered Macedonia a valuable example of a viable multiethnic nation in a region where ethnicity has been Hellishly weaponized. The foundation’s early programs concentrated on inter-ethnic relations and media development, then broadened to include Soros passions such as LGBT activism and “sex worker” rights, minority views with little popular support in a country where the majority is quietly devoted to the Macedonian Orthodox Church, an unloved stepchild, still claimed by the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Soros’ preferred policies had zero traction as long as VMRO held power. Having controlled the unicameral legislative branch 1992-1998 and 2002-2006, the socialists lost consecutive parliamentary elections to VMRO in 2006 and 2008. It won seats in 2011 after provoking a parliamentary crisis that brought early elections. SDSM saw the advantage of using bullying tactics to gain power and turned to its friends in the burgeoning civil society world for a longer-term strategy.

As the New Yorker’s prescient reporter, Connie Bruck, observed over 20 years ago, “[T]he problem with Soros is the extremity of his views — his tendency to beatify one side and demonize the other — and the way in which that’s reflected in his activism.”

Macedonian Information Agency editor, Cvetin Chilimanov, age 38, watched as FOSM beatified SDSM and demonized VMRO.

“The Soros foundation has always been partisan but it became completely supportive of the Social Democrat party over the last four or five years,” Chilimanov explained. “Very openly, to the point that about 50 groups funded by Soros meet regularly with SDSM representatives; they call it a coalition between party and citizens, to organize joint protests, coordinate talking points, and coordinate joint positions of attack on the conservatives.”

“It’s been a five-year campaign to bring down the conservative government,” Chilimanov summarized, a timeline that coincides with USAID’s 2012 cooperative agreement with FOSM to foment “civic activism,” “fertilizing grassroots actions,” and “greater CSO [civil society organization] mobilization,” to use USAID’s somewhat ominous boilerplate.[10] To provide guidance, FOSM translated Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” a manual teaching social change through conflict, Chilimanov confirmed.
A good article pointing fingers appropriately.
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Old 03-27-2017, 12:36 AM   #352
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A 2014 FOSM internal document that surfaced via DCLeaks last year offers a small window on Soros entities as U.S. Government pick pockets: Metamorphosis, a foundation spun off by FOSM staff in 1999, and funded by the Soros Mother Ship, is listed as receiving funds from three USG funding streams, USAID, the U.S. Embassy, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

What exactly does this group do? God only knows. Its website loftily reports, “Metamorphosis mission is to contribute to the development of democracy and increase the quality of life through innovative use and sharing of knowledge. Our guiding values are openness, equality and freedom.” So they do whatever they want with our money, and it must have been a success, since Metamorphosis is one of the four local groups, including FOSM, that received a $9.5 million earmark from USAID last year.

“Ten years ago, USAID was a normal organization supporting schools and water supply systems,” observed the MP visiting Washington, D.C. “Under Obama’s ideological programs, it became the super crack of the Left.”

It’s all a rich joke on the American taxpayer: as we transferred millions to Soros’ destructive projects abroad, he stiffed the U.S. Treasury: It was widely reported in 2015 that George Soros owed the Internal Revenue Service approximately $6.7 billion and there’s no evidence he ever settled the debt.

Judicial Watch submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Department last month to scrutinize collusion between Soros, USAID, and the U.S. Embassy: The document lists 29 organizations, Soros clones, that have implemented Soros/USG strategy.

Politics of Mobilization

Not surprisingly, mobilization and protest became the opposition’s modus operandi in the spring of 2015, when Zoren Zaev, SDSM’s leader, produced phone recordings that allegedly revealed VMRO corruption — the governing party denied wrongdoing and called the tapes dubious. The well-trained activists came out to the streets.

Protests were replete with photogenic moments, designed to go viral, such as a seasoned NGO professional applying her lipstick, using a police shield as a mirror. Opposition claimed 100,000 demonstrators while state sources reported more like 10,000.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the wiretapping scandal came evidence that radical elements of the Albanian minority are a constant threat: extremists from neighboring Kosovo clashed with Macedonian security forces in a northern town, leaving eight officers and 14 civilians dead — the first fatalities due to ethnic violence in Macedonia in 14 years.

Last March, the Macedonian government boldly closed its border to prevent the tsunami of economic migrants and refugees surging from Greece toward Western Europe, allowing restricted numbers to enter. Open borders is one of George Soros’ most keenly felt priorities. How did his Team respond? Activism! With an admixture of violence and vandalism.

Ostensibly protesting pardons extended to 56 politicians by VMRO President Gjorge Ivanov, which he soon retracted, the socialist party and its well-trained “Soros Army” (as some professionally printed T-shirts actually declared) employed paint guns, slingshots with paint-filled balloons, and eggs to denigrate, albeit colorfully, public buildings and monuments.

The fertilized grassroots also broke into the president’s office, vandalized property, and burned office furniture. Three policemen were injured.

Filip Stojanovski, Metamorphosis’ program director and main man, maintains a Twitter profile pic (@razvigor) obscured by bright paint splats — an overt reference to his glory days during last summer’s “Colorful Revolution,” as it is known.

“I heard Soros and SDSM activists chanting, ‘No Justice, No Peace,’ which isn’t even a meaningful slogan in Skopje,” recalled Cvetin Chilimanov. “The transfer of tactics from U.S. Left-wing groups funded by Soros to Macedonia is striking.”

Simultaneously, the government had to defend its southern border with Greece, while diverting security forces 100 miles away from Skopje, to defend property against political agitators.

The traveling MP remembers, “It was a nightmare. The Soros army threw rocks at police guarding VMRO headquarters. Meanwhile, they were handing scissors out on the border to help people cut fences. Chaos.”

Information Service editor Chilimanov considers last summer’s melee to signal George Soros’ deepest objectives: “By controlling Macedonia, he can open or close the flow of migrants. The far Left Greek government has accepted no end of migrants. [Soros is close to the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras.] It was our government that stopped the flow so his grand objective is to control this situation.”

External Intervention

In an excellent account of Macedonia’s political situation over the last two years, “Macedonia’s Crisis isn’t Going Away,” in this month’s issue of the American Interest, Chris Deliso, an American journalist and author who lives with his family in Skopje, writes, “Since 2015 in particular, active U.S. diplomacy has not only failed to resolve Macedonia’s political crisis, but it has in fact prolonged it, with every initiative (both covert and overt) having backfired in some way.”

Having helped position SDSM for a return to power, as a result of investments in its media and civil society infrastructure, the U.S. began shaping the process of creating the next government.

Deliso thinks the U.S. Government “could have just sat this one out.” In light of its extensive investments in the NGO superstructure, which is an investment in the SDSM party, there’s no way the State Department was going to stay on the sidelines.

Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, became prominently involved last summer in political negotiations toward parliamentary elections, ostensibly a neutral diplomatic role. She was clearly stirring the pot, though, announcing as she left in July, “Today, I met and talked with civil activists and journalists and encouraged them to continue with the work they are doing.”

Rescheduled from April to June to December, parliamentary elections were finally held on December 11, yielding a slight two-seat majority for VMRO over SDSM, 51-49. To form a governing majority 61 seats are necessary, so VMRO turned to its 2011-2016 partner, the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), with ten seats. But DUI turned its back on its old VMRO ally, looking outside the country’s borders for guidance.

VMRO was to be frozen out of the election it had just narrowly won.

A new actor came onstage: Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, leader of the Socialist Party of Albania — so close to George Soros, he attended the billionaire’s third wedding, in 2013. Rama and his Foreign Minister gathered Macedonia’s three largest Albanian political parties, which together have 18 seats, forging a new alliance, outlined in the so-called Tirana Platform. It’s a provocation from top to bottom, calling for Albanian as an official language at all levels of government (“full linguistic equality”), alluding to ethnic “nation building” as a legitimate goal, and calling for basic matters of national identity to be renegotiated including the country’s name, coat of arms, anthem, and flag.

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev adopted the Tirana Platform and obtained support — and 18 seats — from the three Albanian parties on February 25, declaring that he expected President Ivanov to give him the mandate that would make him Prime Minister. But on March 1, the president clapped back, denying Zaev a mandate because “his program advocates the destruction of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence.”[29]

Hence…daily rallies and organized strolls, around the country, featuring the signs of a lively, proud nation: Macedonia’s yellow sunburst on a red field, boys and girls in traditional costumes, a Robert Putnam-ian assortment of old-school NGOs such as handball leagues, dance troupes, and scouts.

Jason Miko, an American businessman who spends extensive time in Macedonia, highlighted that the Tirana Platform is “just an ethnic platform, with nothing about creating jobs” in a country where exclusive focus on ethnicity has led to war.

“This is what’s happening,” Miko said. “Low-level State Department bureaucrats are calling the shots because the President hasn’t been able to fill key jobs on the seventh floor. There is no oversight. They are telling the U.S. Ambassador to pressure Ivanov to give the mandate to Zaev.”

He continued, “In my opinion, this directly contradicts what President Trump said in his Inaugural address, that we want to let other nations put their own interests first. Instead, in Macedonia, we have an activist ambassador, Jess Baily, working with and funding the Soros organizations saying that no, you don’t have a right to put your own interests first.”

“What we really need from Washington is an adult in the Administration to stand up and say, ‘No, the Macedonians are going through their process, they know their constitution, and let the Macedonians take their process forward. That is what we really need from some senior official in Washington, DC.”

Since average people are shut out of process for now, they’ve displacing Soros activists in the street.

“What’s most important about these very calm gatherings is, they are regular people, from old to young,” observed Chris Deliso. “This is a simple, conservative society of people who know who they are. They don’t like to be looked down as second class Europeans.”

The author continued, “Something had to change and the Tirana Platform has galvanized people who were cynical until now about the value of their own preferences in their own country.”

Deliso says the political funding he has witnessed “just alienated one side of the country — the majority — and emboldened the other side to become more irresponsible. I’ve talked to people who work at USAID and always argued, either give equal funding to both sides or give no funding at all. Obviously, they haven’t listened.
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Old 03-28-2017, 01:46 PM   #353
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Balkan Conspiracy Theories Come to Capitol Hill
A group of GOP senators is spreading false allegations from a shadowy organization and supporting the region’s corrupt and undemocratic forces.
BY GORAN BULDIOSKI

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/28/...donia-albania/

Quote:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is mulling how to respond to a letter delivered March 14 by six senators urging him to investigate the activities of U.S. embassies, USAID missions, and diplomatic outposts working to support democracy around the world.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the lead signatory, and his fellow senators unquestioningly spread false allegations made in a pamphlet distributed to Congress by a Macedonian group, Stop Operation Soros, which was set up by Cvetin Chilimanov, the editor of Macedonia’s state news service and a former employee of the president’s office. The letter focuses on the efforts of two career U.S. ambassadors to support democracy in Macedonia and Albania, implying that their missions meddled in local party politics to “invigorate the political left.” It alleges that the Foundation Open Society Macedonia and the Open Society Foundation for Albania, which are supported by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, acted as middlemen in this endeavor.


Tillerson should ignore the letter, because there’s nothing to investigate. In addition to being littered with inaccuracies about the foundations’ work, the senators echo Kremlin talking points and support the agenda of corrupt and undemocratic elements in the region.

I know this because I am the director of the Open Society Initiative for Europe, which Soros founded. I am also Macedonian. In 2015, my country was thrown into political crisis after an opposition party published a series of intercepted audio conversations. One appeared to show then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski encouraging election officials to invalidate ballots cast against his party. Other recordings revealed rampant corruption and a mass surveillance program targeting 20,000 people. In response, hundreds of thousands of protesters against the government took to the streets across Macedonia in 2015 and 2016 and a special prosecutor launched an investigation against Gruevski, who was encouraged to step down by the European Union. Elections late last year left no party with enough seats to form a new government; Gruevski remains the most powerful force in a divided Macedonia.

Faced with a potential prison sentence, Gruevski is unwilling to admit responsibility for the crime and the political crisis caused by the ongoing investigation. Admonished by the EU and eager to shift the blame, he appears to be taking his lines from Moscow. He has parroted Kremlin propaganda that labels critical voices as enemies of the people. Soros, who co-funds independent organizations with other private donors and the EU, has become a convenient scapegoat.

It has been widely understood in the U.S. Congress that support for civil society organizations around the globe was not a partisan affair. Since the days of President Ronald Reagan, both parties have overwhelmingly supported work to help countries transition from communism to democracy. Yet in their letter, the senators ask Tillerson to shut down democracy promotion that is “disrespecting national sovereignty.” Such an interpretation assumes that governments are sacrosanct and sovereign, not the voters who elect them, and that a healthy civil society undermines a country’s development.

In pushing these claims, the senators have unwittingly ushered Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian narrative straight into the Capitol.In pushing these claims, the senators have unwittingly ushered Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian narrative straight into the Capitol. In wording akin to Russian state media’s depiction of the crisis in Ukraine, which branded all popular dissent as fomented by the West, the letter accuses USAID of destabilizing Albania, a former communist state turned NATO ally, by pushing for justice reform there. They offer no proof to substantiate their claim beyond USAID funding the work of the Open Society Foundation for Albania, and even this is incorrect.

Contrary to the allegations leveled in the letter by unnamed “respected leaders from Albania,” the Open Society Foundation for Albania has never accepted or administered USAID funding. It did not create the Strategic Document for Albanian Judicial Reform as the letter claims; Albania’s multiparty parliamentary commission for judicial reform did. The foundation supported the process by funding the commission and its technical support team, but had no input in the document. The senators appear to have fallen victim to a political exercise to discredit the judicial reform process and the prime minister — ironic given their concerns about stability in the country.

Perhaps most alarming is that the senators’ letter equates pushing a “progressive agenda” with promoting “a political agenda.” They seem to forget that progress — in rule of law, democracy, and respect for human rights — is a human ideal enshrined in international law by governments from across the political spectrum. The senators argue that critical debate and reform aimed at realizing that ideal have had a “destabilizing effect” in the region.

History demonstrates that they’re wrong. It’s no coincidence that the most prosperous countries in the world (think of Germany or the Netherlands, not to mention the United States) play host to vibrant and diverse policy debates. Airing and addressing public concerns creates long-term stability, and suppressing them only feeds frustration and increases the likelihood of unrest.

It is not surprising that the senators have heard from entrenched leaders who view critical civil society as subversive. Politicians don’t like to be criticized. But the investigation they call for would target the work of pro-democracy organizations like the International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, National Endowment for Democracy, U.S. Institute of Peace, and countless others around the world, based on what appear to be the comments of a few self-interested politicians in two countries. Agreeing to such an investigation would mark a dangerous departure from decades of American policy promoting democracy and human rights abroad, practiced by both Republican and Democratic administrations. It would mark the abandonment of the understanding that U.S. interests are best served by relationships with stable, peaceful countries that share the same democratic values.

The letter also ignores the fact that much of the foundations’ work is designed to support government institutions. Tillerson should take stock of this before he makes his decision. Since Soros founded the Open Society Foundations in 1979, our work has helped improve the lives of millions of people around the world.Since Soros founded the Open Society Foundations in 1979, our work has helped improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

The Foundation Open Society Macedonia’s support was vital to the country’s survival in its early years. Blockaded by its neighbors after declaring independence in 1991 during the breakup of Yugoslavia, the foundation helped keep Macedonia’s health care system alive, bringing medicine, lab equipment, ambulances, and sanitary supplies to 45 hospitals and clinics across the country. In 1994, it paid 50 percent of the costs for 40 massive airfreight flights to Slovenia so that Macedonian farmers could get their fresh produce to a European market.

To date, the Foundation Open Society Macedonia spent $171,500 more than the Macedonian government to provide the country’s poorest people with free legal aid. These projects offer legal assistance to any person or organization refused access to information about government activities, such as spending on a local infrastructure project. The foundation has provided free legal advice to 100 victims of domestic abuse. It even helped the government by paying for a new digital records system for the national health care system and funded the country’s justice ministry website.

The Foundation Open Society Macedonia has helped train more than 2,000 instructors to use interactive teaching methodologies and paid for refurbishing and equipping amphitheaters, hallways, toilets, multimedia libraries, and classrooms at eight teacher training faculties at four state universities. During the economic crisis from 2009 to 2011, it used emergency funds to disburse $1.9 million to organizations teaching farmers and small-business men financial management so they could keep their businesses afloat.

The Open Society Foundation for Albania has spent more than $57 million building 275 schools and kindergartens across the country. Seventy percent of its population has benefited from these schools, and children are still educated in them. Open Society’s internet program opened up Albania to the outside world, setting up the country’s first internet antenna in 1997 and helping to deliver free online services to libraries, universities, and NGOs.

The Open Society Foundations pride themselves on being transparent and nonpartisan. We advance human rights and fundamental freedoms for the long term, irrespective of the political leaders of the day. If leaders with authoritarian tendencies cut off support to the brave NGOs that question them, activists would be left increasingly exposed to harassment, intimidation, and violence. The world would become less stable.

The secretary of state should think long and hard about standing behind America’s international political commitments. Abandoning them would mean taking his country, and the world, in a different and far darker direction.

Photo credit: ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images
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Old 07-20-2020, 04:13 AM   #354
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An interesting opinion piece from a couple of years ago.

https://www.investigate-europe.eu/en...who-you-think/
Quote:
Who’s been meddling in Macedonia? Not only who you think

Greece and Macedonia were pressured by the US, NATO and the EU to sign a deal that most people in both countries reject. And yet, according to the narrative adopted by western media it was solely Russia who “meddled”, “orchestrated”, “agressed”. Evidence on the ground shows a much more mixed and disturbing reality.

14 December 2018, OPINION By Nikolas Leontopoulos

For more than a quarter of a century the Macedonia name issue has been arguably one of the most incomprehensible (and – yes! – boring) issues in Europe. Until suddenly it turned into a plot combining characters from le Carré Cold War novels with a House of Cards script: Local politicians tangle with foreign ambassadors; street protesters collude with foreign oligarchs; hackers antagonise foreign spies. Greece and Macedonia had become the latest battlefield of the new Cold War between the West and Russia. Some of the world’s best media rushed on the crime scene to cover it. And yet, as this piece will try to demonstrate, to a large extent there was one-sidedeness in answering the main question: Who made the mess? But first, an as-short-as-possible explainer to the issue itself. The name dispute between Greece and Macedonia is summarily dismissed by outsiders as “sentimental”. But for the two parties involved it triggers existential fears. Macedonia, a new and tiny country, claimed that the name and identity are a matter of self-determination. Without them acting as a cementing glue, the fragile state might fall apart, given also that a quarter of its population is an Albanian ethnic minority. Greece on the other side argued that the name Macedonia and the Macedonian identity foment territorial pretensions over the northern Greek province of Macedonia and that some of these pretensions are implied in the country’s constitution. For more than 25 years, the two neighbours failed to reach an agreement. But despite the stalemate, Athens and Skopje had learnt to cope with the status-quo while at the same time enjoying an ever-growing economic relationship. Greece was content that “official” entities such as the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations recognised the country only by its institutional name “FYROM” (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Macedonia was content that over 130 countries recognised the name “Macedonia” and that was also the name used by all media (save the Greek ones).

It’s all about Russia

Around 2016 things abruptly changed. This time it was the outsiders that urgently wanted the issue to be resolved. What had changed? The West wanted to add Macedonia as one more member in its military alliance, NATO. But for this to happen the neighbours needed first to resolve the name issue. According to the Western narrative, this would help contain Russia’s interference and aggression in the region. According to the Russian narrative, this was yet another aggressive step taken by the West to encircle Russia, breaking promises made at the end of the Cold War that NATO would not expand eastwards. The Macedonian issue became just another episode in the new Cold War between Russia and the West. George Soros, the controversial American hedge fund billionaire turned philanthropist* set the record straight in a New York Times op-ed: Solving the Macedonia dispute is all about broader geopolitics and Russia. It’s about making the Balkan states, as Soros wrote, “less susceptible to influence — economic, diplomatic or military — from Beijing, Ankara or Moscow.”

A deal against the will of the people in both countries

Following pressure to both sides from the West and after months of secret name negotiations, Greece and Macedonia reached a final agreement. The two PMs brought to their peoples and their parliaments (until that moment kept in the absolute dark) an agreement that suited perfectly the geopolitical objectives of the US, the EU and NATO but was extremely unpopular with… their own people. (According to the latest poll in Greece, the Prespa Agreement is supported by a meagre 17% against the 65% who reject it. In Macedonia, the unpopularity of the agreement was proven by the failure of the referendum despite the promise that was attached to it: Voting “Yes” in the referendum would be the ticket for FYROM’s entry in NATO and eventually to the EU.) In June 2018the agreement was signed by PM Zaev and Tsipras at the lake of Prespa. According to the Prespa Agreement, Greece would be obliged to accept the existence of a “Macedonian” nationality and a “Macedonian” language. Last but not least, Greece, a full member of NATO, would agree not to veto Northern Macedonia’s entry in the military alliance. Macedonia from its side would be obliged to change its name to Northern Macedonia and delete from its constitution all irredentist references. There was however a caveat: For the Prespa Agreement to be valid, it had to be adopted first by a referendum in Macedonia.

50 shades of meddling

The referendum was scheduled for September and in the months preceding it, Macedonia became the theatre for the new Cold War. But here’s another oddity, this time not Balkan: The western media, especially the Anglo-Saxon, were rife with allegations about Russia “meddling” (Reuters), “interfering” (Wall Street Journal), exercising “influence through corruption” (Foreign Policy), “funding violence” (Times of London), “orchestrating to wreck” (The Telegraph) and “slapping” (Washington Post). Yet the same media, while claiming they are independent, as opposed to Russia’s propagandist state media, stood silent when it came to the West’s (US, EU, NATO) role in the conflict. There was Russia meddling, no doubt about it. In July 2018, a few weeks after the signing of the Prespa Agreement, Greece, historically much more reluctant than its European counterparts to take strong steps against Moscow, expelled two Russian diplomats. Athens accused Moscow of attempts “to bribe state officials” and to “interfere in its internal affairs”. The Russian efforts, according to the Financial Times , were focused on bribing “local government officials, Orthodox clergymen, and members of cultural associations and far-right groups” at the north of the country in order to bolster opposition against the name agreement.

“US spycraft” against Ivan, the oligarch

A few days later, on July 17, more evidence of Russia meddling surfaced. Ivan Savvidis, a Russian businessman of Greek origin with rapidly-growing financial interests in Greece’s economy (ports, media and football) was accused of covertly channeling payments of 300,000 to 350,000 euros to opponents of the name agreement. The Savvidis story was first revealed by OCCRP, an investigative reporting outlet. (Trying to undermine the credibility of the scoop, detractors of the Prespa Agreement have pointed to the fact that OCCRP receives state funding by the US.) Several months later a new story about Savvidis’ actions, this time inside Greece, broke in the New York Times. As it turns out the “irrefutable” evidence upon which Greece based its decision to expel the Russians was the product of “US spycraft”. It consisted of “intercepted communications” by the US in Greece that showed that Mr. Savvidis “was working as Russia’s conduit”. It was also based on “financial data” collected by American agencies that showed Savvidis “had been paying the protesters”. According to the NYT, the Americans “turned over the intercepts” to the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who responded by making a rare break with Moscow.

Savvidis vs Soros, the symmetry

In the eyes of the West, Savvidis’ soft power initiatives in the region have turned him into an agent of, as the New York Times put it, “Russian subversion”.

The analogy with George Soros is worth noting.

Soros and Savvidis are different figures and of a different calibre. However the way they are perceived by their detractors presents an intriguing symmetry: A foreign billionaire and philanthropist who is accused of using his wealth to provoke unrest, influence elections and destabilise democracies. Even the allegations are symmetrical: both were accused by successive prime ministers of Macedonia of financially supporting the protests against them: First, it was PM Gruevski who in 2015-2017 repeatedly accused Soros of funding protests in collusion with the US in order to foment regime change. And now it was the turn of PM Zaev to make an almost identical allegation but against the “other” side, against Savvidis as a businessman “sympathetic to the Russian cause”. (There is one difference though: Soros’s funding via his Open Society Foundation is seemingly transparent as opposed to the rather opaque structure of the “Ivan Savvidis Charitable Foundation” – dead link referred to from his personal webpage.) Nevertheless, the parallel between Savvidis and Soros begs the question of double standards: If one is a well-intentioned benefactor (both are philanthropists), then how can the other one be a dark force agent of a foreign power? — and vice versa.

How the West fares

The allegations about Savvidis’ actions and Russian meddling seem plausible, albeit with a grain of salt, given that all evidence is sourced back to western intelligence services – whose record regarding accuracy of information is far from impeccable. But how has the West fared in regards to its own measure of meddling? For a start, we know by their own admission that US agencies have been conducting (illegal) intercepts in an allied country (Greece) against foreign nationals, and then passed on this “intelligence” to achieve the expulsion of diplomats of a third country (Russia).

“American diplomacy has played a lead role”

The US doesn’t hide its own meddling. In his August 2018 testimony before the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Wess Mitchell, US Assistant Secretary of State, said that “American diplomacy has played a lead role in resolving the Greece-Macedonia name dispute” (pdf of Mitchell’s testimony). Mitchell’s testimony reads like a hard-core relic of Cold War tactics: To face Russia in an effective way, Mitchell says,“US diplomacy must be backed by military power that is second to none and fully integrated with our allies and all of our instruments of power.” Mitchell said that the State Department takes the Russia threat very seriously “countering it in both overt and covert form.” An indication of this: “all 49 US missions located in Europe and Eurasia are required to develop, coordinate, and execute tailored action plans for rebuffing Russian influence operations in their host countries”.

The price tag

It is hard to attach a price tag next to this commitment but according to the New York Times the US Congress has allocated $8 million specifically for Macedonia “to fight Russian disinformation campaigns”. Additionally, the US provided Macedonia with an extra $2 million to “promote the rule of law” in the country. (PM Zaev has recently said that the amount the US government has spent to promote democracy in the country is more than $1.75 billion!)

From Kiev to Athens

Mitchell’s testimony was celebrated on Twitter by US ambassador in Athens, Geoffrey Pyatt, who according to the New York Times had been instrumental in the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Greece. When Pyatt talks about playing “a lead role” in other countries’ affairs, he knows what he’s talking about: Before moving to Athens, Pyatt was the US ambassador in Ukraine. In an intercepted telephone conversation from 2014 (almost certainly leaked by Russian secret services) Pyatt is heard in an exchange with Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State, on moving top Ukrainian politicians of the opposition inside and outside the Kiev government as if they were “pieces” on a chessboard. (Full transcript by BBC here).

British PR agencies to “infiltrate and divide”

A fragment of what this “covert form” of action in Macedonia might consist of was revealed in a groundbreaking investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It revealed that British PR agencies were hired by the “Yes” camp (which was supported by the Macedonian government and by the US, EU, NATO alliance) to influence voters in “under the radar” operations and to create misleading social media accounts to “infiltrate and divide the opposition”. One of the British firms was funded by the Foreign Office for its work there. And yet, despite the Bureau being considered a credible and independent investigative outlet, its scoop about concrete actions by the West to meddle in Macedonia’s politics had no traction in Western media.

A Parade of Statesmen

There was also “overt” action. In the weeks preceding the referendum, Macedonia witnessed an unprecedented parade of some of the most powerful people in the West: On 6/9 NATO’s chief Stoltenberg, on 7/9 Austria’s Chancellor Kurz (Austria holds the EU Presidency), on 8/9 Germany’s Chancellor Merkel, on 9/9 US Senator Johnson, on 13/9 EU High Representative Mogherini and US Assistant Secretary of State Mitchell, on 17/9 US Defense Secretary Mattis, on 18/9 EU Commissioner Hahn, all visited Skopje to bolster the “Yes” vote. It was a typical carrot and stick approach: The Western statesmen and women alternated praise and promises with veiled threats and ultimatums.

So who won the referendum?

The first impression in the referendum of 30 September that the “Yes” vote had won was just an illusion. The opposition had called its supporters to boycott the referendum. The turnout (37%) fell far short of the 50% required by the country’s constitution for the referendum to be declared valid. The opposition celebrated while some pundits estimated it was time to bury the deal. And yet a significant part of the western press had a different perception of reality. According to a tweet by the Financial Times “voters overwhelmingly” supported PM Zaev’s proposal, backed by a long article that failed to refer to the constitutional threshold. Readers were left with the impression that the “Yes” vote won. No, said columnist Simon Tisdall in the Guardian: Neither the Yes nor the No won because the result of the referendum “is another victory for Russia” and “Western leaders […] were outmanoeuvred by Moscow”. This editorial line is deeply problematic. Voters are infantilised. Either they vote as we wish (in this case, as NATO wishes) or – if they vote differently – then this must be happening because they were brainwashed by Moscow or Russians hacked the election. This line of thinking becomes a worrying pattern, from Trump’s election to Brexit, to the French and Italian elections (suspicions of Kremlin ties to Le Pen and Salvini) — and now to Macedonia.

Fact-checking Russia’s “dirty tricks”

So what has been the impact of Russia’s “dirty tricks” (e.g. fake news factories, propaganda Facebook groups) in the Macedonian referendum? The West’s suspicions about Russia’s meddling are reinforced by a true, yet not so relevant story: In 2016, it was reported that a “fake news factory” was operating from a tiny Macedonian village, Veles, where students had been fabricating fake news stories in the US presidential race, favouring candidate Trump. Yet there are two “buts” in that story: According to Bloomberg there was never an established link between that fake news factory and Russia interests. Even those who hyped the Veles fake news story as a factor in the US election concede that there was no trace of fake news factory (Russian or not) sprawling in the Prespa Agreement affair. Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), a NATO-affiliated project that tracks disinformation across Europe, concluded that stories by Russian state-funded media “pushing one-sided narratives” ahead of the September 30 referendum had generated nothing but “low traction” in the country. Vladimir Petreski, a researcher working for DFRLab, told Bloomberg that “there has been no explosion of new fake-news websites as there was during the 2016 US election.” The same lack of any indication of (Russian or other) foul play applies to Facebook groups. Petreski from DFRLab again: “The main Facebook group for the boycott has fewer than 11,000 followers — not many for a country with a million Facebook accounts.”

An offer they can’t refuse

The referendum’s fiasco meant that the Prespa Agreement had either to be buried or to have it adopted by the Skopje parliament where the government lacked the required two-third majority to pass the deal. The conservative opposition remained equivocally against it. And eight crucial MP votes were missing. A senior Greek politician said: “Now it’s up to the embassies to raise their game…” A new round of pressure started but this time the gloves were off. On October 8, EU-Commissioner for European Enlargement Johannes Hahn appeared optimistic in an interview to Austrian newspaper Kurier (interview in German) because “only eight or nine opposition votes are needed. […] So, how to secure the votes? I believe in the combination of the Balkan and rational approach,” Hahn told the Kurier.

The US are “disappointed”

On October 10, according to a source from the European People Party, EPP President Joseph Daul had a phone conversation with Hristijan Mickoski, leader of the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE that had governed the country from 2004 to 2016). Daul warned him in an “undiplomatic manner” that if VMRO didn’t vote in favour of the Prespa Agreement, the party “would bear full responsibility for the consequences”. On October 16, Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell, in a letter published by the embassy of the US in Skopje, wrote to the leader of the opposition in Macedonia that the US “have been disappointed with the positions of VMRO-DPMNE’s leadership”. Finally, on October 19, the parliament was summoned to vote. The government froze the procedure for ten hours as it struggled to find the eight missing votes. And then, late at night, a miracle happened: Eight (not nine or ten or eleven) MPs changed their mind, despite their party line, and voted in favour of the deal.

“Blackmail and bribes”

What had happened? We will probably never know. Some of the country’s top political figures spoke openly of “blackmail” and “bribes”. (So did Russia, unable to hide its bitterness at the outcome). Out of eight MPs who switched sides at the very last moment: Three were released from house arrest prior to the vote. The government dismissed rumours that it would trade-off the votes of another two MPs by providing them amnesty from charges they are facing. But as this article went online, on December 13, the government pushed forward with a selective amnesty law, thus making it more likely that an under-the-table bargaining of the votes had indeed taken place. And what about the remaining three MPs? Igor Janushev, secretary general of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party, claimed that three MPs had been offered bribes of between 250,000 and 2 million euros. One of the party’s vice-presidents, Mitko Jancev, was dismissed “for organising a group to pressurise, blackmail, threaten and bribe VMRO DPMNE legislators”.

“A great day for democracy”

Both the US and the EU, so vocal against violations of the rule of law in Hungary, remained silent in this case or even celebratory of the process. (“A great day for democracy in Skopje,” tweeted Commissioner Hahn.) Johannes Hahn @JHahnEU - A great day for #democracy in #Skopje 🇲🇰! I congratulate all those who decided to walk on along the #EU path. I expect that the free choice of all MPs is fully respected, especially of those who crossed the aisle tonight. We need statesmanship, not party-games. Allegations by VMRO officials about the MPs being bribed can be routinely dismissed given that VMRO has lost its credibility after years of corrupt governing. Its former leader and Macedonia’s former PM Nikola Gruevski was recently granted asylum by Viktor Orban’s Hungary to avoid imprisonment in Macedonia. However what seems to be forgotten is that “corrupt” and “nationalist” Gruevski was for years the West’s politician of choice in Macedonia, hailed as a pro-European reformer, a staunch euroatlantic ally, and the man who “solved” North Europe’s migration “problem” by shutting the Balkan route — all that before geopolitics changed the tide…

“Unfinished business”

The Atlantic Council, a NATO-affiliated think tank, has been quite present in the Macedonian issue. Resuscitating a Cold War vocabulary 30 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, in an event about Macedonia on October 22, Damon Wilson, the Atlantic Council’s vice president said: “The free world is facing a pretty serious challenge from an alternative model,” of growing authoritarianism. A key to pushing back against this threat is “resolving the unfinished business,” Wilson argued, and there is clearly “unfinished business in southeastern Europe.” Matched with Russia’s similarly belligerent statements and given the legacy of both camps conducting “business” in the neighbourhood, this is is a bad omen for what comes next.


*Disclaimer: Investigate Europe is partially funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of all members of Investigate Europe.
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Old 07-21-2020, 12:37 AM   #355
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Is this Soros conspiring against himself here?
Cascading conspiracies!
Sadly, all of it way too close to the bone for comfort.
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Old 08-10-2020, 10:48 PM   #356
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Is this Soros conspiring against himself here?
Probably more like one of his lackey groups allowing a mildly dissenting voice to present the illusion of objectivity. Zaev is still his slave.

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Old 08-11-2020, 08:58 PM   #357
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I don’t know if this photo is real or fake but, if real, you would think Zaev would be embarrassed or even ashamed to be seen in the company of this guy. It’s the proof in the pudding and a very legitimate “I told you so” for all those accusing him and his party of being on Soros’ payroll and under the direct influence of this shadowy character. As far as I know, to date, these have just been the crazy conspiracy theories of Macedonian nationalists but this photo suggests otherwise. Sure, you can argue that Macedonians are mainly to blame for the plight of their country but, when you can plainly see what they’re up against and the sort of people that are working in the background, with the complicit support of Macedonian sell-outs, it’s a very tough and steep hill to overcome I’m afraid. That said, I’m in no way making excuses. We should be better than that and not allowing these sinister globalist billionaires to decide how Macedonia and Macedonian society should be run.
The George Soros world-wide agenda is quite simple really and easily explained in one or two sentences. It’s not some conspiracy theory or some well-guarded secret. It’s plain to see and a fact. Basically, he is a liberal visionary that is committed to progressive ideals around the world through his “Open Society Foundations”. He is commonly described as the “US’s most politically influential philanthropists” but, in reality, he is the devil in disguise. His idea of the “open society,” seeks to guarantee and protect rational exchange, while closed societies, according to Soros, force people to submit to authority, whether that authority is religious, political or economic. In other words, nation states and religious societies are a contraction to his “open societies” and in direct opposition to what he stands for. He despises their very existence and is on a mission to dismantle and transform all such states and societies. That is why countries like Russia are so despised by liberal democracies around the world and a thorn in the side for the likes of Soros and for like-minded liberals like himself. On the hand, conservative governments tend to be more sympathetic to Russia as the Republicans seem to be.
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Old 08-11-2020, 09:57 PM   #358
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I don't see him as anything more than an opportunist. Create unrest and then capitalise on it. Simple stuff when you are sitting on billions.

I saw he was directly funding the legal organisation defending Black Lesbians Matter. (And he funds them also). At 90 years of age, I would be funding something like head transplants. But maybe he knows something we peasants don't.

Macedonia has no chance against demons like this.
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Old 08-12-2020, 03:05 AM   #359
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I don’t know if this photo is real or fake.........
Unfortunately, it's real mate. It is when they met in Davos and it can be seen on the northadonian government website: https://vlada.mk/node/16525?ln=mk
Below is another from that same encounter, one with Zaev and Soros' son and lastly a photo of Soros and the PM of Albania.





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Old 08-12-2020, 04:04 AM   #360
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SDS offering big $$$ to anyone willing to jump ship to allow them to form government. Money is not a problem, I wonder how/why that my be the case. Here's a hint, it may be related to the title of this thread.

Have to hand it to the likes of Apasiev who openly state there is no price for which they can be bought.
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