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Interview: Milestone -Zoran Coseski -Macedonian Honorary Consul for WA

16 May, 22:11
Interview: Milestone -Zoran Coseski -Macedonian Honorary Consul for WA

Milestone :  10 years as the first consular representative of the the Republic of Macedonia and head of the Macedonian Consular mission in Western Austrralia 

 

This year you are commemorating a milestone, 10 years of your appointment as the first consular representative of the the Republic of Macedonia and head of the Macedonian Consular mission in Western Austrralia -How did you come about to be selected as an Honorary Consul?

Correct. I have been an activist and an advocate for Macedonian independence ever since my University days in Western Australia so I have always been conversant and articulate with Macedonian national issues and i have also been involved in the Australian political life for a few decades now.

In April 2007 the Australian Government authorised the opening of the historic first consular mission of the Republic of Macedonia in Western Australia. I was appointed as the first Honorary Macedonian Consul as head of the Macedonian Consular Mission. My appointment was confirmed by the issue of an exequatur by the Australian Government to the Macedonian Embassy in Canberra and handed to me by the then Macedonian Ambassador to Australia H.E Viktor Gaber. This is a document signed by the Chief of Protocol in the Department of Foreign Affairs which authorised me to perform my consular functions within Western Australia.

My appointment as an Honorary Consul is based on a formal agreement between the government of the Republic of Macedonia (the sending state) and the Australian Government(Receiving State), as outlined in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).

I can say that representing your country of birth is the highest accolade for any individual and being selected to represent the Republic of Macedonia in Western Australia is both a privilege and an absolute honour. Not only do you represent yourself, your country and your people but you are also representing the heritage and spirit of your ancestors. We Macedonians have a story to tell about our struggle for nationhood and we also respect the traditional Aussie "fair go" for the underdog. Many people ask me why I volunteer as an Honorary Macedonian Consul when I am raised and educated in Australia. My response is  that I always draw inspiration from a famous saying by the great American President John F Kennedy who said: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Macedonia needs its diaspora and the diaspora needs Macedonia.

What is your role as a consul and in the past 10 years we saw 3 ambassadors were you always happy with their work or there were times when the communication was difficult"

As the Honorary Macedonian Consul I maintain contact with senior Australian officials, both state and federal within the consular district and keep the relevant authorities in Macedonia informed of important political and economic developments affecting Macedonian interests. I also represents the Republic of Macedonia at public functions and I address various groups and organisations affecting Macedonian-Australian relations.
The major goals of the Macedonian Consulate in WA are to Promote Western Australia as a valuable partner for the economical development of Macedonia and to create a network of successful business entities that will strengthen the business relationships between Macedonia and Western Australia.

I also provide advice and guidance to Macedonian citizens on various issues of interest in WA.

What I found over my many years of being an activist in the Macedonian community and the wider political circles in Australia is that the average Australian is either not familiar with Macedonia or they have some negative stereotype vision of the whole Balkan region which is largely based on selected media reports. This negative vision is not in favour of Macedonia when the average Australian keeps referring to the conflict in 2001, events
in Kumanovo, images of the refugee crisis on the Macedonian border with the Hellenic Republic or protests in Macedonia.Given the above situation it is indeed a great challenge for me to educate ordinary mainstream people in Australia including many politicians and decision makers that these negative images and events are not a real picture or even a barrier to doing business, visiting and cooperating with Macedonia on the international scene.

It is common knowledge that many Australian companies are looking for other locations in the world to invest and grow their business but in most instances due to the proximity they choose Asia as an investment destination rather than Europe. As an optimist I do not see this as a problem but rather a challenge to convince the Australian business and tourist companies to visit and consider Macedonia as a tourist and investment destination for expanding their horizons in Europe.

I always draw their attention to the fact that many other countries in Europe are also facing disturbing events, but the economy continues to function in a normal manner and people to people contacts go from strength to strength. Most Australian politicians are also amazed when I point out to them that Macedonia’s economic relations with the Hellenic Republic are excellent with more than 300,000 Macedonians
visiting the Hellenic Republic every year and that the Hellenic Republic is amongst the top 5 investors in Macedonia.

I am fully aware that history has not been too kind to Macedonia or the general Balkan region and in my conduct I am always mindful of the words of a famous diplomat, poet and Irish patriot, Sir Roger Casement, 1 September 1864–3 August 1916, who said: “I know of two tragic histories in the world – that of Ireland and that of Macedonia. Both of them have been deprived and tormented.”

My communication with all the Macedonian Ambassadors has been excellent based on mutual respect and common purpose.

 

Zoran Coseski and Matthew Niemitz 

The diplomatic relations were still at their early stage when you were appointed were they any hurdles and obstacles?

In the first term of my appointment I made a conscious effort to visit and meet with every Australian State and Federal politician in WA and Canberra, every University and the relevant State and Federal Government Agencies responsible for multicultural affairs, trade and business. I met the then Prime Minister, Premier,  and other dignitaries. I did not find any obstacles in my conduct as Macedonian Honorary Consul, in fact I found the doors wide open every where I went and presented our areas of interest.The support i am still receiving from the wider Macedonian community is absolutely fantastic. I think the efforts that I am making to bring Macedonia and Australia closer at an economic and political level will help us move forward with mutual respect and understanding. What I found was we as a country needed to be placed on the diplomatic radar.

We hear a lot about your work there in WA but hardly hear about the consul in NSW and other states - are they still active?

Thank you very much for your commentsbut I cannot comment about others.


How is your communication with the Australian government?

My communication with the Australian Government at all levels is excellent.


Is there any movement on the name recognition at one point there was a lot of hype in the Macedonian media in Australia that the name recognition will happen soon but then it all went quiet?

You are absolutely correct, all I can say is that in opposition the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said one thing and when she was elected to Government she said a diametrically opposite thing, in short she did an about turn. I like to think that Australian society is one of the most egalitarian societies in the world, however, this does not seem to apply when it comes to the Macedonian community. As an example if a child of lets say Italian heritage in a school situation is asked where he/she is from and what language he/she speaks then the child will say Italy and Italian. On the other hand if a Macedonian Child is asked the same question then he/she will say Macedonia and Macedonian. The child will then be exposed to undue ridicule and unfair treatment because his country of birth or ancestry features under the letter "f" for former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia  and not Macedonia. Other recorded examples of similar and unfair treatments are the Hospitals, Old Peoples Homes etc, so clearly it is people who are at the lower end the socio economic scale who are exposed to such undeserved obstacles because the Australian Government issues a list of countries it recognises and Macedonia features under the letter "f". On the other hand when a person travels overseas and at the airport they write Macedonia on their green departure card the Australian official will transcribe that information onto the Government data system under the letter 'f". This is not social justice and Macedonians rightfully feel excluded from mainstream Australia by the Australian Government and many of the elected representatives. The Hellenic community on the other hand do not even call their own country Greece or their language Greek so I really can not see any confusion for the Australian Government to stop using the offensive term "fyr". Historically, various State and Federal Australian Governments have even gone to the extent of renaming the Macedonian community and the Macedonian Language with other offensive adjectives like Slav-Macedonian, Macedonian (Slavonic) etc totally ignoring the three pillars of multiculturalism, those being, tolerance, mutual respect and understanding.No other community has to put up with such segregated and discriminatory treatment. What is encouraging though is that in every instance these derogatory and illegal decisions have been overturned by the Australian legal system in favour of the Macedonian community. So the paradox here is on the one hand the Australian Government keeps going on about the rule of law and how it is important for this to prevail in the emerging Macedonian democracy but on the other hand the Australian Government has chosen to ignore the decision of the International Court of Justice in the Hague which clearly found that the Republic of Macedonia has the right to call itself by it's historic name and the name does not imply any territorial pretensions towards anyone, The International Court of Justice is a Court set up by the international community and therefore I am of the view that Australia needs to also accept the notion of  the rule of law and accept the Court findings.It is time for Australia to follow the world including the USA, UK, China, Russia, India, Indonesia, Malta, Hungary and 128 other countries and stop using the derogatory term "former yugoslav"

Ups and down in these 10 years?

Well the ups have been that we as a country are now present at all State and Federal Government receptions, meetings etc, we now have more friends than ever before at all levels of Australian society. The diplomatic traffic between our two countries has also increased. The Republic of Macedonia is now on the diplomatic radar more than ever beforeIn 10 years with the help of various patriotic members of the Macedonian community I have organised 12 receptions in Perth and other WA towns where high level Australian dignitaries have also attended. I have also organised the signing of 2 charters of mutual friendship with Prilep and Aerodrom and 26 Australian businessmen  have visited Macedonia.Two humanitarian foundations have also been set up by Mr Danny Kapinkov and Mr Chris Vrzovski to help certain welfare cases in Macedonia. I have also generated an interest in Macedonia in the local 2nd and 3rd generation Australian born community of Macedonian heritage. I really do not see any downs I see challenges and opportunities.

Your message to our community here?

Firstly I would like to thank  all my friends Macedonians and others who are friends of Macedonia  and all the helpers over the years.I also encourage the Australian Macedonians to become more politically active and more involved in the Australian society which will also assist in the greater affirmation of the Macedonian community in Australia. Macedonians are also encouraged to visit and stay in touch with Macedonia as much as possible.I also note that I do not think that there is a Macedonian in Australia who can resist talking about the politics back “home”. I haven’t attended one social gathering that hasn’t ended with politics and a heated discussion about issues in Macedonia.I always bring to the attention of these people that like any other emerging democracy Macedonia does have problems, however, the challenge is finding solutions to problems and not finding problems in every solution. As Australians be very proud of your Macedonian ancestry and visit Macedonia.

What is your opinion on whether we as a community should be involved /concerned about the current situation in Macedonia?

Modern history reminds us of how far we’ve come as a nation and every day our journey is to continue with that progress of becoming wiser and more compassionate as a 21 century nation.It is common knowledge that there are thousands of  ethnic nations on this planet with specific ethno national linguistic characteristics. As an example in Europe there are 79 different ethnic nations living in 50 countries which means that not every ethnic nation with its specific ethno linguistic characteristics has a national state! Macedonians are one of these nations who have a national state on this planet and this statehood has come with a heavy cost in human life over more than a century of struggle for nationhood.Therefore, it is our historic duty to enhance and develop the the Republic of Macedonia as a successful modern state and open democracy and to build friends around the world including Australia . In the 19 century British history always referred to the "Macedonian question" in the Balkans well what I say to that is in today's world there is a "Macedonian answer" to this question and no decision will ever be made about our future without our presence as a country. It is only natural that we are concerned about the current situation in Macedonia and the mere fact that we all have relatives and friends in Macedonia enhances our right to take a keen interest about any situation in Macedonia. I always encourage people to keep in touch and visit Macedonia as much as possible,however, I also remind people not to forget that we live in Australia and we should also take a keen interest in what goes on in here in Australia.The more successful Australians of Macedonian heritage we have in Australia the more we can get involved in development of Macedonia at all levels. 

source: Шило

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