Macedonia – is the name issue close to an end?

A Greek veto at the upcoming EU council meeting threatens to further fuel growing animosity in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

By Luca Roberto Foti

The Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, whose country currently presides over the EU Presidency, is optimistic that a possible compromise over the name dispute between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Greece can be reached before EU foreign Ministers meet on December 7th. Indeed, that is when a decision is supposed to be taken regarding whether or not Macedonia will receive a date to start talks over membership of the EU.

The Swedish foreign minister’s statement came after Zoran Jolevski, Macedonia’s representative in the talks on the name dispute, told the UN’s mediator, Matthew Nimetz, that Macedonia was ready for a solution to the name issue that will not affect the country’s dignity. Though Jolevski is expecting Greece to abide by the 1995 agreement and thus not prevent Macedonia from joining the EU, he would like to reach an agreement on the name dispute before the EU Council’s meeting on December 7th, maybe fearing a repetition of the NATO summit in Bucharest on April 2008.

Then, Greece vetoed Macedonia’s accession to the Alliance, despite the 1995 interim agreement, and everything suggests the Greek government will do the same in the next EU Council meeting. Indeed, Adamantios Vassilakis, the Greek representative in the UN-sponsored name talks, said that the most appropriate solution remains a name with a geographic determination, such as the ‘Republic of Upper Macedonia’. If this request is not met, Athens could then block the start of EU accession talks for Macedonia.

But why does the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia assume so much importance for Greek foreign policy?

It is evident that this dispute does not simply concern the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic but what is actually conveyed through it.

Since the independence of FYROM in 1991, Greece has felt threatened by the existence of a state over its northern border that, according to its new Constitutional Charter and recent history, claimed the right to control the whole of the Macedonian region. Furthermore, the new Republic manifested its claims over the ancient Macedonians’ cultural heritage, thus provoking the anger of the Greeks.

FYROM’s territorial claims were almost immediately put aside in 1992 by changing the contested constitutional articles, namely Art. 3 and 49, which gave the new Republic the right to intervene in Greek internal affairs by claiming cultural homogeneity with those Slav-speaking Greeks living in the Greek Aegean Macedonia.

However, FYROM’s claim over the cultural heritage of the classical Macedonians has not ceased. According to Greek sources, a process of ethno-genesis is still alive in the state-controlled educational system, giving birth to a generation who feel their cultural roots derive from the classical Macedonians; to the dismay of the Greeks who claim the Greekness of the people of Alexander the Great.

FYROM has made it clear that it has no territorial claims on its neighbouring states. Nevertheless, bearing in mind the role the Communist Republic of Macedonia was supposed to play in Tito’s design for the unification of the whole Macedonian region under Yugoslav rule, Greece continues to feel threatened by a state which claims a name that embraces the whole Macedonian lands and clamours for a cultural heritage that is firmly part of Greek history.

For this reason the Greek government is trying to make it clear that FYROM is and must remain only a geographical part of the Macedonian land. According to the Greek government, this can only be achieved with a name that underlines the geographical limits of FYROM – such as Vardar, Upper or Northern Macedonia.

Both the International Crisis Group (ICG), in a report issued last February, and the UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz, in his latest proposals, seem to have sided with the Greek position and called for the adoption of an international name for FYROM which will avoid any possible misunderstanding.

The Greeks, however, are not satisfied and demand that the new FYROM’s denomination shall apply erga omnes, that is for all proposes and by all, including by those 127 countries that have recognised the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name.

As December 7th approaches, a growing animosity can be felt in Macedonia. According to a Balkan Gallup opinion poll issued on November 18th, faith in the government has declined. The atmosphere in the Albanian bloc is also charged because of the statements of some politicians that “the Albanians will join NATO and the European Union with or without the Macedonians”. Another Greek veto will certainly incite nationalism amongst the Macedonian people. The country is not unfamiliar with acts of extreme nationalism and any failure in the EU Council meeting on December 7th could certainly reawaken those dark forces.

Luca Roberto Foti is a former student of International Relations at the University of Florence. He graduated with a dissertation on the ‘Macedonian Question’ and has a long-standing interest in the history of the Balkans.



0 Response

  1. andreas

    there seems to be a lot of finger-pointing going on ,there is only one way to solve the problem and that is that fyrom needs to stand up for the truth and stop using all these excuses that fyrom is macedodian any one who is educated knows the truth and by trying to change the truth by force or by lies will never work ,that area was always called Vardar ,and all the people living there need to realize they are of Savic origins and should be proud of it, Macedonians were,are and always will be Greek ,history ,archealogy , the OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS ,LANGUAGE ,LITERATURE ,HISTORY of the hebrew,persian,indian, afghanistan egyptian,turkistan, and so on prove it beyond any doubt . So if you want to blame someone blame yourselfs for not believing and acting on what is the truth, so stop being such hypoctits ,becuase you are guilty of what you are accusing Greece of . If you want to be good neighbours and you expect greece to do the same stop stealing their identity and culture .

  2. Alex

    Andreas, in Greece the word Macedonia was prohibited by the desolution of ex Yugoslavia in 1991. It is general rule that no modern nation can have exclusive rights on any ancient people. Modern Greece was established by European nations around 1830 without Macedonia which was stll under Turks. So, as you have the right to claim ancestry from ancient macedonians, we have too. Macedonia was never called Vardar! There is a short period of two/three years (1918-1922) the part of Macedonia that was given to Serbia after you serbs and bulgarians devided it in 1913 and Greece got the bigest part Egejska Makedonija, serbs called Vardarska Banovina following the way how they named “their” other regions e.g. Dalmatinska Banovina. Furthermore, since 1913 you were the first nation in the Balkans (not Turks not Serbs, not Hitler) who did ethnical cleansing of Macedonians. People from Egejska MAkedonija were forced to flee to the north! Are yoy proud of it? Read hebrew historian Josephus Ben MAtatias to find out his distinction between ancient macedonians and greeks and why jewish people shifted to MAcedonia. You greeks were hellenising them. In Iran India ShiLanka Afganistan Aleksandar is called Aleksandar of MAcedon or the Great not the greek. Repeated lies becomes truth-not any more. Particularly after yoy lied about your economy.

  3. Georgie

    FYROMS first President Kiro Gligorov said it plainly and clearly “We are Slavs who came into this area in the 6th and 7th century.We have nothing to do with the ancient Macedonians we are Slav Macedonians thats who we are”(Source Toronto Star 1992)

  4. pero

    A name is a name, why the Greeks before 1990s did not want to hear the name Macedonia or Macedonian,it was only neha Macedonika,and now our name is on your map, on your institutios in your harts, and you want to be called Macedonians why do you love it so mutch,is it time to tell the trouth to the world why? It is time for you to use yor name Ellada,the name Greece or Greek soud wery dorty, simpy bad.Thank you for your understanding.

  5. Borce Neskovski

    We are state and member of UN as other 191. In the registry of country’s name in the world – there’s no the name “MACEDONIA” except our one. We are not provance as greek “MAKEDONIA” is, so where’s problem???
    We are FYROM as well as FYROSl. (Slovenia), FYROC (Croatia), FYROBH (Bosnia and Herzegovina), FYROS (Serbia) or FYROMo. (Montenegro).
    If our diplomacy take a policy of equidistance with Greece must to use name FTPOG (Former Turkish Provance of Greece) and other 25-26 states which take greek side ov our bilateral prolem like: FEPCOA (Former English Prisoner Colony Of Australia), FLPOF (Former Latin Provance Of France), FSCOM (Former Spanish Colony Of Mexico), FSSROL (Former Soviet Socialistic Republic of Latvia) e.t.c.
    Every countries has something fomer, ex or antique but I was macedonian yesterday, I’m macedonian today and I’ll be always Macedonian who lives in Macedonia and speak macedonian language thanks God no matter do greeks like it or not.

  6. silvana mkd

    u said educate people, so if u are written read demosthen, he never said that macedonians are helens, contrary he hate them and attaced with a brutal words and now u called u’reself descendants of macedonia so silly. second before 1976 in greece was prohibited the name macedonia u dont recognised not for macedonian or greeks and now u’re macedonians???? from when u have the aegean part???? at 1913 with bucharest agreement u stoll by force from Macddonia, soooo what u want?????

  7. Bobby Michaels Macedonian and Greek

    FYRoM citizens/supporters try to explain that todays Greeks/Hellenes do not relate to Macedonia. That is ignorance, any Historian/schollar with the exception of FYRoM Historians will give you a thousant and one related reasons that the Macedonians were Greeks. I would like to see the explenation or proof how a FYRoM citizen is related to Macedonia Bulgaria and Albania.

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