Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Macedonia is Greece, FYROM: A Closer Look

by Panagiotis Kakkavas

AHC article on Political Action

Posted by user:

On November 3, 2004, in its first act a day after being reelected, the Bush Administration recognized the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (“FYROM”) as “Republic of Macedonia”. This act marked a sudden and unexpected departure from the long-standing US, UN, and EU policies and came despite the statement issued by the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign stating, among other things, support for issues of importance to Greek Americans and philhellenes. It is an act which will have unforeseen consequences in the Balkans and it came at a time when Athens and Skopje had agreed to intensify their bilateral talks under the auspices of the U.N. to find a mutually acceptable solution regarding that country’s name.

The issue at hand is one of great importance to Greeks everywhere because claims over the Greek province of Macedonia and its most valuable port of Thessaloniki have been attempted many times throughout our tumultuous history. After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 and the formation of FYROM, that country’s constitution made claims to the northern Greek province of Macedonia and its flag was the Sun of Vergina, the symbol of Phillip of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father. Although references in its constitution have since been dropped, the flag has been changed (although it still resembles the symbol of the ancient Macedonians), and bilateral relations have been dramatically improved, the issue of the name still remains. Furthermore, it is well documented that extremist elements in FYROM have circulated maps which include large sections of Northern Greece and made claims that they are the direct descendants of the ancient Macedonians!

And there are further reasons to be alarmed.
It has recently been revealed that a US Department of Defense strictly classified handbook on FYROM included a map that showed parts of northern Greece and western Bulgaria as “occupied Macedonian territories”. Included were the city of Thessaloniki, Halkidiki and Mount Athos (see map)!

The US Department of Defense has issued assurances that the map was incorrect and has been corrected.
However, the mere existence of this map as well as the recent recognition of FYROM by its constitutional name have made Greece, Greeks and philhellenes everywhere justifiably suspicious as to the future intentions of the US Administration as other issues of consequence may merit a similar fate.
There are reports that the US State Department may proceed to recognize the Turkish occupied territory of Northern Cyprus as an independent republic. Just recently, an agreement allowing American Airlines to have direct flights to the illegally occupied territory (which would have meant de facto recognition) was reversed at the last minute after pressure by Greece and Greek American groups.

As of this date, bilateral talks between Greece and FYROM regarding the name are set to begin in New York under the auspices of the UN. Meanwhile, intense negotiations are under way between EU and Turkey to determine the date and the circumstances under which talks for Turkey’s entry into the EU can begin. The American Hellenic Council will continue to follow developments very closely, and inform members of the US Congress and the US Administration regarding policies that promote US interests in the region. The US policy objective should be directed at supporting and promoting the strong, stable and peaceful bilateral and multilateral relations, and the development of true democracy throughout the Balkan region and Turkey. At this critical juncture when the interests of Greece and Hellenism are under stress, it is vitally important we remain vigilant and united.

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