Saturday, July 12, 2008

FYROM Name Issue …. self-determination or territorial aspiration issue ?

FYROM Slavmacedonians(leadership and people) claim that theirs nation has right to self-determination and this is true.From the other side , Greece declared it had no claims on FYROM'S territory. Greece's only serious grievance was, and still is, the use by FYROM of the name "Macedonia" and its derivatives.

Greece presented her case as follows [1]:
Usurpation of Greece’s cultural and historical legacy.
Greece considers the use of the constitutional name ‘Macedonia’ as usurpation of a name belonging to Greek history and heritage, which, moreover, have nothing to do with the culture and legacy of the current inhabitants of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, who are descended from Slavs that settled in the region in the 6th century, long after the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia. The Macedonians of the Kingdom of Macedonia, instead, were Greeks, who spoke Greek and took part in the Olympic Games, which was a prerogative of Greeks and denied to all foreigners. For Greece, this historical clarification is crucial, since the name issue is only the tip of the iceberg: in its opinion, the authorities of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” are engaging in a very dangerous exercise of rewriting history, which – more or less deliberately – encourages their citizens to believe they are descendants of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia, that is of a non-Greek Macedonian ethnic group that settled in the region before the Slavs arrived. This rewriting of history extends to provocative gestures, such as the Gruevski government’s decision to rename Skopje airport ‘Alexander the Great’ in 2007, and numerous other initiatives which started with independence and have come thick and fast since 1997. Moreover, Greece considers “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” responsible for failing to discourage acts by private entities or individuals which could result in animosity, hostility and violence, including abroad.

Risk of leading to territorial claims.
For Greece, the ultimate risk in this type of process is that of opening the door to future territorial claims. It is well aware that “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” introduced constitutional amendments in 1992, explicitly renouncing all territorial claims against its neighbours. However, in its view, obfuscating certain historical facts, or even manipulating them in school or military contexts, may well spark a spirit of revenge among the general public. For example, Greece points out that many of the history and geography books1 used in schools and military academies treat “Macedonia” as a single ethnic and geographical entity. Part of that entity is said to have been partitioned between several states in the region - including Greece - which implies full-scale foreign occupation. Obviously, any suggestion of “occupation” may well provoke irredentist reactions - not necessarily now, but perhaps in the future. Great example was a documentary filmed in Skopje’s schools, which, the Greek authorities claim, is proof of the confusion surrounding “Macedonia’s” ethnic and geographical borders, not just among pupils, but also among teachers.In an unstable and volatile region like the Balkans, the risk of dangerous developments should not be underestimated, especially when ethnic and territorial issues are involved.

Risk of confusion with the Greek region of Macedonia.
In addition,Greece argues that the use of the name ‘Macedonia’ for its northern neighbour creates a risk of confusion with the Greek region of Macedonia and may bring about prejudice to exports of products from this region.

FYROM presented her case as follows [1] :

National identity.
"The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is a newly-independent state, engaged in the process of consolidating its democratic institutions and overcoming possible ethnic tensions through the reinforcement of a sense of civic citizenship among its population. Over time, not only have its borders varied considerably but also its very existence has had no continuity, even as a non-independent political entity, having been completely wiped off Europe’s map after the Second Balkan War and incorporated by its neighbours. The existence of a ‘Macedonian’ language is questioned by other Slavic countries, and so is the existence of a ‘Macedonian’ ethnicity. Even the independence of the ‘Macedonian’ Orthodox Church is not consensually accepted. Against this background, it is clear that the recognition of its constitutional name has for “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” a crucial meaning: it would be the recognition of its international legitimacy as a state and a nation with its own language and heritage. Internally, recognition of the country’s constitutional name would help to consolidate its national identity. It must also be stressed that, during my visit, both ethnic Macedonian and ethnic Albanian members of parliament expressed the same views on the name issue.

Greek opposition to use of the constitutional name is artificial, and motivated by a desire to deny the existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece.
The basic point is that every country is entitled to the name it chooses. Greece never opposed use of the name ‘Macedonia’, when the latter was one of the six federal entities that made up Yugoslavia (1944-1991) – but the problem arose when it became independent. This change of attitude is disappointing since Greece, as the new state’s neighbour, should have been one of the first to recognise it; on the other hand, it may reflect a simple refusal to recognise the existence of a ‘Macedonian’ nation, and thus the presence of a ‘Macedonian’ minority on Greek territory. This is why Greece rejects the constitutional name – which expresses nationality – but would be prepared to accept a geographical name, such as ‘Upper Macedonia’.This is also the position of the “Rainbow Party” in Greece, which claims to represent the interests of the country’s ‘Macedonian’ minority. This party - which decided not to take part in the last parliamentary elections, and which in the previous ones obtained only marginal support - stresses that the concept of “nation” promoted for centuries by the Greek state sees today’s Greeks as an ethnically homogeneous nation, and Ancient Greece’s only descendants. It claims that, shortly after “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” became independent, the Greek authorities started renaming ministries (the Ministry of Northern Greece became the ‘Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace’), airports (Thessaloniki Airport became ‘Thessaloniki-Macedonia’ Airport), etc, in order to strengthen the idea that use of the name “Macedonia” was a Greek monopoly. In fact, there is documentary proof that there was a “Macedonian” language in Greece – and thus a community which spoke it – even before 1945.Moreover, the Skopje authorities dismiss fears that recognising the country by its constitutional name might legitimise territorial claims as groundless: this has not only been ruled out by the various amendments to the Constitution, but also runs contrary to the foreign policy of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, which aims at integration within the Euro-Atlantic structures in a peaceful and co-operative spirit. According to Skopje, even the Badinter Commission acknowledged that no hostile intent underlay the choice of the constitutional name.

Use of a reference or acronym is offensive.
Skopje argues that using a provisional reference to denote a sovereign state or, even worse, the acronym FYROM or fYROM is disrespectful.

Like it is known in the international affairs, every state is free to choose the name it wishes. The exercise of the state's right to choose its name, as with any right in general, must not, however, impede the rights of other states or be accomplished for a purpose other than that for which the right was established for and be to the detriment of another state [2]. The prohibition of the abusive exercise of a right is a general principle of justice, which is repeatedly reiterated in international jurisdiction practice and is superior among the rules which govern the exercise of rights of those subject to international justice.

In regards to the specific issue, international practice shows clearly and undoubtedly that the right of states to choose names or symbols may be limited when, owing to these names or symbols, international peace and security is placed in danger. In any case, it is known that the threat against peace is not necessarily linked to the use of violence, but can even be manifested with acts which in the first place clash with international law [3].

FYROM Slavs(leadership and people) need to understand that stability can not be built on irredentism. This is very basic for the return of the whole region into development orbit. At the same time the USA should stop taking advantage of disputes that destabilize the region. These are the fundamental components of a real stabilizing activism.

As the Athens Academy and Senate pointed out (1992):It [FYROM] does not have the right to acquire, by international recognition, an advantage enjoyed by no other state in the world: to use a name which of itself propagandizes territorial aspirations.

Professor Zaikos [4] quoted that in this specific case, the stance of the United Nations and of the European Union show that the insistence of Greece that the choosing of a state's name can comprise a form of aggression is not without grounds. Consequentially, the theoretical probability that the choice of a name by a state be considered as hostile propaganda against a neighbouring state, given that that name conceals territorial claims, has been recongised.

From this point of view, it is widely known that in FYROM maps have been repeatedly published which modify international borders, thereby portraying that state with expanded geographical and ethnic frontiers which include supposedly unredeemed territories in Greece. It is evident that the maps do not merely aim at geograhical information but at altering the frontiers of territorial sovereignty of states and can constitute an attempt at claiming sovereignty under international law.

FYROM's terminology--"Aegean Macedonia"--for Greek Macedonia and the so call repression of "the Macedonians in Greece" without qualification, which not only generates confusion but also gives the impression that members of this small minority constitute the only or true Macedonians in the region. As Loring Danforth point out [5] the usage of the «Aegean Macedonia» is regarded as a non-recognition of current European borders, including the legitimacy of Greek sovereignty over the area.

Accepting or propagating the FYROM-Macedonian vocabulary and statistics, outside time, space, and context, not distinguishing between cultural repression, on the one hand, and defense against subversion of territorial integrity, on the other, it has some value but only in an eyewitness, candid-camera, raw-news kind of way.

115 members of the U.S. Congress, from both parties, support House Resolution 356, expressing the "sense of the House of Representatives that FYROM should stop hostile activities and propaganda against Greece, and should work with the United Nations and Greece to find a mutually acceptable official name".

A similar resolution, S.R. 300, was introduced in the Senate by Senators Robert Menendez, Barrack Obama and Olympia Snowe [6] urges the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to

  • observe its obligations under Article 7 of the 1995 United Nations-brokered Interim Accord, which directs the parties to `promptly take effective measures to prohibit hostile activities or propaganda by state-controlled agencies and to discourage acts by private entities likely to incite violence, hatred or hostility' and review the contents of textbooks, maps, and teaching aids to ensure that such tools are stating accurate information; and
  • work with Greece within the framework of the United Nations process to achieve longstanding United States and United Nations policy goals by reaching a mutually-acceptable official name for FYROM.

According to international regulations, the name of FYROM is being referred in six official languages of the resolution of the United Nations, among the "names of independent states which are generally recognised by the international community", as the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". As a result, the statement of the FYROM delegations that the name 'FYROM', "is a result of Resolution 817 of the Security Council" and that "it is not the real name of the country", besides constituting a direct violation of the Interim Accord, are not accepted by the international bodies. According to international regulations, FYROM is not exempted from its obligation to choose a name after negotiations and agreement with Greece.

FYROM Slavmacedonians(leadership and people) need to understand that international recognition by no means necessarily endows a state with legitimacy, especially when the recognition has been granted in such an impetuous manner in the midst of a crisis and if legitimacy is held to have any connection with a common history and a sense of common destiny as characteristics of the state's population, without which no state can survive.

Greece has called upon FYROM's leadership to act responsibly and show political courage and meet Greece half way. It will be a responsible move on the part of an aspiring candidate, a move that will win them a European future, a future of stability, peace and economic prosperity, based on the principles upon which NATO and the European Union are founded.

[1] - Use of the provisional reference “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” at the Council of Europe, Doc. 11524, 8 February 2008
[2] - Α. Kiss, «Abuse of rights», Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Volume I, 1992, a. 4.
[3] -Η. Neuhold, «Peace, Threat to», Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Vol. Ill, a. 936.
[4]Nikos Zaikos in «MacedonianIdentities».
[5] - The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World", Loring M. Danforth, p. 37
[6] -

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