Wednesday, May 20, 2009


By Nina Gatzoulis Supreme President of the Pan-Macedonian Association USA

The special UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz, during the panel discussion that took place on April 14, 2009 at Yale University, expressed the conviction that the new President of USA Barack Obama, according to the public statements he occasionally has made, appears to have a more philhellenic attitude towards the name issue of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) than former President George Bush. The discussion bared the title: “What’s in a Name: the Macedonian Name Dispute in the Balkans.” He however added that with all the world problems that President Obama faces surely the name issue of the FYROM is not one of his priorities.

Panel participants included Dr. Robert Greenberg, a Linguist of Yale’s department of Slavic Studies, and Dr. Harris Mylonas, Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at George Washington University, while Dr. Keith Darden, Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale, was the coordinator of the discussion. The event was organized by the Yale European Undergraduates.

Mr. Nimetz during his presentation he described his work as UN special mediator and referred to the difficulties encountered during the negotiations. He stated that he understands both sides and recognizes the risk of entanglement, on the one hand he respects the Greek people’s feelings of a threat to their territorial integrity, but on the other hand he understands that the name issue is essential to the government in Skopje and the country’s population. He advised that in such cases there is a need of maturity on behalf of both countries’ political leadership to overcome the obstacles. If the governments do not have the necessary maturity to face such problems then they should consider changing their leadership, most probably referring to Gruevski’s government.

During the discussion, members of the leadership of the Pan-Macedonian Association noted: “more than two generations of citizens in FYROM have learned to hate Hellenism and have been taught that their borders stretch down to Mount Olympus. At the same time, only 62% of FYROM’s population insist on the state’s “Makedonism,” while the Albanians and other minorities in the country are rather indifferent to this issue.” The Pan-Macedonian Association also raised the following question: “Indeed a great effort has been made, at least by the Greek side, to find a compound name that contains the term 'Macedonia'. In the provisional name of Greece’s neighboring state, the word 'Macedonia' already exists. If yet another composite name is found that contains the word ‘Macedonia’ will FYROM stop its irredentist propaganda against Greece?”

Mr. Nimetz suggested that FYROM should stop its propaganda, but the answer did not satisfy most of the Greek origin audience, who pointed out that the real issue is maintaining peace in the Balkans.

Dr. Robert Greenberg highlighted in his presentation the Slavic identity of the 'Macedonians' and stressed that their ‘Makedonism’ began almost one hundred years ago. Dr. Greenberg did not connect the roots of the Slavs to the ancient Macedonians, but argued that largely as a result of Tito’s policies “the 'Macedonian' language, 'Macedonian' consciousness and the 'Macedonian' Orthodox Church were constructed, elements which,” he said, “are necessary for state building. In the case of 'Macedonia' these materials are available, since the Ilinden uprising on 20 July 1903, was a 'Macedonian' revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

A remark by the Pan-Macedonian Association is that the 'Macedonian' language had no alphabet until 1945. The communist dictator Josip Broz Tito commissioned the linguist Blagoj Konev who changed his name to Blaže Koneski, to prepare an alphabet. Konev or Koneski took the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, amended it and called it the "Macedonian alphabet." The base of this 'Macedonian' language is Bulgarian. Moreover, as a matter of policy and political agenda of successive governments in Skopje, vocabulary from other Slavic languages has been imposed, through education, especially from the Serbian language, in order to create a completely different language than the one used by the population of the FYROM up to 1945.

Dr. Harris Mylonas presented his positions with academic objectivity and sound arguments. Dr. Mylonas, giving a summary of the history of the issue, referred to the Modern Greek History and noted “that even though the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire began in 1821, all Greek regions were not incorporated simultaneously [...] The term Macedonia was not used during the Ottoman time, and the area was administratively divided into vilayets [Ottoman administrative units] with various names. Particularly geographical Macedonia was enclosed in parts of the vilayets of Monastiri and Thessaloniki. The city of Skopje however was in the vilayet of Kosovo, of which only a small portion was part of geographical Macedonia.”

Dr. Mylonas, also stated that the “Ilinden uprising in 1903 was an uprising inspired by the Bulgarian policy in the Balkans.” “Geographical Macedonia” continued Dr. Mylonas, “was divided in 1912 and in 1913 by the Treaty of Bucharest. The three players in the division of geographical Macedonia were Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. Greece incorporated most of this area.” Dr. Mylonas also made brief reference to the successive names of the region of contemporary FYROM, reminding everyone that the area was originally called South Serbia, in 1929 was renamed Vardarska Banovina, while in 1944 Tito named the region the People’s Republic of Macedonia and in 1963 Socialist Republic of Macedonia. Tito, according to Dr. Mylonas, wanted on one hand to leave open the possibility of a future claim on Greek territories and an outlet in the Aegean Sea and on the other hand to limit the Bulgarian influence and undermine Serbian power within his state. Dr. Mylonas also referred to the events during 1990-1991, when the FYROM declared its independence from Yugoslavia and he reviewed the issue of the Interim Agreement between FYROM and Greece under the auspices of the UN concluding with the current developments. He expressed hope that the Prime Minister of the neighboring state will stop his irredentist policy towards Greece and will compromise.

During the question-and-answer period, Dr. Mylonas responded primarily to representatives of the United ‘Macedonian’ Diaspora (U.M.D.), with strong historical evidence.

The Vice-President of the U.M.D., Aleksandar Mitreski, stated that 'Macedonia' has filed a case against Greece at The Hague, because Greece violated the Interim Agreement by vetoing FYROM’s accession to NATO in Bucharest in the spring of 2008. Dr. Mylonas responded by referring to the fact that Greece did not technically veto FYROM’s accession in NATO, but managed to persuade her NATO allies that the neighboring state has not meet all the qualifications for inclusion at the time. Furthermore, the NATO member-states did not use the term ‘veto’ and did not preclude the accession of FYROM in the future. “Additionally” said Dr. Mylonas “the Interim Accord does not only include Article 11 but also Article 6 and 7 which have been violated by the FYROM. A recent example is the letter sent by the Prime Minister of FYROM to the Greek Prime Minister to recognize a “Macedonian” minority in the area of Macedonia, the northern province of Greece, which is a violation of Article 6 paragraph 2 of the Interim Agreement, under which one country cannot intervene in the internal affairs of another country. Moreover, the appropriation of Greek historical symbols by the FYROM as well as other provocations such as renaming the Pan-European corridor in the neighboring country and the renaming of the Skopje Airport into Alexander the Great and irredentist references in school textbooks, etc. are violations of Article 7, paragraph 1 of the Interim Accord.”

A final remark by the Pan-Macedonian Association is the fact that there are other cases similar to the one that Greece currently faces with FYROM. The Agreement of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which was signed on September 10, 1919, is a similar case. After the First World War, when Austrian-Hungary was dissolved, Austria filed a petition to the League of Nations (later United Nations) to be recognized as “The Republic of German Austria.” The application was rejected because the adjective ‘German’ was used by Germany. Ultimately the country was recognized as Austria. The agreement was imposed on Austria in order to avoid future claims and troubles in the region.

The Pan-Macedonian Association of the US expresses its sincere thanks to the students of the Yale European Undergraduates for their initiative and congratulates Dr. Mylonas for his presentation and responses.

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