Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Resolving the FYROM name dispute

A supporter of FYROM wears an ancient Greek helmet during a 2009 Eurobasket preliminary round game against Greece in Poznan on Monday.
By Aristotle Tziampiris (1)

The states of the Western Balkans are confronting a multiplicity of challenges and problems within the context of an acute international economic crisis. Bosnia faces significant internal challenges and is far from functioning as an effective unitary state. Kosovo remains unrecognized by most states, including several European Union members and is in a perilous economic situation. Montenegro is being hit hard by the global crisis, as is Serbia, which is still ostracized by some in the international community. Croatia’s border dispute with Slovenia threatens its EU future, while Albania seems to lack an adequate administrative capacity and remains poor overall.

Within this worrisome context, the ongoing Macedonian name dispute, centering on what the new republic in the Western Balkans should be called, has the potential to further destabilize the region.

Because of Greek concerns and objections first to the use and currently to the monopolization of the term Macedonia by their neighbors (as well as various cases of irredentist propaganda), “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM) remains the country’s provisional, international United Nations name, though many states (including the United States, Russia and China) have extended recognition for bilateral purposes under its constitutional name, “Republic of Macedonia.”

During almost two decades, several international diplomatic efforts have come up with various proposals, all of which proved unsuccessful. In April 2008, Greece effectively blocked FYROM from acceding to NATO due to the name dispute and other bilateral matters (the Alliance’s decision was unanimous). In July, the UN’s special mediator Matthew Nimetz suggested that a deal “could be done in a period of months.” However, the issue’s past history only allows for (at best) guarded optimism.

Following a series of interviews and discussions with decision-makers dealing directly with this issue, this author sees three possible scenarios. They could be labeled “best,” “worst” and “interim.”

The “best” scenario (from the viewpoint of the international community and not necessarily historically just), consists of a final and comprehensive agreement between Greece and FYROM. Such an outcome would almost certainly involve a compromise compound name with a geographical connotation (e.g. “Northern Macedonia”). If an agreement among these lines is achieved, FYROM would automatically join NATO under the new name, its accession path toward the EU would accelerate and the concerns of the country’s Albanian population (about a quarter of the total) assuaged in a manner that would be conducive to regional stability (65 percent of FYROM’s Albanians support a compromise on the name issue to facilitate NATO and EU membership, though 95 percent of Slav-Macedonians are opposed). It should be stressed that any such agreement would also have to address a series of legitimate Greek concerns (including the recent manifestations of Slav-Macedonian nationalism that have included the renaming of airports and highways, commissioning of giant statues as well as other actions often connected to a fixation with Alexander the Great). Solving outright the Macedonian name dispute would undoubtedly represent a major diplomatic accomplishment.

The most likely scenario, however, probably remains the “worst” and involves the issue’s non-resolution despite continuous diplomatic meetings and negotiations. As a top Slav-Macedonian politician, striking a note of realistic pessimism, recently told this author: “Almost every conceivable settlement has already been proposed at some time or another but rejected by one of the two sides.”

If this scenario prevails, FYROM’s ruling party will probably continue the campaign to link Slav-Macedonian identity and history to antiquity. Furthermore, NATO and EU accession prospects will remain stalled. The country’s Albanians would be particularly disappointed by such an outcome and it is not alarmist to imagine that the Ohrid framework agreements (that ended the republic’s 2001 ethnic strife) could be challenged. As State Department officials warn, this could produce perilous regional implications. (FYROM neighbors Kosovo and during periods of crisis the influx of refugees, armed Albanian guerilla fighting and illicit activities have linked the two places).

At the same time, it should be kept in mind that the political “space” for a compromise in Athens is decreasing, given the government’s slim parliamentary majority, early elections and continuous majority popular disapproval of a compound name. In addition, FYROM’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski appears to many in Greece as untrustworthy because of his intense nationalism and continuous provocations and there is understandably little enthusiasm to reach an agreement with him in particular.

A third scenario can be labeled “interim.” It is based on the realization that the only substantial agreement reached between FYROM and Greece was the 1995 New York Interim Accord that normalized bilateral relations but (significantly) did not resolve the name dispute. (However, Athens did recognize the young republic and Skopje changed the country’s flag which had featured the ancient Macedonian “Star of Vergina” symbol).

According to this “interim” scenario, FYROM would enter NATO under its provisional UN name, after having addressed all the recent actions deemed provocative by Greece (renaming airports and highways anew, dropping the case against Greece at the International Court of Justice at the Hague etc.), thus proving in practice good neighborly relations. The signing of a Treaty of Friendship could further codify the types of actions that would be unacceptable in the future.

Nevertheless, since there can be no firm guarantee against Skopje returning to nationalist or other provocations (whereas NATO membership, once achieved, is effectively irreversible), Athens could publicly link any new nationalistic turn to a democratic referendum on the neighboring republic’s EU accession, with rather predictable results. (It should be kept in mind that for FYROM, EU membership is ultimately even more significant than NATO membership). Negotiations on the resolution of the name dispute would, of course, continue to be conducted, possibly within an improved bilateral climate.

If this scenario is actualized, regional stability might be enhanced. However, the resolution of the name dispute will be pushed even further into the future, while Athens will have lost an important source of diplomatic leverage.

At this point, it is not clear which scenario might prevail. What is certain is that considerable statesmanship and diplomatic skills will have to be exhibited in order to resolve an urgent and important diplomatic problem that influences domestic politics in both Greece and FYROM and has very real consequences for the Western Balkans.

(1) Aristotle Tziampiris is assistant professor of International Relations at the University of Piraeus and visiting scholar at Columbia University (The Harriman Institute). His views are personal.


  1. The reinvention of ancient Macedonia.

    Schoolbooks in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia consistently represent Macedonia as encompassing a region that consists of FYROM, the Greek administrative district of Macedonia and parts of other countries. An astonishing fabrication of history teaches schoolchildren that these borders of "Macedonia" existed from antiquity and that their country was "dismembered" and Macedonians underwent a genocide by the Greeks.

    Indeed, young children in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are taught through their schoolbooks that Macedonians were a non-Greek people that have inhabited the land of Macedonia continuously. They are taught that this exact land as shown in the maps of Greater FYROM, was exactly the same as that inhabited by the ancient Macedonians. The boundaries are shown again and again in their schoolbook maps to have remained the same from antiquity! These schoolchildren are taught that the Greeks expelled the "Macedonians" from the "Aegean" part of this country in the middle of the 20th century. Generations of poisoned minds have since the days of Tito and again since 1998 been taught to believe that Greeks expelled their "Macedonian" but Slav speaking forefathers from their ancestral lands in some kind of genocide – that mysteriously no international organisation ever recorded. Raised with this kind of modern myth, it is no surprise Greece is faced with an insistence that their country (FYROM) should be named Macedonia and that no other name would be acceptable to them.

    It is sad but true. Furnished with this kind of evidence, one is convinced that people can be raised in schools to believe in anything whatsoever, and to be poisoned as children to hate a people for imagined reasons. Unfortunately, this tactic of the FYROM government also revives the expansionist policies of Tito against historic Macedonia (in Greece). It reveals a sinister side in the claims of FYROM on Macedonian history and heritage despite assurances made to the United Nations prior to the Interim Agreement. These aggressive policies are carried out at a time when FYROM paradoxically wants to join the European Union and NATO - of which the invented enemy Greece is a member. Even more ironically, the current FYROM government claims and says to NATO that this policy of inciting ethnic hatred against Greece (and suitably inventing history schoolbooks for this purpose) is in the interests of peace in the region.

    In the school books, there is again and again a map of Macedonia with fixed borders. It includes not only FYROM but also the present administrative region of Macedonia in Greece and parts of Bulgaria and Albania. This "Macedonia" is shown unaltered from times immemorial. Something like this type of map appeared for the first time in an ethnological description in 1899 by a Greek named C. Nicolaides and had formed the Greek view for the 1913 Bucharest Treaty discussions regarding the ethnicities in the region.

    It will be the biggest mistake in the history of Ancient and Modern Greece if it accepts or gives in by officially accepting FYROM to the name of MACEDONIA !
    North Macedonia ( Slavic )
    South Macedonia ( Greek )
    Take example North and South Korea.
    By splitting the two countries into North and South all it did was to provoke them into WAR !
    We DO NOT want a North and South Korea copy cat in Europe.
    This will create a much more hostile environment between the two countries and in the near future result in a catastrophic outcome for both countries as Skopje is already claiming territorial rights to its neighbor Greece.
    The government in Skopje is to understand that it cannot build a national identity at the expense of historic truth. Our common international society cannot survive when history is ignored, much less when history is fabricated.
    So far FYROM is the only country in the Balkans to be recognized without Blood Shed.
    Lets keep it that way !

    The Odysseus BC .

  2. Short history of Macedonia (FYROM)

    The historical Greek state of Macedonia, famous for the king Alexander the Great, was situated in the areas of today’s Greece, Bulgaria between 4th and 2th century BC. It was conquered by the Romans, and became part of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 4th century AC. Slav tribes settled in Macedonia in the 7th century AC, and the region was conquered by Bulgaria in the 9th century, and later switched hands between Bulgaria, Serbia and the Byzantine Empire. Turkish Ottoman Empire conquered the area in 1389 and ruled it until the First Balkan War in 1912.

    The current Republic of Macedonia became a region of Serbia in 1912, and was again occupied by Bulgaria in the Second World War. It became an autonomous republic within Yugoslavia in 1943. Republic of Macedonia declared itself independent from Yugoslavia in January 1992, and unlike in the other newly independent countries in the region, the split was peaceful. United Nations troops were sent to Macedonia to monitor the border with Yugoslavia. Greece objected the new state's use of the name Macedonia, which delayed international recognition of the country as "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)". In 2001, there was a violent unrest between the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian rebels in the north and west of the country, ending with the intervention of a NATO monitoring forces.

    A independence, Macedonia was the least developed of the Yugoslavian republics, and slow economic growth and unemployment are still big problems in the country.

    Like i have stated on my previous post....
    OK say this is settled.
    You have your name Macedonia.
    You think you people will have a future of PEACE and good relations with Greece , Albania , Serbia, Bulgaria ?
    There will most certainly be more unrest.
    People of FYROM.
    In your future have no fear of Greece. As Athens has stated it has no interest in territorial claim on FYROM.
    Albania will be your catastrophe!
    Skopje will be asking Athens for military help !
    Help that Athens will reject !
    Slavic Macedonia will fall !

    " That will be a victory not just for Athens , but for GREECE ! "

    FYROM will be under Albanian control.
    Unfortunatly it wont end there !
    Serbia and Bulgaria will then fight for it's land.

    In the near future WAR will come upon the Balkans again.
    Macedonia will be known again as ONLY Greek . As it always has been known, from the Ancient world to our present world.

    Just remember these words that i have written as i can see in the near future a horrific catastrophe again in the Balkans !

    " This battle is over,
    but the REAL WAR is
    is just about to BEGIN !

    The Odysseus BC

  3. Albania4Ever

    Thaci calls for War against Macedonia

    Tuesday, 09 February 2010

    Macedonia's public prosecution office is quiet at the latest threats from DPA's leader Menduh Thaci, who this evening via TV Sitel called Albanians to wage war against Macedonia!

    Thaci, who is already barred from traveling to the EU and the US, continues to create problems after his political party was halved in the last elections. Ever since taking the reign of the DPA, the party has gotten smaller and the frequent election defeats has brought in radicalization among their members.

    The Macedonian public prosection, continues to ignore Thaci's public threats. "You will obey the Albanians and you will ask what else needs to be done," proclaimed Thaci for TV Sitel.

    As if waking from a bad dream Thaci continued his rant claiming there would be a certain war, and the Macedonians will lose.

    On a recent visit to Tirana, which seems to be the only place Thaci is allowed to visit, even the Albanian intellectuals scolded him in a an interview, calling him a 'destabilizer' and a 'fundamentalist'.

  4. Macedonian Supremacy

    We own the TRUE HISTORY of our Alexander the Great!
    There is no such thing as greek Macedonia.
    Macedonia is one.
    Macedonia will be united with southern Macedonia.
    Thessaloniki will be Skopje next capital city !

  5. Macedonian Supremacy

    We own the TRUE HISTORY of our Alexander the Great!
    There is no such thing as greek Macedonia.
    Macedonia is one.
    Macedonia will be united with southern Macedonia.
    Thessaloniki will be Skopje next capital city !


    The Third Balkan WAR

    Otan Telliossi o Polemos


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