Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pr. Nikos Zaikos as regards the FYROM name issue*

In the international relations, every state is free to choose the name that wants. But when exercising its right to choose its name and indeed when exercising any other right, it must do so in a manner that will not obstruct other states’ exercise of their own right or do, that does not differ in its aim from the aim for which this right was accorded, and that does not cause injury to another state. Prohibition of the abuse of rights is a general principle of law found time and again in international legal practice; and it comes higher up in the hierarchy than the rules governing the exercise, by the subjects of international law, of their individualized rights. [Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Amsterdam, Elsevier, I,1992, pages 4, 7-8).

As regards the specific issue (the onomatology of states in international law) that examined in this chapter , international practice chows clearly and unequivocally that a state’s right to choose its name or its symbols may be ...

restricted if international peace and security be placed in jeopardy by such name or symbols. It is also well known that the maintenance of peace may not only be endangered through the use of violence, but also by acts that are not at the outset contrary to international law.

In the case in question, the practice of the United Nations and of the European Union shows that Greece’s claim that a state’s choice of name may constitute a form of aggression is not without foundation. Moreover, there is recognition of the possibility in theory that a state’s choice of name may be taken as hostile propaganda against a neighbouring state, inasmuch as that name is adjudged to conceal territorial ambitions.

From this point of view, it is no secret that maps have been repeatedly published in FYROM with the current international boundaries altered in such a way as to portray the country with broadened geographical and ethnic borders taking in what FYROM refers to as Greece’s ‘irredenta territory’. It should be noted that the purpose of maps is not simply to give geographical information; they are a record of the limits of a state’s territorial sovereignty and may be cited in evidence as proof of title in international law. Though to speak of ‘cartographic aggression’ might seem excessive, publishing misleading maps does give the injured state, in this case Greece, every right to make a formal protest.

But it is not just on maps that there is misinformation. To quote a claim from a speech made by FYROM’s former ambassador to the US, Ljubica Acevska, and published in the Valparaiso University Law Review:
‘The name controversy pertains to Greece objecting to the Republic of Macedonia referring to itself as “Macedonia” because Greece annexed a territory known as Aegean Macedonia earlier this century in the Balkan Wars and fears that Macedonia may seek back this land, populated by ethnic Macedonians’.(34,Summer 2000, 477 f, with 484 n. 9)
At all events, going by current international regulations, in the six official languages of the UN list of country names, FYROM’s name is being referred to as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Consequently, the claim made by FYROM’s representatives at international meetings that the name FYROM is not the real name of the country is, besides being a direct violation of the Interim Accord, not acceptable by international organs. Going by current international regulations, FYROM has never been released from its legal obligation to choose a name after negotiation with, and agreement with, Greece.

*This text is translation of the article “the onomatology of states in international law: the case of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” from the book “Macedonian identities” (Makedonikes taftotites, Patakis, edition 2008)

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