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Time's Up for "Macedonian" Perverse Nationalism

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"For all of us who love History, and know History, Macedonia is as Greek as the Acropolis". What Mike Rann, the current Premier of South Australia, said during an interview (1) is what most people in the world know: simply, the impregnable fact that the term 'Macedonia' is an inextricable part of ancient Greece's historical heritage. However, modern diplomacy's cynicism doesn't recognize History (and its truth) as a tool of Foreign Policy - on the contrary, its is fully based on the concept of realism. Therefore, the 17-years long naming-dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia couldn't be an exception on that.

In a recent commentary in the Washington Times, U.S. senators Bob Menendez and Olympia Snowe put the whole issue in its right context analyzing with distinctness its recent backround (2). A significant part of the above article refers to the assumption that the recognition of the name "Republic of Macedonia" by the Bush administration in 2004 was, indeed, a wrong decision. The result was actually even worse than Ms.Condoleezza Rice could imagine: the rapid increase of Skopje's intransigence which was expressed in various forms. One of them was their perverse refusal to accept Greece's reasonable proposition: one compound name with a geographic qualifier, for all uses, including international organizations (U.N., EU, NATO) and bilateral relations.

The above unbending attitude had, of course, a first obvious negative effect: FYROM didn't receive an invitation to join NATO, as long as there wasn't a mutually accepted solution to the naming-dispute. But the most discouraging thing is that Skopje seems not to appreciate the actions of good will from the Greek side: It should be noted that Greece is the number one foreign investor in FYROM, with $1 billion invested capital generating around 30,000 new jobs (3). And its not only that. Athens has, constantly and officially, supported FYROM's EU perspective (4), but with the infrangible prerequisite that there will be a commonly accepted solution to the naming-dispute. Nevertheless, the government of Skopje, maybe motivated by petty politics, remains in its hard nationalistic line, denying to contribute effectively to a fair compromise.

A negative assumption, which can also be explained by the fact that FYROM didn't manage, until now, to renounce its hidden chauvinistic idle wishes. Because, actually, the Greek concern isn't the name itself, but what lies benieth the use of the name: Articles 3, 68 and 74 of the Constitution of the self-called "Republic of Macedonia" include reference to a "possible change of the existing borders", meaning the borders between FYROM and northern Greece. Taking into account that, for many decades, nationalism and ethnic tensions have been proved as a fundamental reason for Balkans' dismemberment (e.g. Kosovo, Montenegro), nobody can guarantee that the northern Greek borders are fully secured from Skopje's smouldering chauvinism.

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On that point, its very positive the fact that prominent members of both the U.S. Congress and Senate share the above concerns. On August 3, 2007, senators Barack Obama, Olympia Snowe and Bob Menendez introduced to the Senate a resolution (S.R.300) calling Skopje to "stop the utilization of materials that violate provisions of the United Nations-brokered Interim Agreement between FYROM and Greece regarding hostile activities or propaganda" (5). Furthermore, the Democratic Presidential nominee, Barack Obama, proved that he - contrary to George W.Bush - understands the political condition in South Eastern Europe and has the will to contribute positively to the persistence of Peace, Security and co-operation in the region.

Therefore, a clear and honest message must be send to the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. That they must act with responsibility and prudence, far from nationalistic practices. Good or bad, I guess that's the only way to catch the train for NATO and the European Union.

Notes:

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1. Interview in Eleftherotypia Newspaper, Athens, May 5, 2007.

2. "Macedonian quandary" by Bob Menendez & Olympia Snow, The Washington Times; September 24, 2008.

3. NATO Enlargement -- The View from Athens by Ambassador Alexandros P. Mallias, The Huffington Post, March 27, 2008.

4. EU-Western Balkans Summit in Salonika, Greece, June 2003.

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Aris Claras is a writer based in Greece.


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