What’s in a name? That which we call Macedonia, would...
...create an international incident.
When Yugoslavia split back into its constituent parts (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia), Macedonia managed to avoid the bloodshed when most of the rest of the area was asserting its freedom to bomb itself. It did not, however, escape entirely unscathed. As it pulled its name out of the Yugoslavian cloak, it found itself in a different sort of battle with Greece.
There’s a province called Macedonia in northern Greece, which borders the Republic of Macedonia and which covers most of the area that was ancient Macedonia. It’s not as simple as that, though, because the boundaries fluctuated over the centuries, and there were times when both areas were included in an entity called Macedonia. Still, the Greek government claims the rights to the name, and insists that the Republic of Macedonia change its name.
The government of the Republic of Macedonia, of course, has no interest in such a change.
Unfortunately for them, Greece can cause them trouble if they don’t come to an agreement. The UN and NATO both officially call the country the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM), holding back full legitimacy of the country’s name. And with Macedonia wanting to join NATO, Greece has yet more leverage now.
And so, diplomatic negotiations are resuming:
Greece and Macedonia on Wednesday agreed to hold a new round of talks on a festering dispute over Macedonia’s name that threatens to undercut its chances of joining NATO.Once you decipher the odd double negative, you can see that Mr Nimetz thinks he can help them work something out. I’m not sure what it is that they can compromise on (“OK, you use the name in even-numbered years, and we’ll use it in odd-numbered ones....”), but I’m not sure why it’s such a problem!
The agreement, brokered by Matthew Nimetz, a United Nations special envoy, offered new momentum to stalled negotiations over what Macedonia, the former Yugoslav republic of two million people, should call itself.
“Stability and cooperation in the region is extremely important,” Mr. Nimetz said after an hourlong meeting with Dora Bakoyannis, Greece’s foreign minister. “This is not an issue that cannot be resolved. It cries out for a solution.”
Most countries recognize Macedonia, Greece’s northern neighbor, as the Republic of Macedonia. But Greece has taken the position that using the name implies claims to the Greek province of the same name. Greece, long a NATO member, has also threatened to block Macedonia’s effort to join unless it agrees to change its name.
You don’t see us having a fight with the “Former Soviet Republic of Georgia”. Mexico doesn’t seem miffed about “New Mexico”. And the various countries affected appear to accept or ignore the presence in the U.S. of towns like Berlin, CT; Cairo, NY; Vienna, VA; and Moscow, ID.
I don’t mean to make light of a political situation between two countries, I don’t. But, really: aren’t there more important fights to pick? Lidija, do you want to comment?