Central Europe Activ

Macedonia is a country recognized by 120 members of the United Nations and an applicant to EU and NATO. Another EU-member has been wrecking the enlargement strategy by a naming game, refusing the accept the name of the country.

A few months ago I not only found the obstruction of Greece shameful and tinted by the worst kind of nationalism, but also another show of EU’s negligence over its zone of influence (if it has one) that it did not push Greece into a deal. It would be very ironic if again the Americans would solve a rather childish minor diplomatic problem on the Balkans just because they care at least about NATO. By the way, Greece is somewhat involved in another nationalist conflict within the EU: Cyprus.

So, it is very welcome that at least Mr. Rehn, our enlargement commissioner has a view on the issue. According to EUobserver, “It is important to settle the name issue, which is a bilateral issue between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece, and … I sincerely hope that this almost eternal issue could finally be settled,” Mr Rehn told a news conference in Brussels. He has also praised the UN-mandated American negotiator’s work: “Mr Nimetz has shown over the years plenty of stamina, and I hope he still has for this final round enough stamina and determination to get things done,” the commissioner said.

I just keep wondering: how come that when the Austrians voted in a way that the EU leaders did not like they could put an EU member state under diplomatic blocade for almost a year, but do absolutely nothing against Greece’s reckless obstruction on EU’s and NATO’s enlargement? How lucky we are that the Americans are in NATO and they have a good negotiator on this issue…

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  1. This is about Greece committing cultural and ethnic genocide. They realise Macedonia’s independence means they will be forced to recognise the minority within their borders, to which they have committed countless human rights violations against, forcefully expelled more than 500,000 of which, and then resettled Greek-occupied Macedonia with so-called Greeks from Turkey who now claim to be Macedonians.
    Amazing how before 1989 there was no Macedonia in Greece – it was officially Northern Greece, now all of the sudden they claim Macedonia as 3000 years of Greek history.

  2. It is a very bad politics if you inflate the word ‘genocide’. Though Greek nationalism is very regrettable, I do not think that we can talk about violence here.

  3. Daniel,
    I am glad you made the comment about “genocide” It is a serious word and shouldn’t be used loosely as done here by Dandee. As to “Greek nationalism” what of “Macedonian” (sic) nationalism? to assume nationalism on the part of Greece alone you would have to accept the “Macedonian” claims as being correct. They are not by any stretch of the imagination. The far right PM is doing very well at stirring nationalism there.

    With all due respect, it is comments like yours in this article that attract idiots like Dundee making ridiculous comments. His entire research on the issue seems to be internet propaganda by his countrymen/women. I will not go into details about his claims but I do wish to make a point about his claim that there was no Greek Macedonia before 1989. This claim has become like a broken record on the internet. I was born (Greek Macedonian – so was my grandfather and great grandfather at least) and raised approx 80 km south of FYROM border. At my school in 1960 I recall 2 maps of Greece with the word MACEDONIA written across what they call “Occupied Aegean Macedonia” To the north, one map showed “JUGOSLAVIA” the other “SERBIA”. I don’t know how old the maps were but surely they were at least 30 years before 1989.

    Generally your thinking on this issue is flawed (in my opinion)
    – Firstly this issue about the name is NOT a game. It is a serious issue for both sides. For the Greeks for at least 180 years, for the other side about 60 years, so let’s not turn it into a game.
    – secondly the fact that 120 countries recognised FYROM as “Macedonia” proves your are wrong about your last sentence – “How lucky we are that the Americans are in NATO and they have a good negotiator on this issue…” It was USA who was reckless in recognising this, be it for simplicity or other strategic reasons, and the rest more or less followed like sheep because it “solved” a problem for them (or perhaps crawling to USA). If you think having USA in your back yard is a good thing and you should feel lucky, think again. They have lost the plot. The world has never been in the bad shape that it is, and this is thanks to USA foreign policy.
    – This issue must be solved once and for all, or it will always be a problem for future generations.
    – Greece is entitled to exercise its veto power. Why would it want to admit in “the family” a country which is directly opposed to its own interests?
    – Cyprus is a sovereign State. It has a foreign occupation army on its north lands protecting a pseudo-state recognised only by one country. The one that invaded it. The Cypriot people rejected the Anan Plan for reunification; It had nothing to do with Greece.
    Keep on blogging.

  4. Well, thanks for the lengthy comment. I still believe that it is absurd that a nation state should be called otherwise as their inhabitants call the place they live, and the way other people refer to it. Making your point about the U.S. I think that betweenn 1989-1999 the US was the only constructive power in the Balkans. I think the European powers were very much responsible for escalating the war and the Americans stopped it.

  5. Daniel,

    I am very glad to see that you are open to an argument-based dialogue, although your article is actually biased.

    It is indeed absurd that a nation should be called otherwise than its own will, and that’s exactly the problem for the Greek side. You see, there are about 2 million people in the Greek side of Macedonia who carry a strong Macedonian regional identity, beside being Greeks. Regional identity is very important for all Greeks (going back to the ancient times, where almost each city was a separate state on its own). All these people will be directly insulted and harmed, if a neighbour nation monopolizes the name that identifies them, as well. Just imagine that FYROM occupies a smaller part of the geographical Macedonia (39% lies in FYROM while 51% is in Greece) and is related to a tiny fraction of the long Macedonian history (only the last 150 years out of more than 3000 years). Thus, if someone was to have a stronger claim on monopolizing the name, that one would be Greece!

    But Greece only asks for a fair solution, that will allow eveybody in this region to be Macedonian in the way they prefer, without insulting their neighbours. You should also know that FYROM was about to accept the terms Slavomacedonia and Slav Macedonians as its name and national identity, just before the crisis with the Albanians broke out (in 2001 I think). Plus, there are numerous statements of politicians there that identify themselves as Slav Macedonians (including their first president Gligorov).

    You should try to understand the Greek Macedonians as follows: if a Macedonian state and nation is recognized, then a multicultural and multinational area, along with its rich (Greek mainly) history, will be monopolized by one state. I’ll be embarassed (as I am until now), every time I speak to a foreigner about the place I come from and my identity as a Greek Macedonia, because everybody will relate me directly to FYROM.

    Plus the fact, that if a solution imposed to 2 million Greek Macedonians is unfair for them, there will always be instability and hostility against FYROM – and therefore NO SOLUTION.

  6. Costas, I appreciate your point of view, but I think your argument is a plainly nationalist argument and I believe that European nationalism is a very negative force.

    A hundred years ago Hungary was three times its size now. The Slovakian capital city currently known as Bratislava was 200 years ago known as Pozsony and was the Hungarian capital. I have to tell you that countries come and go. Macedonia is here, it is a proper state, and the people who live in it regard themselves Macedonians. No Greek policy can subvert it.

    Here are two pieces of good news. I think these could not have happened if these historicallly Hungarian, now Slovakian and Romanian territories would not be in the EU with Hungary. I think the only good solution is to let Macedonia enter the EU and forget about the border. Than nobody can claim hypocritical claims about monopolizing the Macedonian heritage. It will be there to take for those who really care.

  7. Daniel
    You stated “…the obstruction of Greece [in Bucharest] shameful and tinted by the worst kind of nationalism”. Unfortunately you seem to be caught up in your apparent bias on this issue. You cannot accuse only Greece of nationalism on this matter. Causality (theory of cause and effect) goes back to the days of Aristotle.
    The term nationalism can refer to an ideology, a sentiment, a form of culture, or a social movement that focuses on the nation. As an ideology, nationalism holds that ‘the people’ in the doctrine of popular sovereignty is the nation, and that as a result only nation-states founded on the principle of national self-determination are legitimate.
    I want to state from the outset that I am not a proponent of Nationalism but I also think Globalisation and erasing borders in our lifetime is a dream, because people are people, it’s in their nature to protect their own.
    It is in fact the self proclaimed Republic of Macedonia that initiated and continuously promotes nationalism both at home and at an international level and not only by extremists. It is a systematic State driven effort. This is my view is the cause. The effect? well you described it on the Greek side, which is attempting, with whatever legal means it is afforded, to protect its own. One could call this a clash or identities and sadly as long as politicians have a self interest at keeping the seats of power warm by their own arses, it will continue for many centuries to come.
    It’s not a good analogy to compare this problem with Hungary’s history. It’s hardly the same thing; far from it. I don’t profess to know much about Hungary’s history but I know that it was an empire encompassing many different nationalities/ethnicities. In fact is it not true that in the late 18th early 19th centuries, the non-hungarian population was more than twice that of the Hungarian? Self determination/nationalism is one thing, Empire is another. Alexander tried it, the Romans tried it, the Ottomans tried it in the Balkans; eventually they all collapsed and unfortunately they left unresolved issues for future generations to deal with. This is one of them. This is a good opportunity to put an end to this one now.

  8. Just a short question for you Daniel

    Exactly how much research did you put into this posting ? hours, minutes ?

    This conflict is a lot more complicated that you present it and your approach to it was to judge the greek position through your general views on nationalism.

    Those views, as valid at they may be, have to be accompanied by at least some rudimentary research on the history of the conflict.

    If you want to publish a credible, factual piece and make such claims as ‘worst kind of nationalism’ then maybe you should at least spend a couple of weeks researching the subject but it appears that you only have read through a couple of press releases and applied generalities to produce this shoddy and half baked missive.

    To put this in a perspective that you might understand, I have worked in Romania and (briefly) in Hungary, and I have been surprised and puzzled by the level of animosity between Hungarians and Romanians.

    I always found expressions of Hungarian and Romanian nationalism a bit silly but even after 4 years in the region, I would not venture to publish anything on the subject that implied that one or the other side was in the wrong unless I had done some significant reading on the matter.

    I would certainly have gone through a couple of scientific papers, quoted my references and subjected myself to a more rigorous process as befitting a government official of an EU state such as yourself.

    All the best


  9. Dear Andrew, thank you for your advice. Not being a scientist a will not refer to scientific research on the subjects of my blog, but if you can point out where do you think I have erred in the posts above I would be grateful. That would carry a debate forward.

  10. My very naif point of view is that people could be pushed to think about more serious issues than just names, whose validity is made effective just by the fact that an administrative border is set amidst them.

    There are human beings loving to define themselves as “Macedonians” either North or South of the border, both of them live in administrative units called Macedonia (in one case an independent country, in the other case three regions) – it is likely that only a limited number of persons really would take care of spending their energy in preventing another group to be called as they wish.

    On the other hand, all over the Balkans area there are plenty of similar situations: Bulgarians feel that they should control lower Romania, upper Greece and of course Eastern Macedonia; Hungarians go around with funny maps on their cars claiming that “Pannonia” extends from Uzhorod to Zadar and Cluj; the Serbians….you know; the Albanians as well. Why couldn’t we simply be peacefully realistic?

  11. I find it rather amusing that anyone would dare think, let alone suggest, that they will tell another people what to call themsleves, you know, like “let me tell you who you are and what you are?”. Yes, I know it’s silly so feel free to laugh. :-))

    But seriously what kind of person, of people, would take it upon themselves to pursue a now vigourous public policy of denying a people, a country? Should we cringe at the mere thought of something like that (still) happening in the 21st century?

    If there were to be any future of a civil European Union then the politicians will have to start practicing what they preach and write in EU documents, like the EU Declaration on Human Rights. It is very much a copy of the UN Declaration on Human Rights and a document that everyone should read to open their eyes (it’s only about 20pages long). But I digress please let me make another couple of points.

    Macedonia and the Macedonian people are not something that fell from the sky or happened in the “last 50 years”. We are talking here about a Biblical country upon which St Paul walked and laid the foundations of the first Christian Churches. So Greeks, descendants of the first Greek King Prince Otto of Bavaria (1832), go ahead feel free to change the Bible too.

    What should we call Greece’s, Serbia’s and Bulgaria’s partitioning of Macedonia in 1912/1913 in Bucharest under the auspices of the “European powers”? What should we call the ensuing ethnic cleansing of Macedonians from Macedonia in the 1920’s and 1940’s?

    Is it little wonder then when one of those perpetrators (ie Serbia) lost it’s control over the part it got it created a big headache for so called “Europe”, not to mentioned Greece and Bulgaria?

    When is a genocide a genocide? Could it be when England or France or Germany decide it is so.

    Lastly, and most importantly, do you think that any judiciary system of a (proper) EU member country would allow one of their own poiticians to make statements like the Greeks about the existence and non-existence of a people or a country?

    It’s breathtaking to keep hearing the Greeks go on and on how Macedonia should be wiped out. Considering all of the above I wonder whether a collective therapy might help them recover from this self-afflicted delusion.

    So in conclusion the liberty and existence of a people, a country, is based on how an application is filled out? And some kinda scientific research, debate, or who’s got more history or archeology papers?

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  12. What is in a name? I live in Belgium and here we have a province of Luxembourg, although the city of Luxembourg is situated in the country of Luxembourg. According to Wikipedia this was because the Belgian Revolution of 1830–1839 reduced Luxembourg’s territory by more than half, and the predominantly francophone western part of the country was transferred to Belgium.

    A few parallels with the situation in Macedonia:
    – The country of Luxembourg has faced a few Partitions that have greatly reduced Luxembourg’s territory.
    – Luxembourgers from Belgium and from Luxembourd speak a language from another group (although there is a Luxembourgish-speaking minority in Belgium)
    – Both have similar (but not identical) flags and coats of arms.

    One difference is that Luxembourgers on both sides seem to be fine with the situation already since 1839 and do not have any ‘ambition’ to change the name of the other. Another difference is that there is no town called ‘Macedonia’.

    Sounds like it is time for a joint Macedonian delegation to learn from both Luxembourgs?

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

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