Greece: Myopic policy on Macedonia

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Sep 18 14:23:43 UTC 2008

Myopic policy
By Stavros Lygeros

For decades, Greece's official state policy has been that there is no
Macedonia issue. Adopting the same myopic policy, Athens now refuses
to discuss the identity (i.e. ethnicity/language) of its northwestern
neighbors. Greece has taken refuge behind a UN Security Council
resolution that negotiations concern the state's name only. But the
policy runs against Greece's national and political interests. On a
national level, one has to understand that the core of the problem is
Skopje's bid to lay exclusive claim to Macedonian identity. Even if it
agrees to the name "Upper Macedonia," its expansionist claims will
continue. The only way to bury these ambitions is by also altering the
name of the predominant ethnic group/language. The name "Macedonian"
refers to the entire region and is therefore unacceptable. A proper
description should rather contain references to the ethnic group as
well as geography (such as Slav-Macedonian).

In fact, FYROM's raising of the issue makes things easier for Greece.
The Slav-Macedonians did so in order to copyright the name "Macedonia"
for their identity. Greece should have taken the opportunity to also
impose a name change on this level. But instead Greece has refused to
negotiate on identity issues. The ineffectiveness of Greece's tactics
has been demonstrated in the latest proposal by Matthew Nimetz, which
clearly states that the ethnicity/language of the state in question
will be "Macedonian." His move took Athens officials by surprise but
they should have known better. Given Athens's refusal to negotiate, it
was natural that Nimetz would meet Skopje's demand on the
nationality/language issue, so as to get some kind of compromise on
the name issue in compensation.

Greece was right to reject the proposal, but every rejection comes
with a price – especially when Greece has not specified any red lines
to indicate what is negotiable and what isn't. So long as it fails to
do so, it will be at the mercy of the US-guided mediator.

Date :  18/9/08

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