The issue of FYROM name and the upcoming Greek-FYROM meeting in New York with Matthew Nimetz

The special UN mediator on the issue of the FYROM name, Matthew Nimetz, will meet on January 29th -30th   in New York with representatives of Greece and FYROM, to discuss the prospects for progress in resolving the issue. Following bilateral contacts of the first 10days of January in Athens and Skopje, thanks to the initiative of the Greek side to resume talks to find a mutually acceptable solution, none of them has many options.

First, Greece is economically and diplomatically weak in the middle of the economic crisis, and secondly FYROM has major economic and internal political crisis [1], so the outcome of a successful result at the next meeting is doubtful.

However, the difficult position of both countries in this period could prove an excellent opportunity to find a solution. Greece will be freed from a big foreign policy issue and further strengthened the negotiating credibility of the government, both at the internal of the country and abroad, while Macedonia will win the ticket for both the integration of the Euro-Atlantic institutions, and the political stability of the government. Either way, the positive outcome of the forthcoming meeting will have beneficial effects for both countries.

We should not rush to prejudge any outcome and before judging either side, we should make a brief historical background to the root of the problem and the causes that led to the foreign policy of Greece, at least as regards this issue stalled.

History

Since the early 1990s the issue of Skopje name not only affects but mainly monopolizes the Greek Foreign Policy.

Who of the rulers of the 50s in Greece could imagine that their voluntary consent to name the southern part of Yugoslavia “Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” [2] will raise after 40 years so many problems in Greek foreign policy?

The interesting part is that Greece was trapped not once, but several times in an effort to find allies and solution on the name issue. After the dissolution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, when the issue began to grow, the leaders of our country instead of analyzing the data in order to exploit the weakness of such a new and weak statehood and give an end to the problem, limited its action in protest rallies, passing as badly as possible its rights and concerns at the international community.

Greece missed its historic opportunity to change the data of the problem, when left the defenseless Albanian of FYROM at the nationalism of Slavomacedonians. They are the majority population of our neighbor country, but not the only population within. If our country had come to an agreement with the leadership of the Albanians, then the name would be a matter of national identity expression of the populations of Skopje and not of Greek foreign policy. [3]

The Interim Agreement [4] of New York on 1995, although it helped to temporarily calm the tented  relations between the two sides and helped the economic invasion of Greek businessmen in this small country on the Balkan Peninsula, but long term, it did not offer anything essential in Greece, as Skopje never respected the agreement. While our country was ready to discuss and solve the problem, and agreed to a compound name that included the word Macedonia, the other side having the support of both the US and Turkey had no intention to debate and was a spirit of intolerance. Although it should be done earlier, it is time for Greece to terminate the agreement criticizing the behavior of FYROM.

Conclusions

Theoretically and practically every country has the right to be named as it wants. However, it has not the right to usurp the history and symbols of other peoples. I will not refer either to the number of countries that have recognized FYROM as Macedonia or to the numerous challenges of Skopje towards our country using our national-historical symbols.

The aim of our foreign policy should be the name issue solution as soon as possible and to disengage from a problem that it has harmed our prestige and our international credibility.

Any solution, however, even the worst case of FYROM named Macedonia, should explicitly and publicly commit Skopje that they will never use our history and our symbols as their own historical continuity and never will raise territorial claims with Greece. This must be clear; otherwise any solution should not be accepted by Greece. Clearly we want the stability of the neighboring country, integration into EU and NATO and friendly relations with her, but under the condition that the leadership of Skopje respects the international law.

Moreover, both NATO and EU unanimously decided [5] that will progress in access negotiations with FYROM, when the issue of the name resolved under mutually acceptable manner.

What the leadership of the Greek Foreign Ministry should not forget is that in all issues exist potential allies and alternatives. Our country must come to an agreement with Bulgaria and Romania, which are strategic allies in the EU [6], and push the Skopje in diplomatic discussions. The first step in this direction has already been made last November with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the three countries meeting in Sofia, aiming to determine their view for the Western Balkans, including FYROM. Noting that Bulgaria also has problems with FYROM, as it believes that there is no different language than their own and therefore Macedonian national identity. [7] Greece, finally, must act. The timeless story punishes those who keep a passive attitude to events. Besides, we see it in every solution that has been found over the past two decades, that the previous time was clearly better than the last.

Panagiotis I. Psyllos

 

[1] Euractiv, Political Instability in Skopje (04 January 2013), available at: http://euractiv.gr/dieyrynsi/politiki-astatheia-sta-skopia access: 23.01.2013.

[2] Greek Foreign Ministry, the name issue of FYROM, (January 23, 2013), available at: http://www.mfa.gr/to-zitima-tou-onomatos-tis-pgdm/ access: 23- 01-2013.

[3] Kotzias Nikos (2010), The Foreign Policy of Greece in the 21st Century, Kastaniotis, Athens, pp. 223-229.

[4] Interim Accord, Signed at New York on 13 September 1995, available at: http://www.mfa.gr/images/docs/fyrom/interim_accord_1995.pdf accessed on: 23-01-2013.

[5] The NATO decision was taken in April 2008, See Bucharest Summit Declaration, (3 April 2008), available at: http://www.mfa.gr/images/docs/fyrom/bucharest_summit_declaration_3_4_08.pdf accessed on: 23 -01-2013. Similarly the EU unanimous decision was made in June 2008, Brussels European Council, (20 June 2008), available at: http://www.mfa.gr/images/docs/fyrom/eu_council_conclusions_2008.pdf accessed on: 23-01 -2013.

[6] Even the Bulgarian leadership creaked teeth in Macedonian government last June, stressing that it will be very strict in approving the Macedonian EU membership criteria. See, very strict attitude to the European path of Macedonia announces the Bulgarian prime minister B. . Borisov on the occasion of the assumption Mitreva AMPE, (June 20, 2012), available at: http://web.ana-mpa.gr/balkans/article.php?doc_id=615493 access: 01.23.2013.

[7] Kotzias Nikos (2010), The Foreign Policy of Greece in the 21st Century, Kastaniotis, Athens, pp. 227.

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