Thursday, April 24, 2008

Greece says "could veto Skopje's EU bid as well"

After preventing Macedonia's NATO membership bid, Athens says its wants the name talks continued.

"Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis repeated yesterday his invitation to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to resume talks but added that if the two countries could not settle their name dispute, Athens is prepared to block Skopje’s bid to join the European Union as well as NATO," the daily Kathimerini reported.

Speaking at the end of the NATO summit in Bucharest, Karamanlis insisted that the "use of Greece’s veto to stop FYROM joining NATO was not the end of the matter".

“We want to support the Euro-Atlantic and European course of FYROM but the name issue has to be settled,” he said at a press conference. “We have covered our fair share of ground, now the other side has to move too.”

According to the daily, the prime minister said that Greece wanted to continue negotiations with Skopje under the auspices of the United Nations and made it clear that Athens has a very clear idea of what it wants from the talks.

“Our position is clear – a straightforward, composite name erga omnes (toward all).”

Karamanlis added that it was a “useful tool” for Greece that NATO agreed that the name dispute had to be resolved before Skopje could make another bid to join the alliance, "thereby making the issue more than just a bilateral squabble".

“I never felt isolated and I think that as of yesterday, the understanding of our position has widened,” he added.

There was no response yesterday from Skopje to Karamanlis’s offer to resume talks, the newspaper said. Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos predicted that"it would take some time for emotional reaction in FYROM to settle down".

Kathimerini also said that "at least two Greek businessmen in Skopje claimed their property was damaged following Athens’s use of the veto".

Macedonia 'To Seize Moment' In 'Name' Row

he US envoy to NATO has said a fresh round of Macedonia-Greece talks over the long running “name” row will be held soon.

We will try to close this issue “within days or weeks, not in months” Victoria Nuland told local media after meeting the Macedonia’s President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski.

She urged Skopje to “seize the moment” and try to hammer out a compromise with neighbouring Greece while the issue is still in focus in NATO. Nuland said she was satisfied with the talks in Skopje.

This comes after Athens, last week, vetoed Skopje’s NATO invitation at the alliance’s summit in Bucharest. Athens has urged Skopje to change its constitutional name “Republic of Macedonia,” arguing that it might lead Skopje to make territorial claims over Greece’s own northern province of Macedonia.

As a result, NATO said the invitation for the country would be issued as soon as the row is settled.

However, it is not clear who would represent Macedonia and with what legitimacy if the country goes to an early elections soon.

The key Ruling party, VMRO DPMNE, Wednesday announced it will accept the initiative calling for Parliament’s dismissal filed by the main Albanian opposition party, the Democratic Union for Integration. Read more at

The two parties have enough seats in the assembly to adopt the initiative that media report is scheduled to be put to a parliamentary vote on Thursday.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The NATO Summit

The NATO Summit

Dan Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
Foreign Press Center Briefing
Washington, DC
April 7, 2008

QUESTION: Lambros Papantoniou, Greek correspondent, Eleftheros Typos, Greek daily. Mr. Secretary, on the name issue between Athens and Skopje, what happened in Bucharest? What is going to happen from now on, since you are (inaudible)? And why are you supporting the last proposal of Matthew Nimetz, which (inaudible) the proposal of February 19th? And what was the purpose of the today's telephone call with the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Of course, the position of the United States is well known. We wanted an invitation to Macedonia, either based on the Nimetz proposal or as FYROM, or as FYROM. Greece didn't accept that; however, Greece has made clear that it wants a solution to the name issue, and the Macedonian Government has made clear that it wants a solution to the name issue. Both sides want to move ahead.

And this became clear during the course of the discussions we had and President had with the Macedonian leaders, and it became clear in the course of conversations that Secretary Rice and I had with the Greek Foreign Minister. It's clear that both governments don't want to get into a cycle of mutual recrimination, and I think that the press in Skopje reflects this. If you see, it is -- the Macedonians do want to move forward. They're obviously disappointed, but I applaud their constructive approach.

And, frankly, I'm quite heartened that the Greek Government seems ready to engage intensely, and it's our intention to try. We're not going to give up. We support the Nimetz process. Nimetz -- well, I can't speak for him, but I believe he is ready to engage, certainly not throw in the towel. We want to move ahead.

QUESTION: And your telephone call to Mrs. Bakoyannis today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I didn't speak to her today.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MODERATOR: (Inaudible) the microphone.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I will simply say that I confirmed the -- I can speak only for myself -- confirmed America's interest in moving ahead. And I was quite satisfied with that phone call. I think it's important that we prepare to move ahead. There is plenty -- there are ample opportunities for recrimination and paralysis. Let's not take them.

QUESTION: Hi. Apostolos Zoupaniotis, Alpha Television in Greece. Mr. Secretary, I see many similarities in your negotiating tactics on the name issue and 2004, before the referendum, in Cyprus. And I wonder why you kept pushing in Bucharest for a decision and actually, by doing that, you were taking sides with Skopje, when you knew that Greece would veto it and when you knew that the latest proposal of Nimetz was much worse than the previous one in February 19?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, I'm not going to discuss the merits or demerits of the proposal by Ambassador Nimetz. We support the UN process. So does Greece. So does Macedonia. Of course, we thought -- we hoped that there would be an invitation to Macedonia. We said so. That remains our view. I see no reason to apologize for very active American role. We have, as you know, encouraged Skopje to negotiate in good faith. We have encouraged Greece to do the same. We don't take sides. We do -- our side is the side of a resolution on the most favorable terms possible for both sides, mutually acceptable terms. And I'm glad that we have -- that the United States is supporting Nimetz, and we intend to do so in the future.

QUESTION: Thanasis Isitsas, Greek newspaper Elefthe Rotypia. Mr. Secretary, a year ago, regarding Kosovo crisis, you said for the Serbians that nationalism is like a cheap alcohol; first it makes you drunk, then it makes you blind and it makes you kill. A year later, February 27th, you gave an interview in Radio Kanal 77, before the summit in Bucharest, and you practically justified nationalism coming from the government of the former Yugoslavia of Macedonia. You said that Macedonian patriots have struggled for this moment more than a hundred years to get in Europe Atlantic institutions. Can you tell us, Mr. Secretary, is it a double standard? How come did you call in the first statement the Serbians nationalists and the secondly the Macedonian patriots? Isn't this a kind of double standard? Don't you think you encouraging by certain statements the nationals in FYROM?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Not at all. You completely misunderstood my remarks, and I should explain them to you so you can understand them properly.

Nationalism -- and Greece knows this very, very well -- in the Balkans has generated wars and bloodshed and killing and instability. And I think nationalism is a grave danger. When I spoke of Macedonian patriots, I spoke of a country which is a successful multiethnic state with ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians in the government and in opposition. Thanks to the Ohrid framework, the government in Skopje averted a major domestic problem, perhaps even a civil war. Of all the post-Yugoslav states, Macedonia has been among the most successful in avoiding precisely this kind of extreme nationalism. The government in Skopje, the Macedonian Government, is looking at a future in Europe and a future with NATO, and in doing so it is rejecting exactly the kind of nationalism which has brought so much pain to the Balkans.

In the future, a Macedonia in Europe, a Greece already in Europe, are destined to be good friends and partners. This is the best outcome, and that's the outcome we want. We want to see an outcome where nationalism of the kind that has brought wars is rejected. We want to see a future with irredentism belonging to history, not current-day reality. And I think that Greece has sometimes shown a great vision, a positive vision of this kind of cooperation, and I hope that Macedonia and Greece, FYROM and Greece, as you say, will be able to find this vision. We want to help.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I need your attention. A few moments ago, you said specifically, "Ethnic Macedonians" for the first time in history. That means the U.S. Government is recognizing the so-called "Macedonian ethnicity and language."

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I don't think it is so-called. Macedonian language exists. Macedonian people exist. It's not - you know, we teach Macedonian at the Foreign Service Institute. We teach Serbian, we teach Croatian, now we teach Bosnian. There's a debate in Montenegro as to Crnogorski Jezik, the Montenegrin language. All languages - and I speak now as - not as a bureaucrat, but as - you know, a former --a lapsed historian. All languages are - you know, are human creations and, you know, they develop over time and become codified. And it's not up to - you know, there is a Macedonian language.

There is also the historic Macedonian province, which is different from the country. And it's important. It's quite clear that the government in Skopje, what we Americans call the Government of Macedonia, has no claims. We recognize the difference between the historic territory of Macedonia, which is, of course, much larger than the current country. And we're involved in the - we are supportive of the Nimetz process on the name to make - to settle this issue.

QUESTION: What about the ethnicity? You mentioned ethnicity.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I'm not - I did - I did mention that. But, you know, this is an issue - you know, it is for people to define themselves, ultimately, I suppose. The ethnicity is - you know, it's just a fact as far as I can tell. The issue of the name is something that is on the table. And this is something to be discussed. I'm not the negotiator and I'm not, certainly, an anthropologist or an ethno-historian.

All right, thank you.

Macedonia has no 'name issue'

In her piece, �Macedonia: What is in a name?� published in the Turkish Daily News on March 31, Ms. Ariana Ferentinou touched upon the �name issue� of the Republic of Macedonia (RM), a question raised by Greece 15-16 years ago.

It was difficult to understand from Ms. Ferentinou's article whether she supports the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic (HR), Mrs. Bakoyiannis, or whether she was just warning her of the complexity of the issue.

Perhaps we should first note that the Republic of Turkey is one of the first countries that recognized the Republic of Macedonia, under the constitutional name (February 1992). In other words, Turkey respected, according to international law, the historical right of our country to the name.

Our constitutional name is actually recognized by over 120 UN member states as well, including most members of the Security Council (China, Russia, Canada), and the U.S. among them. As a matter of fact, before the announcement of the recognition, in 2004, official U.S. Web sites published a long report on Macedonia and the Republic of Macedonia, with facts and arguments on the roots of our nation and its centurial strive for an independent state and with a very clear message � that the U.S. recognizes the historical right of the Republic of Macedonia to that name and that it is not a mere political decision.

Fact about the �problem':

There are a few more facts considering this, artificially imposed �problem�:

1. The Hellenic Republic changed the name of its northern province (Northern Greece and Trace) to Macedonia and Trace in 1989, when the Republic of Macedonia was a federal republic in the former Yugoslavia, since 1944. It could be estimated that this was done in order to meet the future dissolution of Yugoslavia and the independence of the Republic of Macedonia, which occurred in 1991.

2. When our country initiated the procedure for U.N. membership and its process of international recognition, Greece started its obstacles, �fearing� territorial claims from the northern neighbor, the Republic of Macedonia. The Republic of Macedonia demonstrated its willingness for good neighborly relations by several painful step-backs � changing the flag and an article in the constitution � to assure Greece of no intentions, as alleged by them. That was not enough for our neighbors and marathon talks on the name started under the mediation of a U.N. representative.

3. So, a lot of energy and time is spent on that, and Macedonia suffered a tremendous slow down of its Euro-Atlantic integration, the isolation of its citizens because of the visa regime, and lower than possible economic growth accordingly, which affected the right of Macedonian citizens on global mobility and economic development as the precondition of a faster and democratic development.

4. Not to forget, at the same time, the Republic of Macedonia, was the key factor in resolving few regional security and humanitarian crises and proved to have the highest level of minority and human rights in the region, even compared to EU member states.

5. Just few days before the �historic� NATO enlargement summit in Bucharest, it seems as if the NATO invitation for the RM, depends of the mercy of the HR to veto or not, despite the RM's accomplishment of all NATO standards and criteria. In this extent, Greece opposes all the other NATO members, who seem to be tired of this �name issue,� but have to follow the principle of solidarity of the Club, which our southern neighbor is misusing by imposing new benchmarks day by day besides others. Macedonia is/was prepared for further talks and to offer a bilateral compromise, but is not prepared for new demands and conditions from the partner, whose goal is to transform the bilateral issue into an international one!

6. In 1995, again under pressure from Greece, Macedonia was obliged to step back and sign an Interim Agreement where it was stipulated that both countries will negotiate on a bilateral basis for the use of the name between them, but that it is no obstacle, to sign and become member of international organizations.

7. You may agree with some analysts and diplomats, who state that the name is the facade, but the real reason for the Greeks is something else. Whatever is behind, the consequence is there � Greece is limiting the right of the RM on integration with the international community, thus limiting the collective and individual rights of our citizens.

8. We are encouraged by some Greeks, actually many, who do not support the policy of their government, fully aware that the �issue� is senseless. We are free to mention one of the Greek former ministers, T. Pangalos, who called the name dispute an �artificial issue,� created during the nationalist policy of Samaras and pointed out that modern Greek policy is today a hostage of this situation.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Greek veto motivated by its refusal to recognize Macedonians

Greece's decision to veto an invitation to Macedonia to join NATO is "an irresponsible act motivated by its refusal to recognize the existence of a distinct Macedonian ethnic identity in the Republic of Macedonia as well as in Greece," EFA said.

The European Free Alliance (EFA) strongly condemns Greece's decision last week to veto an invitation to the Republic of Macedonia to join NATO. While EFA is appalled at Greece's decision, it is hardly surprising.

"Shameful decision to veto the Republic of Macedonia is a continuation of Greece's destabilizing behaviour in South Eastern Europe. Greece's decision was an irresponsible act motivated by its refusal to recognize the existence of a distinct Macedonian ethnic identity in the Republic of Macedonia as well as in Greece."

"This reckless and unfriendly act by Greece is not in accordance with the principles that a European country is supposed to espouse. The decision of the Karamanlis government to deny a country entry into Euro-Atlantic structures because of an absurd objection to the country's rightful name is highly irresponsible and an anti-European act," EFA said in a statement.

It is common knowledge that the source of Greece's behaviour on this issue is its continual and blatant refusal to recognize Macedonian identity, both in Greece and beyond. Indeed, Greece's aggressive behaviour on this issue is something not new to EFA.

The Rainbow, the party of Macedonians in Greece and member of EFA, called on the European Union to do more on these issues.

"It is time for the EU to do more on these issues. Being "UNITED in DIVERSITY" must not be simply declarative. The EU must be "UNITED in recognizing DIVERSITY". A good start would be to demands that Greece acts like 21st century European country and end its shameful and destabilizing policies on the Macedonian issue. In practice, this means recognizing the name of the Republic of Macedonia and recognizing the Macedonian and other minorities in Greece," Rainbow said.

DUI calls for dissolution of Macedonian parliament

Democratic Party for Integration (DUI) will submit on Tuesday an official request for dissolution of the parliament and for holding early elections.

DUI's President Ali Ahmeti told this Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski at the meeting staged in the frameworks of consultations of the party leaders after the NATO Summit, which took place today.

"Our opinion is that this parliament and the current government lack capacity to handle the challenges the country is facing," said Rafiz Aliti, the head of the DUI's deputy group.

Answering a journalist's question, Aliti said that "DUI has not heard VMRO DPMNE's stance on this" and that his party was waiting for "the positions of the remaining parties."

Official sources from the government said that Gruevski only heard out Ahmeti's initiative.

It comes after today's meeting between the working panels of VMRO DPMNE and DPA, at which principle agreement was reached on the demands put forward as an ultimatum by Menduh Thaci's party last May.

Gruevski-Ahmeti meeting was held as a part of a series of separate talks hosted by the Prime Minister. Previously, he met with the Presidents of DPA and SDSM, Menduh Thaci and Radmila Sekerinska, to brief them on the activities of the Macedonian delegations at the NATO Summit in Bucharest and at the meeting of the Adriatic Charter members in Zagreb.

No statements to the media were given after the meetings.

PM Karamanlis to brief President on NATO summit

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will brief on Monday President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on the outcome of a three-day NATO Summit in Bucharest last week and more particularly on developments regarding the "name issue" of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Greece on Wednesday vetoed an invitation to FYROM to join NATO on the grounds that a mutually acceptable solution on a dispute over the land-locked republic's name had not been reached, due to the neighbouring country's intransigence.

An off-the-agenda debate on the issue of FYROM's name is to take place in Parliament on Thursday, April 10. The debate will be held at party leader level, following a relevant motion submitted by Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis.

Greece will not consent to NATO entry for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) while the dispute over its name remains unresolved, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis repeated on Friday, in statements after the conclusion of a NATO summit in Bucharest.

He stressed that Greece's goal was that its smaller, land-locked neighbour to the north should have a "clear composite name for all uses," while adding that Athens was prepared to take part in a new round of negotiations under UN auspices in order to find a name that was mutually acceptable by both sides.

The Greek premier also expressed the opinion that relations with the United States had not been strained as a result of Athens' hard-line stance on this issue at NATO.

"We have a relationship with the United States as allies but that does not mean that we have identical views. On the specific issue it is clear, that views are different. We went along our own views and raised a veto. I do not see shadows cast over bilateral relations," the Greek premier added.

He disagreed, furthermore, with the view that Greece's veto would lead to a wider destabilisation in the region:

"I believe that conditions will soon be ripe to repeat negotiations to find a mutually accepted solution," he said.

Greece's friendly feelings toward FYROM, in general, were also expressed by Karamanlis, who stressed that there was no hostility on the part of Athens and that Greece wanted to support the country's Euro-Atlantic prospects, provided that the issue of the name was first resolved in a satisfactory way.

"The framework of negotiations in known, we have already crossed half the distance and it is now up to FYROM to make the steps that form its own share," he said.

Pointing out that Athens was in favour of the gradual incorporation of all of southeastern Europe into Euro-Atlantic structures, provided that the required terms and criteria were met, he expressed his satisfaction at the invitation extended by NATO to Albania and Croatia, when commenting on the outcome of NATO's decision concerning the 'Adriatic group'.

"We are glad that we can extend an invitation to begin accession negotiations with the first two countries, which have made major efforts. We have invested in their Euro-Atlantic prospects for development and stability of the region. Unfortunately, the same does not also apply for FYROM, since we are not in a position to give our approval as long as the problem of the name exists," he underlined.

According to the Greek premier, the ongoing dispute with FYROM meant that it did not meet NATO's criteria of good neighbour relations, while noting that NATO's charter required new countries wishing to join to first resolve territorial differences or disputes of an irredentist nature with existing members.

In response to questions, Karamanlis indicated that Greece would adopt the same stance when FYROM's application to begin accession negotiations to join the European Union comes up for consideration in September, while saying that there was ample time to find a solution to the "name issue" before that time.

"I consider that there is enough time to find a solution. On the issue of the accession negotiations, our country's stance was, is and will be consistent," he stressed.

Questioned about the results of the NATO summit and how Greece's stance was received by the other allies, Karamanlis said Athens had achieved its diplomatic target at Bucharest and that its veto was a tool that could work toward finding a solution and the ultimate goal, which was a mutually acceptable agreement.

Among the positive points listed by Karamanlis regarding the summit was the fact that all sides had come to understand the true nature of the problem poised by the FYROM "name dispute", which had not been achieved in any of the previous 17 years since it first arose. In addition, Greece was hardly isolated in its views but had received support from several countries, while a general understanding of Greek positions was also expanded during the summit, he said.

Greece strenuously objects to the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia" by FYROM on the grounds that the country's insistence on the name, which is also that of a major northern Greek province on FYROM's border, forms part of an irredentist strategy and expansionist designs.

Karamanlis also commented on other NATO-related issues, among them a proposed enlargement toward Ukraine and Georgia. He stressed that no one could impose on the Alliance whether it should accept new members, provided that the party involved was in agreement and fulfilled the criteria.

On the issue of Afghanistan, he indicated that Greece already participates in the NATO force and can increase its contribution to the effort for reconstruction in the war-ravaged country.

With respect to Russia, the Greek premier said that NATO-Russia cooperation was extremely important for international stability and security. He also noted that the cold war was over and that the challenges now facing NATO and Russia were new ones.

Papandreou: Outcome on FYROM name not decided

The outcome of the diplomatic "war" over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has not yet been decided, main opposition PASOK's leader George Papandreou asserted on Sunday, during an interview published by the Sunday version of the newspaper "Kathimerini". Papandreou urged the government to steadfastly hold its ground on the "national red line" that formed Greece's position on the issue.

Commenting on PASOK's stance, Papandreou stressed that the party had "fulfilled its role as main opposition with responsibility to the institutions" and said that his proposal to visit FYROM for talks with the leadership there was more timely than ever.

He stressed, meanwhile, that a possible recognition of Kosovo's independence by Greece would be a "dire mistake that we will find facing us".

On the domestic front, he commented on the possibility of cooperation between PASOK and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party in Parliament, noting that such a 'grand coalition' was not in touch with Greek political reality while accusing SYRIZA for "remaining stuck in levelling two-fronted thinking and slipping into a political self-satisfaction".

Stressing that PASOK's goal was to achieve an autonomous majority in Parliament, he expressed hope that SYRIZA would "quickly recover from their giddiness and meet with us on the path of the broadest possible democratic and progressive cooperation".

He also criticised the agreement handing Deutsche Telecom a large tranche of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), saying the government's policy was not one of "privatisations but lessons in a kleptocratic mechanism".

Beacon falters in fight for freedom

TWO dangerous signals were sent from NATO's Bucharest summit. The first was that Russia has re-established a sphere of interest in Europe, where countries are no longer allowed to pursue their own goals without Moscow accepting them. The other was that all NATO member states are free to blackmail their partners into supporting their own narrow goals.

The first signal was sent when Ukraine and Georgia were denied the Membership Action Plan they sought. Several European heavyweights, led by Germany and France, said no, despite strong support for the idea from the US. The second signal was sent when Greece successfully vetoed membership for Macedonia, a move that reflected the two countries' unresolved conflict over Macedonia's name (which Greece insists must be the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM, one of the most disgraceful acronyms harassing international politics today).

The dispute with Macedonia goes back to the early 1990s when Yugoslavia collapsed into independent states. Greece vehemently opposed its tiny northern neighbour with only two million inhabitants using the name Macedonia and symbols from the days of Alexander the Great in its flag and crest. Macedonia at one point agreed to design a new flag and remove the symbols, as well as to amend its constitution to clarify that it had no territorial claims on Greece, but it flatly refused to live under one of the tongue-twisting names suggested by its bigger neighbour.

So there you are: a Greek veto on Macedonia's national aspirations until it has chosen a name that does not make the Greeks shiver in fear of aggression from the north. It sounds ridiculous, but there is another, often overlooked, aspect to the dispute: by its behaviour, Greece is demonstrating a lack of confidence in its NATO partners. With Macedonia in NATO, any adventurous policy that undermined regional stability would certainly be stopped in its tracks. If the Greeks cannot see that, their partners must let them know that there is a price for their obstructive behaviour.

The problem with Ukraine and Georgia is far more serious. In a sense, Russia has behaved like Greece in claiming that NATO enlargement threatens its security. That is nonsense, and Russia knows it. But the Kremlin has found that behaving like a spoiled child gets results: the right to influence developments in ex-Soviet countries. In other words, Russia is being allowed to re-assert its sphere of influence, a concept that should have been superseded by that of Europe Whole and Free, which the entire European Union appeared to have embraced when communism collapsed. But no: 1989 was not the end of history. History threatens to return.

European opponents of a MAP for Ukraine and Georgia argue that neither country is ready for NATO membership. Too many question marks about their national unity are said to exist, too many internal conflicts linger and their records on political and judicial reforms are supposedly dubious.

But the MAP process does not imply an automatic right to NATO membership. On the contrary, MAPs would put heavy demands on Ukraine and Georgia. Both would have to answer a lot of difficult questions and convince others that they are able to live up to NATO's democratic requirements before being allowed to join.

Therefore, it would also be in Russia's interest to see such a process started. Russia has valid concerns regarding the huge Russian-speaking minorities in both countries, and these concerns are best dealt with in the framework of the MAP process, where the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's very strict rules on the treatment of minorities provide the benchmark. Indeed, the MAP process ensured protections for Russian minorities in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: all former Soviet republics that are NATO members.

The crux of the matter is Europe's lack of political will to forge a unified stand towards Russia. This has led Russia to pursue a classic divide-and-rule strategy by tempting some big European countries into bilateral agreements, particularly on energy issues, that preclude a common EU position.

This is sad both for Russia and Europeans because it strengthens the hand of those in Moscow who want to pursue a policy of national pride rather than national interest, and it weakens the possibilities of establishing a real common European foreign and security policy.

But it is saddest for the countries that are once again being left out in the cold. NATO is supposed to be a beacon for countries struggling to establish democracy and freedom. The Bucharest summit suggests that the beacon has been switched off.

Uffe Ellemann-Jensen is a former foreign minister of Denmark.

Greece Ready to Veto Macedonia for EU As Well

Greece is ready to impose a veto on Macedonia's EU membership negotiations as it already did on its NATO membership invitation if the name dispute between the two states is not resolved.

This statement was made by the Greek PM Konstantinos Karamanlis, the Greek newspaper Ekathimerini reported.

However, Karamanlis has also confirmed his invitation to the Macedonian leaders for the continuing of the negotiations on the name issue.

According to Ekathimerini, Greece would like to carry on negotiating with Macedonia under the aegis of the UN, and had clearly stated its position.

There has been no reply to the Green invitation from Skopje as the Macedonia's Foreign Ministry Speaker has said it would take a while for the emotions to cool down after Greece blocked the country's accession to NATO during last weeks' Summit in Bucharest.

Greece disputes Macedonia's name because one of its northern region has the same name. It has already blocked Macedonia's recognition by the UN under its constitutional name, and that is why the latter is recognized by the world organizations as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Milovanovic: U.S remain steadfast partner, ally, and friend to Macedonia

U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Gillian Milovanovic in a written media statement on Friday expressed disappointment regarding yesterday's outcome at the Bucharest NATO Summit, where a consensus on Macedonia's NATO membership wasn't reached.

- The people of the Republic of Macedonia came together in the last few weeks and showed their shared commitment to moving this country towards a brighter future. Many, many people have worked hard and achieved so much for this country. The citizens of Macedonia can be proud that their accomplishments over many years and in recent months are making Macedonia a stronger, more prosperous, and more equitable nation for all, says Milovanovic.

The United States stands with the Republic of Macedonia, she adds. - We will remain a steadfast partner, ally, and friend. Yesterday the leaders of our countries agreed to begin work on an enhanced strategic partnership to strengthen our cooperation and ties.

The U.S. Ambassador urges Macedonia’s leadership to continue its positive approach to resolving the name issue promptly. - We eagerly look forward to Macedonia soon becoming a member of all Euro-Atlantic institutions it wishes to join, Milovanovic says in a statement.

Fears of Balkan instability after Macedonia rebuff

NATO's decision on Thursday not to ask Macedonia to join the alliance raised fears that the former Yugoslav republic could be destabilized and nationalist and anti-Western feeling could be bolstered in the Balkans.

NATO leaders at a summit in Bucharest invited Albania and Croatia to join the 26-nation Western defense alliance, but did not do the same for Macedonia because of the threat of a veto by Greece in a row over the country's name.

Macedonia, which broke from Yugoslavia in 1991, has the same name as Greece's most northerly province. Athens says Skopje must use a compound name such as "New" or "Upper" Macedonia.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki said last week that if NATO membership was blocked, Macedonia would probably pull out of U.N.-sponsored talks with Athens.

That could undermine Macedonia's European Union membership bid because Greece can also veto that.

"Acceptance into NATO has been a hugely important symbolic move for all ex-communist countries. This leaves Macedonia without a foothold in what they perceive to be the 'civilized world'," said a strategic analyst with a leading Western think tank who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Balkans region is already facing increased tension following Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia on February 17.

Macedonia went to the brink of civil war in 2001 between the Slav Macedonian majority and an Albanian minority before an accord brokered by the EU and NATO pulled it back.

"This (NATO decision) will have negative consequences. The Macedonian government will face pressure from inside and outside," Albanian political analyst Mentor Nazarko said of Nato's decision.

Nazarko said NATO's decision would make Macedonia "vulnerable" to regional powers such as Greece and Serbia who he said wanted Macedonia weakened.


Macedonia's Albanians, a quarter of its 2 million people, back a compromise with Greece for the sake of NATO and the EU.

They say progress to the West will make them equal partners in a multiethnic society, and help the economy. Most feel uneasy about talk of a glorious ancient history that excludes them.

Aziz Pollozhani, a senior official in Macedonia's largest Albanian party, DUI, said the government had in effect failed at the NATO summit Bucharest .

"It wasn't able to build an appropriate climate, on the contrary made moves seen by Greece as provocative," he said.

Slobodan Casule, a former Macedonian foreign minister, said the delay could create "ethnic tensions and an internal crisis".

He noted that there had been setbacks for pro-Western groups in other parts of the Balkans.

"This will turn into a clear defeat of pro-NATO and pro-EU forces in Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans," Casule said. "It will block reforms and postpone indefinitely the negotiations on Macedonia's EU membership."

Former Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski called for calm, not provocative actions.

"Macedonia should not complicate the situation even more with jerky reactions, like withdrawing from the U.N. talks," he told Reuters.

"We should soberly analyze what our next steps should be. We should send a clear signal we're still ready for negotiations so we can finally receive an invitation."

Political analysts said NATO's decision could play into the hands of Macedonian nationalists, enabling them to say compromises with the Albanian minority had served no purpose.

The analysts said the decision could also strengthen nationalists in Serbia, which holds a parliamentary election next month, and anti-Western parties in Serbia who like to play up their friendly ties with Greece.

"They will start banging the drum to exploit this ahead of the May election, saying Greece can help Serbia over (breakaway Albanian-majority) Kosovo," the analyst said.

Consultations after veto in Bucharest

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski today will hold separate meetings with DPA leader Menduh Thaci, DUI leader Ali Ahmeti and SDSM leader Radmila Sekerinska.

PM Gruevski will brief the leaders of the three parties about the participation of Macedonian delegation in NATO summit in Bucharest and the Adriatic Group (A3) meeting in Zagreb.

Political leaders will exchange views on further course of activities following Greek veto on Macedonia's admission to NATO.

Today's meeting of political leaders marks the start of consultations among the country's top officials to draw up a common strategy after Greece blocked Macedonia's NATO entry because of the name. Greece also threatens to block Macedonia's EU bid unless the name issue has been resolved.

Macedonia will not quit NATO membership bid and it will continue with reforms. Macedonia will build a strategy on resolution of name differences, said President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski after the meeting with US President George Bush in Zagreb.

During the visit to Zagreb, President Bush pledged support to Macedonia's NATO entry as soon as possible.

Bush sees NATO future for Macedonia

President George W. Bush assured Macedonia on Saturday that the United States wants it in NATO as soon as possible, along with other former Yugoslav republics.

In a speech in Croatia marking its formal invitation to join NATO this week, Bush said he looked forward to seeing all Balkan candidates join the Western alliance which marks its 60th birthday next year.

"America's position is clear: Macedonia should take its place in NATO as soon as possible," he said in a speech attended by Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

The Macedonians walked out of a NATO summit in Romania when Greece blocked their invitation because of a long-running dispute over the country's name, which is that of Greece's northern province, birthplace of Greek hero Alexander the Great.

Bush welcomed progress by Montenegro and Bosnia towards NATO membership. Along with Croatia and Albania, which also received formal invitations from the NATO summit in Bucharest this week, NATO's Balkan enlargement would take the alliance to 31 members.

The president said he hoped that "soon a free and prosperous Serbia will find its rightful place in the family of Europe, and live at peace with its neighbours".

NATO is "open to all countries in the region", he said.

Presidency Urges Macedonia to Stick to NATO, EU Goal

The Slovenian EU presidency has called on Macedonia "not to lose sight of its strategic national goal of joining the Euro-Atlantic integrations" in view of the decision at the NATO summit in Bucharest, which failed to invite the country to join the alliance because of the name issue with Greece.

The goal of joining the EU and NATO "is essential for country's future, as well as of great importance for the entire region," the presidency states in a press release.

The presidency commends the country for its efforts to pursue reforms, to contribute to regional stability and to build a multiethnic society. It regrets that negotiations on the name issue have not yet produced a successful outcome and urges resumption of talks without delay.

It moreover calls on all political leaders in the country to remain united behind the national consensus on joining the EU and NATO, and to "use well the time available before the autumn Progress Report to intensify reforms in order to meet the conditions necessary towards opening of accession negotiations later this year".

EU urges Macedonia to find solution in name dispute

The Slovenian EU presidency urged Macedonia on Saturday to make progress in finding a solution in the dispute over the Balkan country's name. The EU "regretted" that the negotiations over the future name of the EU candidate country had not led to a solution, Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a statement.

The presidency urged the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) not to to lose sight of its strategic goal of joining the EU and NATO, which was "essential for the country's future, as well as of great importance for the entire region."

"Talks should now be resumed without delay, with the aim of being concluded sooner rather than later," Slovenia said.

Greece and Macedonia have been in dispute over the latter's name since 1991, when Macedonia declared independence from Yugoslavia. Greece says that the name implies a territorial claim on its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

Leading politicians from both Macedonia's government and opposition were urged to continue efforts to pursue Euro-Atlantic integration before the upcoming progress report in the autumn, in order for accession negotiations to be opened later this year.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Greek businesses feel the pain

Greek businesses in Macedonia are very worried and confused as to what had occured this week. The change in Macedonians' attitude was easily noticed since Thursday.

Disappointed with their southern neighbor over the NATO veto, Macedonians have already started canceling their vacations to Greece, opting to Turkey instead.

"I can't say I haven't had cancellations when I have. The interest of Macedonians' to go on vacation in Greece has been drastically lowered." says a worker in Savana, a Tourist Agency.

However, Greek businesses may suffer the most in the Banking sector. Stopanska Banka, which is owned by the Greek National Bank has seen people close their portfolios and transfer to local banks.

The Greek chain Vero still has Macedonians shopping there, but not for Greek products. "To be honest with you, for the first time I looked at the label to see where it is produced. If in Greece, I put it back on the shelf." says Vero shopper.

In Gevgelija a Greek business owner who has invested 1 million Euros in retail stores was baffled by the Greek Government. He spoke to us shortly, on condition of anonymity: "I don't know what to say, I am confused and worried for my investments. I never thought Greece would put a veto, I honestly thought the veto talk was to scare Macedonia."

The 2006 figures put Greek investments in Macedonia at 320 million euros.

List of Countries using Republic of Macedonia

List of countries/entities using "Republic of Macedonia" in bilateral diplomatic relations
As of September 2007, 118 countries recognise the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name.

Four of the five permanent UN Security Council members:

United States of America (NATO and G8 member): The federal government uses "Republic of Macedonia", while the US Congress uses the mixed designation "Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)".
United Kingdom : The UK uses the name "Republic of Macedonia" for bilateral relations, and "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" for international relations.
People's Republic of China

List of countries/entities using "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" for all official purposes
Czech Republic
South Africa
The Holy See

George W. Bush Passes Macedonian Geography Quiz

Abstract: In 2004, the United States changed its policy toward Macedonia by dropping the awkward “FYROM” name. President George W. Bush’s administration promoted the name change as a reward for Macedonia’s democratic reforms. Despite Greek criticism, the decision has already paid dividends in bringing peace and stability to the Balkan country.

America’s Policy Change Toward Macedonia

United States President George W. Bush would never be mistaken for being a geography expert or someone with a photographic memory for country titles and locations. He has called Africa a nation, Europe a key ally, and the Kingdom of Jordan a Gulf Coast Country. In a reporter’s pop quiz during the 2000 election campaign, he only correctly identified one of four country leaders. Yet Bush has changed America’s policy on Macedonia’s name, ending more than a decade of identifying the Balkan nation by a clumsy name and helping bring peace and freedom to a country struggling with foreign recognition of its identity.

While most Americans’ attention was riveted upon the 2004 election and its aftermath, including a focus on the close vote in the state of Ohio, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed an agreement of cooperation which would refer to Macedonia by that name. Before that, the United States was one of many countries and international organizations that referred to the Balkan country by the name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” a title quite unpopular with Macedonians.

The Greek-Macedonian Name Conflict

The Greek foreign minister slammed the Bush decision as unilateral and claimed it would have many “negative effects” upon the region. But this reaction was predictable. When Macedonia won its freedom peacefully from the old Yugoslav Federation in 1991, Greece slapped an economic embargo on its neighbor to the north. This embargo, which helped halve the average Macedonian per capita income at a time of economic transition from Communism, was supplemented with a Greek veto of European Union (EU) aid and lack of support for Macedonian membership in organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Greek critics of the Macedonian title also expressed their desire to have FYROM residents renamed Slavs. Greece also claimed the name was part of Greek heritage and would lead to irredentist designs upon their Thracian territory and surrounding lands, despite the fact that much of Macedonia’s military hardware was turned over to Serbia as the price for peaceful independence. Some Greeks tried to have others simply refer to FYROM by the capital “Skopje”

Greece was challenged by the European Union in the European Court in Luxembourg for its actions towards the Macedonian economy. And President Bill Clinton pressured the Greek President to seek a compromise with then-Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov.

American policymakers at the time were more interested in preventing a row between the two countries. Despite the urging of President Bill Clinton’s East European envoy Richard Holbrooke (who later became US Ambassador to the United Nations), who wished for Greece to accept the country name Macedonia and the peoples as Macedonians, the United States used the name FYROM. The United Nations sanctioned the title FYROM as well.

The Name Change Policy Boosts Democracy and Peace

While laboring under the FYROM title, Macedonia showed itself to be a good participant in the international community. It agreed to participate in the sanctions on the Yugoslav Federation at the time when its own economic situation was precarious (thanks to the Greek embargo). It housed hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Kosovo conflict, despite the fact that it taxed the resources of the small Balkan nation. When an Albanian insurgency broke out, Macedonia relied upon terms dictated by the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). These included some tough concessions to ethnic Albanians and Albanian insurgents of the National Liberation Army (NLA) spelled out in the Ohrid Peace Agreement.

According to a report by the AFP, the United States made its decision not to offend the Greeks, but to “reward Macedonia for its commitment to democracy.” This is hardly just rhetoric. Evidence of Macedonia’s democratic credentials is found in key democratic datasets such as Freedom House, Polity and Vanhanen’s Polyarchy Dataset.

Rather than have negative effects, as predicted by the Greek Minister, the Bush Administration’s decision to rename FYROM as Macedonia seems to have had a positive impact upon peace in that Balkan country. Before the American decision, Macedonians opposed to the Ohrid Peace Agreement rallied against parliamentary legislation designed to redraw municipal boundaries, which would give ethnic Albanians more autonomy. But after the U.S. decision to boost Macedonia’s international standing, controversy over the redrawn boundaries died down. A referendum designed to overturn the legislation failed due to low turnout. Local elections were held a few months later without serious incident.

Regardless of his fuzzy memory for country titles and locations, President George W. Bush understands the role names can play in bringing about peace and stability in a war-torn region. After all, he told the Economist on June 12, 1999 “Keep good relations with the Grecians.”

Saturday, April 05, 2008

New era for cooperation

Greece’s veto at the NATO summit is not aimed at FYROM, but against the intransigence and political shortsightedness of the country’s political leadership, which inflates their countrymen’s nationalist illusions, ignoring any willingness for cooperation.

The freeze over Skopje, when its NATO entry was put off indefinitely, revealed how much faith the people had in the USA’s self-seeking encouragement, as well as their leaders’ immaturity. They believed that America’s Balkan policy, based on causing divisions and promoting autonomy, could quell every resistance, every other voice. But Washington cannot impose what it wills where it wills; its stature has been undermined by the course of events in Iraq and its own ongoing financial crisis.

The symbolic defeat in Bucharest may mark the end of illusions and the beginning of maturity for the neighboring country. It may come to see that Greece is not an enemy, quite the contrary; it simply wants to see an accurate geographical name. A joint effort at a solution will not just lead to a mutually acceptable name, but will also forge new paths of cooperation and development, and strengthen the already existing ones.

This should be Greece’s next step, after a solution is found: an assault of friendship and cooperation. Skopje needs Athens and Athens needs Skopje. The two peoples have lived together for centuries, united by more than that which divides them. Peaceful and creative coexistence is the only viable path. Super-nationalist mice that like to roar, secessionist tendencies and the creation of protectorates, Great Ideas and criminality in the dead zones are being encouraged and sparked by elements outside the Balkans.

The Bucharest summit must and can herald in a new period of rapprochement, with honesty and realism, free of arbitrators and malevolent intervention.

Gül regrets Macedonia not invited to join NATO

President Abdullah Gül has said that he regrets NATO's failure to invite Macedonia to join the alliance because of objections from Greece due to a name dispute with the Balkan country.

"NATO's expansion has always been based on the principle of performance. I am disappointed that this principle has been ignored this time and that a bilateral dispute has blocked the membership of a country," Gül told reporters upon his return from a NATO summit in Bucharest.

The Balkan nations of Albania and Croatia were invited to join the alliance during NATO's Bucharest summit, which ended yesterday. Macedonia, however, was rejected at the insistence of Greece, which says the country's name implies a territorial claim to a northern region of Greece, also called Macedonia. Gül said Turkey backed NATO's "open door" policy concerning expansion of the alliance and added that integration of Balkan countries would help stability and security in the region.

While in Bucharest, Gül met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the first meeting between the two leaders, and briefly discussed Turkey's bid to join the European Union with the French leader, a firm opponent of Turkey's membership. "I am happy that we shared our ideas with Sarkozy frankly and sincerely," he said of the meeting. Sarkozy told Gül in their half-hour meeting on Thursday that his country would not block accession talks between the European Union and Turkey during France's six-month term as EU president in the second half of this year.

The process of accession negotiations with Turkey will continue, Sarkozy told Gül on the sidelines of the NATO summit, the Anatolia news agency reported. France, he said, does not oppose the opening of talks on negotiation chapters.

Sarkozy is firmly opposed to Turkey's membership in the EU, saying Turkey does not belong in Europe. France also opposes the opening of accession talks on five chapters that it says are directly related to accession but says talks on other chapters can go ahead. France is taking over the EU's presidency in June from Slovenia, the current holder.

Sarkozy told Gül that some of the chapters could be opened during the French presidency. Gül, for his part, emphasized that Turkey wants full membership in the EU and rejects other alternatives, such as a privileged partnership proposed by German and French politicians.

France is planning a return to NATO's military command, which it quit in 1966. Addressing the NATO summit, Sarkozy said he expected to take a decision on rejoining the integrated military structure after using France's six-month presidency of the EU to build closer European defense integration. Turkey, a NATO member, has raised no immediate objection to French return to NATO's military command. Turkish officials said France's NATO ambition and Paris' objections to Turkey's EU membership are two issues that are considered separately. French plans to return to NATO's military command have led to speculation in Turkey that Ankara might pressure France to drop its objections to Turkish membership in order to help its bid.

While in Bucharest, Gül also met briefly with US President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Presidency urges Macedonia to stay EU accession course

The European Union presidency urged Macedonia Friday not to give up on EU accession, after the former Yugoslav republic was denied entry into NATO.

"The decision at (the) Bucharest NATO summit should not put that future under question," the EU's Slovenian presidency said in a statement.

It called on Macedonia to "intensify reforms in order to meet the conditions necessary towards opening of (EU) accession negotiations later this year."

Macedonia wants to join both the EU and NATO, however its bid to join the 26-member North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance was blocked by EU member Greece in a long-running row over the right to the name Macedonia, which is shared by a northern Greek province.

Macedonia stormed out of Bucharest on Thursday in protest after Greece used its veto.

The EU presidency, which Slovenia holds until handing over to France for the second half of this year, called on the former Yugoslav republic "not to lose sight of its strategic national goal of joining the Euro-Atlantic integrations".

It said these were "essential for the country's future, as well as of great importance for the entire region".

Regretting the name row, the statement said talks should be resumed "without delay," amd commended Macedonia for its efforts to "pursue reforms, to contribute to regional stability and to build a multi-ethnic society".

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis invited Macedonia to fresh talks over its name hours after Greece used its NATO veto.

"Greece's goal is not to humiliate (Macedonia), but to bolster it as a country that is trying to stand on its feet," he said in a speech at the Greek embassy in the Romanian capital.

Macedonia's constitutional name is the Republic of Macedonia. Skopje wants this used in international relations, except with Athens, where a name acceptable to both parties would be found.

Bush reels from NATO setbacks

GEORGE W. Bush was reeling from a summit of setbacks yesterday as his carefully laid plans to invite Ukraine and Georgia into the bosom of the NATO alliance were scuppered by a Russian diplomatic coup.

The expected entry into NATO of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom) was also blocked by a row over its name.

The twin disasters were not helped when the offers of more NATO troops for the mission in Afghanistan turned out to be more of a trickle than a flow of combat soldiers to take on the Taliban, although Gordon Brown said that there had been encouraging evidence of greater burden-sharing, particularly on civilian projects.

One positive development for Mr Bush was that the Czech Government finally agreed to house a radar system on its soil for the US’s missile defence system, and NATO expressed a desire to bring the whole of Europe under the umbrella of the network.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the head of the NATO alliance, insisted that the summit in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, had been a triumph of decision-making, and declared that even though Ukraine and Georgia were not going to be welcomed yet into the so-called membership action plan — the crucial step to joining the 26-strong organisation — they had been reassured that they would be members one day.

Mr Bush had demanded that Ukraine and Georgia should be offered the membership action plan immediately, but after warnings from President Putin that this would be dangerous for the security of Europe, Germany and France voted to oppose the idea, although they signed up to a compromise offer of eventual membership.

No one was prepared to guess when that may happen. NATO foreign ministers will discuss a possible starting date for the membership plan for the two countries at a meeting in December.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who dined with NATO leaders last night in Bucharest and is due to hold talks with Mr Bush at the Black Sea port of Sochi tomorrow, was being hailed in Moscow as a diplomatic mastermind for dashing Washington’s dream for Ukraine and Georgia.

Germany and France voiced concerns about opening NATO's doors to them partly because of Europe’s growing dependence on Russian energy supplies. Even Mr Brown failed to support the US plan.

President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine tried to hide his disappointment yesterday by saying: “I’m convinced that Ukraine will be in NATO.”

President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia gave warning that snubbing his nation would be a “bad sign” and would undermine his country’s reform process.

Experts in Moscow said the setback for Mr Bush on his last NATO summit was a clear victory for Mr Putin. “Putin has changed the tone of relations between Russia and the West,” Sergei Karaganov, a Russian political analyst with close ties to the Kremlin, said.

Mr Brown’s aides tried to play down the impact of the decision on Ukraine and Georgia, saying that they were content with the compromise. They said that in refusing to stand with Mr Bush over the issue Britain had denied Russia the opportunity to exploit a damaging split within the alliance. They also said that Germany had been forced to accept in principle Nato’s eastward expansion.

The hitch over Fyrom also spoilt what was supposed to be a celebration of three new Balkan countries joining the alliance — Albania, Croatia and Fyrom itself. All three had passed the tests for membership, but Greece vetoed Macedonia on the ground that it had the same name as its northern province.

After failing to reach a compromise, NATO leaders were forced to put the invitation to Fyrom on hold until the clashing names could be resolved. The Macedonian delegation walked out of the summit in protest.

On Afghanistan, Mr Brown’s and Kevin Rudd's call for countries to contribute more troops fell on mostly deaf ears. NATO officials admitted that despite the offer from President Nicolas Sarkozy of France of about 700 extra troops, the mission in Afghanistan would still be two battle groups short of what was needed.

Only a handful of nations pledged extra soldiers. New Zealand promised an extra 18. Portugal, Poland, Romania and Croatia have all signalled extra troops but only Georgia, which has said it might send up to 500, rivalled the French commitment.

In Bucharest a Greek-Macedonian dispute over stability

One of the most important post-Cold War NATO summits is over. The results should be scrutinized by President Bush and his advisors. Actually is was them who sup-ported a specific single-dimensional policy in a number of issues that drove American diplomacy to isolation and brought to the surface, once again, the division within the Atlantic Alliance.

One of these stemmed from the divergent views between Greece and the US over the "Macedonian" issue created by Yugoslav leader in 1945 with the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, today Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The issue has been a dormant volcano for decades since Greeks worries about the overt and covert expressions of irredentist claims against its northernmost province Macedonia because of NATO´s policy. NATO supported Tito in its effort to emanci-pate from the Soviet Union and after this became a political reality overlaid Greek worries for 45 years. The need to support the enemy of our enemy prevailed over the legitimate concern of an ally who eventually was used to support the geopolitics of the West.

The "Macedonian Issue", a time-proof dispute in the Balkans, first emerged as a side-effect of the evolution of the "Eastern Question" and the liberation of the Ottoman conquests, namely the Balkan peoples, who gradually rose against the conqueror and attempted to set up their territorial bases with a view to forming nation-states. In a sense it emerged as the result of antagonism among Balkan nation-states that wished to get the lion´s share from the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Yet, the course to liberation had hardly finished when Balkan peoples turned against each other, in order to secure a greater territorial chunk out of the Balkan peninsula, a policy that led contending Balkan nationalisms to clash. In the inter-war and post second World War era, the dispute was rooted in the rivalry over control of geographical Macedonia.

In the post-Cold War era the re-emergence of the issue triggered heated arguments as to how legitimate Balkan nationalisms were and how they should be treated. The pro-tection of human rights seemed to have clashed with the axiom of respect for the terri-torial status, a trend that established a new "paradigm" in the international political arena. The difficulty in adopting a balanced policy in the post-Cold War Balkans lied in drawing a line between post-communist nationalism and its legitimate aim in estab-lishing or strengthening national identities as a part of the de-communisation process and overt of covert irredentism that threatened the fragile territorial status in the Bal-kans. As a matter of ideology the West acknowledged, to a certain degree, emerging nationalistic trends in the Balkans as an expression of long-suppressed freedom of ex-pression, individual or ethnic, as well as cultural diversification that have been mar-ginalised dramatically under the homogenising cloak of the communist ideology.

The Greek-FYROM conflict over the latter´s constitutional name has two main as-pects. One is political and related to regional security and border stability. The second is historical. This aspect appears to have dominated the approaches of outsiders who have not studied the politics and ethnological features and perplexity of the region. Post-Cold War Balkan nationalism were evaluated as "new and legitimate", yet this evalua-tion did not provide a "ceiling" of legitimacy that would allow analysts to draw a line be-tween "legitimate" and "non-legitimate" nationalism.

Under this spectrum history became the weapon in the hands of nationalists trying to legiti-mize irredentist claims. This to remind everyone that the issue is not primarily or exclusively an issue over historical accuracy and continuity. Originally both sides turned the dis-pute into a fudge over history, while the conflict bears significance in the security level and ought to be seen through the degree of legitimacy of the need of Balkan peoples, living under oppressing communist regimes, to express their cultural identity.

To outsiders it has always been an expression of Balkan irrationality in a region lack-ing natural resources and an advanced political culture. This was rather evident even today in the caricature of the Greek Prime Minister, K. Karamanlis wearing a Nazi outfit published in Skopje or the Greek flag with the Nazi symbols. To the Greek peo-ple it was an act of insult to a nation that has offered so much in the war against Na-zism.

The quest for "historical accuracy" became the sole means of establishing an ethnic identity and a powerful ideological weapon in the hands of nationalists. As pointed out, "at times…modern nationalists propagate by rewriting history and backdating their own modern concepts on to history…In the modern world, nations can in certain circumstances and under certain conditions be seen to be created…a process of eth-nogenesis" (Hugh Poulton, Who are the Macedonians, Hurst & Company, (London, 1995), p.3). However, the suggested ethnogenesis or ethnic emancipation process should not be done at the expense of another national identity, as the "birth" of an ethnic identity may be a threat to another nation. The creation or emancipation of an ethnic group may also take place at the cost of eliminating historical facts, which become the target of nationalism. Here "nationalism" is defined as "an activist ideological movement which aims to unite all members of a given people on the basis of a putative shared culture".

The question that needs to be answered is whether nationalism was behind Slav Ma-cedonian claims over Greek history, and the implied association of Slav Macedonians with Greek Macedonia. It may be so, since "history often assumes enormous signifi-cance for nationalists", who use it "to show the past control of a territory by a state to which the modern nation can claim affinity" (Hugh Poulton ). This may provide expla-nation as to why Slav Macedonian nationalists engaged themselves in a process of rebuilding history, in their own image to fit their political aims. I have been a witness of the insane logic of "liberating" Greek Macedonia as a young student in Toronto Canada (1981) when a man of age told me in perfect Greek that it was "his duty to liberate Greek Macedonia from Greece". It was the first time I had ever heard of the issue and this illustrates that NATO policy to support Tito during the Cold War has been successful. Even Greeks ignored the issue since the Greek governments followed NATO´s dictates and managed to hide an issue that today constitutes the kernel of the Greek-FYROM dispute.

A solution is so much needed and this is to everyone´s interest. However, national identities, whether they are true or constructed, they cannot change overnight even after a political decision. Diasporas operate on a psychological framework that estab-lishes powerful links with the past. Actually this may explain why Slav Macedonians aim at uniting parts of geographical Macedonia and blatantly ignore the fact that the Macedonian ethnicity was established with a Cominform decision and that it was a mater of ideology. Article 2 of the stature of the establishment (April 1926) of the "United I.M.R.O" set the ideological, political and intellectual framework for the creation of a "united and independent Macedonia", which was to become the "Swit-zerland of the Balkans". It propagated that a "the free and independent Macedonian state will be established on the basis of the entire equality of national, political, civil, and cultural rights for all the nationalities which inhabit it".

Comintern attempted to enhance relations among Balkan peoples, in order to boost the so desired "ideological homogeneity" of the Balkans. From the catalytic 1934 Comintern thinking, concerning the "Macedonian Question", that dominated the agenda of the communist gathering, D. Vlahov, leader of VMRO in Bulgaria recalls: "I mentioned earlier that the Comintern itself wanted the Macedonian question con-sidered at one of the consultations of its executive committee. One day I was in-formed that the consultation would be held. And so it was. Before it convened, the inner leadership of the committee had already reached its stand, including the ques-tion of the Macedonian nation,…It was concluded that the Macedonian nation exists" (Dimitar Vlahov, Memoari, Skopjie, 1970), p. 357). It seems that the existence or not of a single "Macedonian nation" became the central issue of a rather philosophical, an-thropological debate, that could not establish its existence through tangible, epistemo-logical criteria, a fact that dictated the recognition of a "Macedonian Nation" through an ideological formulae.

In the process the American administrations expressed their concern over irredentism against Greek Macedonia. This revisionist policy caused immediate American re-sponse to the issue, expressed by Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, who categori-cally denied the existence of a "Macedonian nation", stating: "The Department has noted with considerable apprehension increasing propaganda rumours and semi-official statements in favour of an autonomous Macedonia, emanating principally from Bulgaria, but also from Yugoslav Partisan and other sources, with the implica-tion that Greek territory would be included in the projected state. This Government considers talk of Macedonian "nation", Macedonian "Fatherland", or Macedonian "national consciousness" to be unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive inten-tions against Greece" (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1945, vol. VIII, The Near East and Africa, (Washington, 1969), pp. 302-303).

Again, T. Niles, American ambassador to Athens, made the following statement in 2361992: "the Communist regime of Tito had created the Republic of Macedonia with a view to annexing northern Greece"; (Hearing before the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, June 23, 1992, Washington: US Government Printing Office, p. 14).

All the above would not matter today if history die not operate as the basis of modern irredentism. Greece and FYROM can and should be parts of the same alliance that has offered so much in European security after the Second World War. Yet, this should be done in a way that does not leave space for future misunderstandings.

The ontological and critical question that rises then is why should Greece deny its neighbours their right to identify themselves as they wish. After all this appears to be linked with the right of a small nation to survive a hostile environment under an im-minent Albanian threat. Greece does nor certainly constitute an actual threat to the country´s survival. It has made substantial compromises although personally I think that name issue is not the most important. What is important is to look ahead into the future and construct it with new material not the leftovers of the communist era. Greece supports the FYROM´s bid for NATO and EU accession not because it is an altruistic state but simply because it serves stability and development in the region. The rules for such a strategic engagement are now clear to everyone, including the US.

Unbefitting Behavior

f NATO cannot pressure Greece to lift its childish blockade of Macedonia’s membership bid, the EU should.

Amid the fanfare of an agreement over US missile defense plans and the rejected membership aspirations of Georgia and Ukraine, news on NATO’s Bucharest summit largely overlooked the fate of Macedonia – or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), as the country has been ingloriously called since it joined the United Nations in 1993.

While Albania and Croatia both received invitations to join the alliance, Macedonia was left waiting outside after Greece, to the chagrin of NATO’s leadership, blocked Skopje’s bid. There were no claims from Athens of a lack of military readiness on the part of the Macedonians, only a refusal to budge in the long-running debate with the country over its constitutional name. Since 1991, after Macedonia gained independence from the former Yugoslavia, Greece has protested again the use of “Macedonia” and “Republic of Macedonia” because it sees the name as implying a territorial claim on Greece’s northern Macedonia province.


The claim that Macedonia has designs on northern Greece appears patently absurd. Even the most fervent nationalist would be hard-pressed to explain how a poor country of 2 million could ever possibly hope to conquer a neighbor so much larger, richer, and more powerful. And precisely NATO membership serves to contain territorial ambitions and historic animosities.

The Greeks don’t need to look far for an example: NATO’s wise decision of 1952 to accept both Turkey and Greece has surely been a key factor in preventing disputes over Cyprus, as well as Aegean airspace and sovereignty, from escalating into war. More recently, the entry of Hungary, along with the other Central European states, helped assuage regional fears over Hungarian irredentism. If anything, Greeks would have less to fear if Macedonia joined the alliance.

Clearly, there is more at stake here, and it would be difficult not to assume that the wildly unpopular government of Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis has continued to use the name dispute to fuel its own flagging support and preserve its narrow parliamentary majority. A recent poll showed that 84 percent of Greeks approved of Greece vetoing Macedonia’s NATO bid if no compromise could be reached in time. The opposition, seeing the opinion polls, has also shamelessly sided with the government.

Yet, as TOL has reported, Greeks and Macedonians that deal with each other on a daily basis have no such problems getting along and hardly care about the name issue. They just want to get on with business.

The Macedonians haven’t really helped matters either. The decision in December 2006 to rename the airport in Skopje after Alexander the Great, whom the Greeks consider a central part of their heritage, was predictably viewed as a provocation. Was it really that difficult to pick another name, especially when the Greeks already have Megas Alexandros International Airport at Kavala in the neighboring Greek region of Macedonia? And this past week, in a case of extremely poor timing, billboards appeared around Skopje showing the Greek, blue-and-white-striped flag with a swastika instead of the classic cross. While the authorities were not responsible – the posters advertised a private art show – their reaction was slow, and only in response to an official diplomatic complaint.


The repercussions of a delayed NATO bid are very real. For many in Macedonia, the name issue festers, heightening their feelings of insecurity and defensiveness and feeding their nationalistic inclinations. Before the Bucharest summit, approximately 90 percent of the population supported membership. The decision to send soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan was largely supported as a fair price to pay for possible acceptance into the alliance. And, importantly, the common goal of membership served to unite the country’s two main ethnic groups, the Slavic Macedonians and Albanians, whose skirmishes in 2001 nearly erupted into a fully-fledged war.

Now all bets are off and the future unclear. The disappointment in Skopje gave rise to countless interpretations over what had transpired in Bucharest and what should be done. Some ethnic Macedonians – already much more inclined than Albanians to say the name issue is more crucial than NATO membership – have called for an end to any negotiations over the name and even suspending the agreement that allowed the country to enter the United Nations under the FYROM designation.

Others have talked of bringing the soldiers back, cutting off all ties with Greece, and forgetting altogether about membership in the EU and NATO. They see Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and subsequent recognition by much of the international community and wonder why they shouldn’t try to gain recognition of the country by its constitutional name. Not surprisingly, support for NATO has sharply fallen.

Hopefully (and probably), cooler heads will prevail and the sting of rejection will wear off in a matter of weeks, if not days. NATO membership should remain front and center in Macedonia’s ambitions – even if it won’t obviously be a quick fix for all of the country’s ills, especially its 35 percent unemployment rate. But, as proponents of enlargement tirelessly argued before several Central European states were accepted in 1999, membership does convey a very real sense of reliability to the outside world, including potential investors. It is also, at least psychologically, a big stepping stone on the way to membership in the EU, both for the country itself (progress does have its rewards) and EU member states (if they joined one elite club, they might be ready soon for ours).


At every other instance of nationalism in the Balkans, in Central Europe, and elsewhere, there is incessant hand-wringing in Brussels, followed by a flurry of communiqués condemning the alleged perpetrators, calling for calm, and threatening this or that state that its actions could impede possible membership. Greece, on the other hand, has gotten away with blocking a country’s movement toward stability and prosperity over nothing more than a name that harms its pride over its glorious history and supposedly suggests territorial ambitions.

Are there really no buttons to push to force the Greeks to concede? While one may not agree with the view of some NATO states to postpone membership for Georgia and Ukraine so as not to antagonize Russia, it is surely an opinion to be taken seriously. But Greece? We are hardly talking here about a European powerhouse that drives the continent, politically or economically – a country to fear one way or another.

We have now reached a point where the EU, supposedly all about quenching such disputes on its territory, should consider isolating Greece. Only eight years ago, after Jörg Haider’s far-right Freedom Party joined a coalition government in Austria, EU member states stopped cooperating with Vienna. While the effectiveness of those “political sanctions” has been debated, something of the sort should at least be considered for an EU member state clearly engaging in a nationalistic, populist game with public opinion – a member state twice condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for its attempts to ban an association and a political party representing the Macedonian minority.

A precedent for a hard-line stance with Greece does exist. Back in 1994, Greece imposed a trade embargo on Macedonia over the name issue, cutting off the country from the port of Thessaloniki. Angered about the impact on Macedonia, already suffering because of an existing UN embargo on Yugoslavia to the north, the European Commission took Greece to the EU’s European Court of Justice, doubly embarrassing because Greece headed the EU presidency at the time.

Similar pressure today could, in the end, also serve as a face-saving measure for the Greek government. To be fair to today’s politicians, their intransigence is a product of the poor diplomacy of their predecessors and their tendency to play the nationalist card. Pushed into a corner over the name issue – where compromise would be viewed as failure – Karamanlis could instead blame the EU. He could say he had no other choice but to compromise, or face isolation. After 17 years, it’s time for a change in tactics.

Friday, April 04, 2008

No. That’s Not Your Name!

As someone whose research and teaching center on modern Eastern Europe, the most recent news from across the Atlantic is just more fodder for a great lecture. For the umpteenth time, the Greek government has vetoed Macedonia’s entry into a European structure–in this case NATO–because those pesky Macedonians persist in calling their country Macedonia. Can you believe the nerve of those guys?

If you have followed events in the Balkans since 1989 at all, you know that this particular comic opera is one of the few comedic moments since the wars in the former Yugoslavia began. If you haven’t been following Balkan events, read on to find out why the Macedonian ambassador to the United Nations has to site behind a nameplate that reads FYROM rather than Macedonia. That’s Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for those not up on the abbreviations.

The root of the problem is a dispute about history, which is why this story makes a good lecture topic. Any Greek nationalist worth his or her stripes will tell you that the ancient kingdom of Macedon was a Greek state. And any Macedonian nationalist worth his or her stripes would shake his or her head and with great weariness remind you that, no, Macedon was a Macedonian kingdom and so when Alexander the Great conquered the rest of the Greek states, Greece became Macedonian, not the other way around.

For something like 2,000 years no one thought to argue about whether that territory north of what is now the Greek state was or wasn’t Macedonia. But in the late 19th century the new Balkan kingdoms of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece all cast their covetous eyes on the place. During the Balkan Wars that preceded World War I, some of the worst fighting was in and over Macedonia.

After World War II, though, the real trouble started, because Greek communist fighters operating out of Yugoslavia tried to topple the Greek government and many Greeks came to believe that Tito had named his country’s southernmost province Macedonia as a way of claiming sovereignty over northern Greece.

But so what? The communist insurgency failed and Yugoslavia behaved. The name of that southern Yugoslav province still rankled plenty of people in Greece, but in the end, what was there to do? I suppose there are people in Mexico who don’t like the fact that the United States has a state called New Mexico either.

The real trouble started after the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991. Can you believe it? The people who call themselves “Macedonians” and who speak a language called “Macedonian” decided to call their new country “Macedonia.”

No! No! No! The Greeks shouted. Posters, buttons, bumper stickers, even patriotic songs (in Greek) trumpeted the slogan “Macedonia is Greek!” And the Greek government used its leverage as a NATO, EC (later EU) and UN member to prevent the newly independent Macedonian state from calling itself Macedonia, hence the FYROM compromise.

When I was living in Slovakia in the mid-1990s I met a American human rights lawyer who was working in Macedonia. He had recently traveled to Greece for a conference and when he crossed the border into northern Greece, the border guards stamped “Invalidated” (in Greek) on his Macedonian visa and work permit. Not surprisingly, when he returned to Macedonia, the Macedonian border guards just shrugged and snickered at those silly Greek border guards.

As recently as this past February, the U.S. State Department proposed what we might call the “New Mexico” solution, trying to convince the Macedonians to call their state “New Macedonia” in their membership in various multilateral organizations like NATO and the UN. Wisely, the Macedonians declined.

During the height of the first phase of this controversy in the 1990s, a Bulgarian friend told me that Bulgaria’s foreign minister had proposed that the Macedonians try something similar. His suggestion was that they call their country “Not Macedonia”. That way, whenever the Greeks complained, they could say, “But it’s Not Macedonia.” I have no idea if this story is true or not, but if it is, I think it’s the best solution anyone has come up with.

I’ll conclude by pointing out that the Macedonians are definitely winning the naming dispute, all aggravations about NATO membership to the contrary. The Wikipedia entry for Macedonia calls the country the Republic of Macedonia or just Macedonia. And if Wikipedia says that’s your name, well, that’s your name…isn’t it?