The issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (“A country called Macedonia, Metodija A. Koloski and Mark Branov, Nov. 29) is not just a dispute over historical facts or symbols but the conduct of a UN member state, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), in contravention of fundamental principles of international law and order; specifically, respect for good neighbourly relations, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The name issue is thus a problem with regional and international dimensions, consisting in the promotion of irredentist and territorial ambitions by the FYROM, mainly through the counterfeiting of history and usurpation of Greece’s national and historical heritage.
The name issue arose in 1991, when FYROM seceded from Yugoslavia and declared its independence under the name “Republic of Macedonia.” Historically, the term “Macedonia,” a Greek word, refers to the Kingdom and culture of the ancient Macedonians, who belong to the Hellenic Nation and are unquestionably part of Greek historical and cultural heritage. The roots of the name issue go back to the mid1940s, when, in the aftermath of the Second World War, General Tito separated from Serbia the region that had been known until that time as Vardar Banovina (today’s FYROM), giving it the status of a federal unit in Yugoslavia, while cultivating the idea of a separate and discrete “Macedonian nation.”
FYROM declared its independence in 1991, basing its existence as an independent state on the artificial and spurious notion of the “Macedonian nation.” Greece reacted strongly to the theft of its historical and cultural heritage and the treacherous territorial and irredentist intentions of the FYROM, and the issue came before the UN Security Council, which, in two resolutions recommended that a settlement be found quickly, for the sake of peaceful relations and good neighbourliness in the region.
In 1993, following a recommendation from the Security Council, FYROM was accepted, by decision of the General Assembly, into the UN under this provisional name, until such time as an agreed solution is reached. In 1995, Greece and the FYROM concluded an Interim Accord, based on which the two sides began negotiations under the auspices of the UN. These negotiations have continued to this day.
In sharp contrast to Greece’s constructive efforts, FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski persists with irredentist and nationalistic strategy of which the main elements include the continued use of “antiquization” tactics, the usurpation and distortion of history, the erection of grandiose statues, the renaming of airports, prominent landmarks and streets, the issuance of school books and maps depicting a so-called “Greater Macedonia” that includes large portions of northern Greece, to name but a few.
At the Bucharest NATO Summit in April 2008, the members of the Alliance decided in a collective and unanimous decision that an accession invitation will be extended to FYROM only if the name issue has been resolved in a mutually acceptable manner. Similarly, the EU decided at the June 2008 European Council, in a collective and unanimous decision, that the resolution of the name issue in a mutually acceptable manner is a fundamental necessity if further steps are to be taken on the FYROM’s EU accession course.
The basic objective prerequisite for the continuation and completion of the European and Euroatlantic courses of every candidate country is the adoption of and respect, in practice, for the fundamental principles of the organization they want to join, and particularly the principle of good neighbourly relations, which is the basis for a partnership or alliance between states.
- Dimitris Azemopoulos is Consul General of Greece in Toronto.