C.P. Cavafy wrote of the “great relief” of an open window in his poem “The Windows” – that is before slipping back into his familiar guarded melancholy and the fear of the “new things” the window may expose.
Today, international political circumstances are being hailed by the government and a part of the opposition as a “window of opportunity” for resolving the decades-old dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regarding its name: Washington appears eager for a solution, for its own usual reasons, and the new government in Skopje appears to reject the irredentist policy of its nationalist predecessors – irredentism that was also expressed via the antiquity-inspired kitsch monuments imposed on FYROM’s capital by the former prime minister, Nikola Gruevski. Nevertheless, caution is still necessary. It is mandated not just by the “new things” that may be revealed when the “window of opportunity” is opened, but also by the old and familiar things that already stand in the way of a solution.
There is nothing older than opportunism presenting itself in the guise of nationalist sentiment. The self-proclaimed protectors of the nation – who have a knack for rooting out betrayals and anti-Greek conspiracies – have again employed a scale of patriotism of their own invention to separate those who are truly Greek at heart (and accept their historically inaccurate dogma) from the naysayers (those who disagree with them by reminding, for example, that while 51 percent of the region of ancient Macedonia lies in modern Greece, 39 percent is in FYROM and 10 percent in Bulgaria).
The self-proclaimed opponents of populism use Twitter to launch their chauvinist propaganda. Political parties, always claim to be speaking in the name of the national interest – despite the cost to their own interests – but are actually buying time by not actually openly announcing what their exact position is. They also claim to be guided in their so-called position by the decisions – albeit incongruous – of two former politicians: Constantine Karamanlis, who in 1992 agreed with other political leaders that Greece would not accept any solution that contained the word “Macedonia” or any of its derivatives, and Costas Karamanlis, who in 2008 blocked FYROM’s NATO membership talks pending a solution but accepted the possibility of a composite name that contained the word “Macedonia” and had a geographical qualifier.
There is also little older than ulterior motives shielded behind petty political interests that are presented to appear as benevolence for the good of the nation. And it is this factor that will ultimately keep the window closed.