Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

‘Traitors,’ ‘patriots’ and the FYROM name row

COMMENT

TAGS: Diplomacy, Protest, Politics

Unfortunately, as was anticipated, the patriotic sirens have already sounded as charges of treachery are being hurled over Greece’s name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

It is sad. The self-styled patriots are undermining the country’s strength. They are causing division (outside national borders as well, because the name issue obviously strikes a chord with diaspora Greeks) at the precise time when Greece desperately needs to show a united front.

Far from aspiring to reinforce Greece and the country’s negotiators in the talks, the planned protest rallies aim to compromise their position, to more or less portray them as “traitors.” Everyone has the right to express their opinion, to put forward their arguments (and sometimes these will be presented in vociferous fashion), but no one can claim exclusive rights to patriotism.

After all, one could argue that the hardline and unbending stance maintained in the past in fact resulted in the Balkan state being recognized as “Macedonia” by the vast majority of countries, including the most powerful. That is without geographical or other qualifications, and without footnotes, but recognized plainly as “Republic of Macedonia.”

Certain people in the early 1990s lacked the strategic foresight and political courage to make the best of the more favorable balance of power at the time. Were they traitors? No, they were not. They were just wrong and they squandered an opportunity. They damaged Greece and the eventual outcome should have compromised them in the eye of any objective observer. But that’s it.

Talks today are focused on replacing a name that is deemed offensive and provocative by Greece with a lesser evil. I will not go as far as to call it a “positive” alternative, but even the most mistrustful observer should acknowledge that for Greece this would indeed be some progress.

It is unacceptable that some people describe as “traitors” those who are trying to reach a mutually accepted compromise on a composite name which will inevitably be better than what is in use today – “Republic of Macedonia” – and which will remain in use until an agreement is reached on a new name.

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