Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

Ilinden, New or North Macedonia: What the world would use

COMMENT

TAGS: Diplomacy, Politics

I will not focus on the pros and cons of the name “Ilinden Macedonia” that suddenly entered the spotlight as a possible new name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

On the one hand, there was the expectation that the name would be accepted by the nationalist opposition in Skopje – which eventually rejected it – and that it would make it harder to confuse Greece’s northern neighbor with the Macedonia of antiquity.

On the other hand, there is the irredentist dimension that many in Greece attribute to this particular name, as the Ilinden uprisings aimed at uniting the entire region of Macedonia, including parts of Greece, as well as Bulgaria and even Albania.

I will focus on the range of its use, especially by the international community, which is what should be of greatest interest to us. In other words, what foreigners – governments, and citizens of other countries, businesses, international organizations etc – will call the neighboring country, rather than what we Greeks will call it.

We may use terms like Skopjans, Slavo-Macedonians, North Macedonians, New Macedonians. We may also describe them in Slavic, which will make us feel better. However, the essence of the whole issue is what the rest of the world will call them.

If this is the main issue, the so-called compound names that seem more likely to be used internationally are “Northern Macedonia” and “New Macedonia.”

These, as well as all the other names that UN mediator Matthew Nimetz has proposed, have both positive and negative elements, both in terms of symbolism and in terms of the prospects of being accepted by the neighboring country for domestic and international use.

But for practical reasons, “North Macedonia” and “New Macedonia” are the compound names with the biggest chances of replacing internationally the name currently used by almost all countries, which is none other than “Macedonia.”

I don’t know if the foreign ministers of Greece and FYROM, Nikos Kotzias and Nikola Dimitrov, or Nimetz, who will meet in New York at the end of the week, will think of any other names. So far, however, we have in front of us the ones with abovementioned qualifiers.

In this light, and given the pressure of time and the need for an erga omnes use, which requires a revision of FYROM’s Constitution, any intervention by influential actors of the international community should focus on the opposition parties in the neighboring country in order to convince them of the benefits to their country stemming from its immediate entry into NATO, and the start of the process for entering the European Union.

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