For a demonstration to have the right impact it needs to be held at the right time and to be, directly or indirectly, part of a comprehensive national strategy. In the case of the rally organized on Sunday in Thessaloniki over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, neither of the above applies. Seen from this point of view, it will not be beneficial for Greece.
It will rally certain political and social forces, it will divide others, but it will not help Greece as a whole. Unfortunately, the current situation is completely different to what it was 25 years ago and, as a result, such a demonstration cannot serve the purposes that its organizers promote, however respectable or historically correct they may be.
The real opportunity was lost 25 years ago. This writer participated in a demonstration in Washington, in front of the White House, in December 1992, and in New York, outside the headquarters of the United Nations, in January 1993.
Back then, there was a point in demonstrating. The neighboring country had not yet been recognized internationally. It was still trying to find its feet. The name issue was still unresolved. Back then, the voice of the Greek people could really make an impact.
If back then, when the situation was potentially more favorable to Greece, the rallies of Thessaloniki, Melbourne, Athens, Washington and New York had been part of a clear national strategy, they could have yielded results. Unfortunately, maximalist stances, internal divisions and ill-considered maneuvers essentially led to defeat.
A quarter of a century later, the whole of humanity, some 140 countries, including the most important and powerful in the world, have recognized the neighboring country as the Republic of Macedonia.
Now a realistic national goal could be the replacement of the plain “Macedonia” with a composite name for all uses. It will not be easy but it can be achieved if everyone – parties, citizens, diaspora – comport themselves in a correct and organized fashion.
With this reasoning, Sunday’s rally should have conveyed a message of decisiveness, of national unity but also of realism. Then it would have boosted the country’s negotiating position and would have increased our chances of securing a better name than the one that applies today.
Unfortunately, that did not happen. All evidence indicates that the rally will have a divisive impact. The demonstrators have basically got it in for the negotiators. Not FYROM’s negotiators, Greece’s.
Unfortunately, we have not learned from the mistakes of the past.