The silence in Athens regarding the dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) might be a blessing in disguise for the Simitis government, but it is by no means certain that it serves our national interests. It appears Greece’s case has been lost in the midst of the Slav-Albanian conflict in FYROM. The review of the Constitution was, from the procedural point of view, an opportunity to deal with the change in name, but Greece’s diplomats made no effort to do so. All along, Foreign Minister George Papandreou has been hearing Western and Balkan officials call Greece’s neighbor Macedonia in his presence without turning a hair. There is no doubt that from the political point of view, the situation is difficult. The West believes the Slav-Macedonians should not be asked to back down on the name issue while being forced to made painful concessions to the ethnic Albanians. Athens has been under pressure not only to avoid raising the issue, but to recognize FYROM by the name Macedonia, in order to strengthen unity within that country and stability in the region. FYROM President Boris Trajkovski has publicly asked the West to recognize his country as Macedonia as a counterweight to the concessions made to the ethnic Albanians. FYROM’s foreign minister has rejected outright any idea of compromising with a composite name. Talks at the UN have in any case been stalled for some time because of this intransigence. FYROM’s name might not be one of Greece’s major national interests, but it is not insignificant. If the Simitis government believes it is, it should say so clearly and assume the responsibility, instead of trying to minimize its importance and claiming that what is important for Greece is to avert the dissolution of FYROM. In reality, no such likelihood seems possible. The establishment of cantons, as a matter of fact, would be contrary to the Slav-Macedonians’ interests but not to the Greeks’. Athens has foolishly put all its eggs in the Slav-Macedonian basket and is now being asked to pay part of the bill. Someone is responsible. Instead of blithely whistling, the foreign minister should explain his policy.

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