Tactical errors

Greece’s issue with the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a typical case of hapless decisions made by each of the country’s major parties when in power. From the outset, the Mitsotakis government turned a purely political issue into a legal one, as if the Badinter proposals or concerns over the legal succession of the «former Yugoslavia» would provide an answer to the complex aspects of this matter. Just how unfortunate this tactic was became evident very soon, when Skopje went so far as to reject any discussion of the state’s name. Before the stalemate, Andreas Papandreou imposed an embargo, in 1994, and after a judicial effort by the European Commission failed to deal with it as a trade issue, Athens and Skopje reached an interim accord in 1995, agreeing to the temporary name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and to hold talks to resolve the issue. However, although it established some degree of equilibrium, that agreement would only have had significance had it been followed by moves to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, this did not occur, showing that PASOK simply viewed the agreement as a handy alibi. The «Macedonian» issue, being a difficult problem and one that would involve a high political cost, was better filed away, according to shortsighted party logic. In fact, in the nine years since, throughout the long premiership of Costas Simitis, the issue was neglected, with time on Skopje’s side. Considering this background, it is rather presumptuous of PASOK to blame the current government for not preventing the US from recognizing FYROM as the «Republic of Macedonia.» Both major parties – and perhaps the media and all of us – are responsible for the handling of the Macedonian issue, and the Simitis goverment’s responsibility for the issue lasted for so long that they have no place making such accusations. As with all foreign policy issues, the question for Greece is what it can hope to attain now, after this latest move by the US against the UN and the European Union, which cannot be interpreted as anything but a crude attempt to boost the Skopje government in view of Sunday’s referendum on giving rights to the Albanian minority. As difficult as the USA’s move makes things for Greece, we still have the opportunity, in view of Skopje’s desire to join the EU, to play the Europe card and set about making a concerted diplomatic effort to obtain a swift agreement with our neighboring country. If this is delayed any further, the question of the name will be resolved at our expense.