Diplomatic encirclement

After a long period of inertia, interspersed with knee-jerk reactions on the name dispute, Greece finally seems to be tightening its diplomatic encirclement of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The recent, near-identical statements made by Tirana, Pristina and Belgrade on the need to reach a commonly agreed solution to the name issue were not a matter of coincidence. For all three sides are also aware that Greece will have a say in shaping Kosovo’s final status – not just because of its current (non-permanent) seat on the UN Security Council, but also because of its close cooperation with the US in the Balkans. If past is prologue, FYROM officials will negotiate a composite name only if they have to. Greece has a unique opportunity to break Slav-Macedonian intransigence, first because of external circumstances and, second, because it has agreed to a composite name. But it must play its hand smartly and ensure the composite name is acceptable. According to sources, the two most likely options are «New Macedonia» or «Democracy of Macedonia-Skopje» or a combination. Both are favored because they have been proposed in the past. However, the best criterion is geography. «North Macedonia» could be a solution but is reminiscent of dismembered states like Korea and Vietnam. «Gorna [Upper] Macedonia,» on the other hand, discharges state ideology about a «divided Macedonian nation» along with any expansionist claims. Also, it does not offend Slav-Macedonians’ ethnic or aesthetic sensitivities like the ill-sounding «(New) Democracy of Macedonia-Skopje» does. Still, the longer the name the more likely it will be replaced by simply «Macedonia.» Any composite name must be short and one that resists undesirable abbreviation. That especially applies to the problematic «New Macedonia» which is still preferable to all other alternatives on the cards right now.

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