Last chance for FYROM solution

The open wound that is Greece’s issue with the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been festering for 16 years, but it seems there might be just one last chance to resolve it, namely within the context of FYROM’s fervent desire to join NATO at the next summit in 2008. Assuming, of course, that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. As with the Cyprus issue, things have deteriorated since the early days of the problem, but there appears to be some, albeit faint hope for a compromise. Athens has let it be known that it will block FYROM’s accession to NATO unless it receives satisfaction in its dispute centering on the neighboring country’s use of the name «Macedonia,» a name by which the US has officially recognized the Balkan state. However, the Greek-American lobby has persuaded Congress to add mention of the term «FYROM» in the reference to «Macedonia» in legislation on the next enlargement of NATO, signed by President George W. Bush just a few days ago. Skopje strongly protested the move, fearing backpedaling by the US and seeing it as the first step in a move to coerce it over its use of the name. Any solution will be a painful compromise. Those who are hoping for a national triumph will be disappointed. Any such hopes were lost back in 1993 when maximalist claims stirred up patriotic fervor in the form of mass rallies around the world – from Thessaloniki to Washington – which merely resulted in a deadlock. The international community was not convinced, not because of any conspiracy against Hellenism, but because Greece’s objection to the use of the name «Macedonia» was seen as irrational. In 1993, moderate voices in favor of a combined name such as «Nova Makedonia,» as a more feasible and realistic compromise, simply fell on deaf ears. Back then, members of the New Democracy government, as well as PASOK leader Andreas Papandreou, left Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis no scope for negotiation. Even the latter’s suggestion of «Slavomacedonia» raised cries of «treason,» an insulting accusation that is all too easily bandied about in Greece. Yet it was those maximalist patriotic slogans that led to the «Republic of Macedonia.» If we are presented with one more opportunity to resolve the FYROM issue, it would be wise this time to avoid divisive excesses. For we might end up with something even more objectionable than the «Republic of Macedonia» which we are faced with today.

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