Traps to avoid in the FYROM issue

On March 16, the US Senate voted for the NATO accession of a number of Eastern European nations. The list included a reference to the «Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).» The fact that this is the first time since November 2004 that an official US document refers to FYROM (the acronym for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) does not signal a change in Washington’s stance. However, to some extent it does constitute something of a divergence. The State Department has evidently realized that even if Costas Karamanlis’s government yields, the Greek Parliament will never approve FYROM’s accession to NATO before the name dispute is resolved. As a result, the eastward expansion of NATO, which America desires so much, will run into problems. The Slav Macedonians have never displayed any willingness to accept a composite name for their country. They have no reason to seek a solution. They will only negotiate seriously if they are obliged to. And they will only be obliged to if the road to the European Union and NATO accession is blocked. The way things have developed so far, Athens has no choice but to make Skopje face up to the consequences of its policy on the issue. Although EU accession is still a distant prospect for FYROM, the same is not true for NATO accession, which will be decided just one year from now. Washington has sent its message to Skopje. And this is the first time that the Balkan state is worried. In the meantime, Greece must avoid two traps. If it insists on its neighbor being referred to as FYROM, it will fall into the first trap, for it will lose its last remaining weapon. Athens must immediately make it clear that it will only give the green light for accession if a mutually acceptable solution to the name dispute is found. The second trap relates to the type of compromise which may be reached. The aim of Greek diplomacy is neither to humiliate the Slav Macedonians nor to impose some random name. Its aim should be the elimination of a «Macedonian» state ideology which is the root not only of FYROM’s expansionist aims but also of a series of provocative acts by the neighboring country which has poisoned the political climate and fueled instability. One alternative name, «Republika Makedonija-Skopje» – proposed by UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz last year and initially accepted by Athens – would not have been in Greece’s interests, for ultimately it would be contracted to plain «Macedonia» in any case. This is the only reason Skopje would have accepted it anyway – nobody would want such an unattractive-sounding name for their country. The most precise, neat and fair solution would be the geographical designation «Upper Macedonia.» If the eventual agreement were also to refer to the «Slav-Macedonian» language, the outcome would be very positive for Greece, without affecting our neighbor’s national interests.

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