OPINION

Pop star’s death and realization

His name means nothing to Greeks, but international media reported the sudden death of the 26-year-old pop star which plunged the Balkans into mourning. Tose Proeski was more than a a popular singer in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). He was a folk hero, a source of pride to the citizens of this young Balkan nation. And this is partly because Proeski was also widely popular in all the other countries of the former Yugoslavia. Among the first to sign one of the five condolence books in Skopje’s main square were President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Sadness over the death of the young man was expressed by, among others, the head of the country’s Orthodox Church, Archbishop Stefan, the chiefs of all parliamentary parties, European Commission Ambassador Erwan Fouere, the US ambassador, representatives of the country’s music world and other notables. Parliament, upon hearing the news, observed one minute of silence and canceled the rest of the session. The government declared yesterday a day of national mourning. The death of a pop idol always provokes extreme reactions, especially when a death comes so early. In Proeski’s case, the extent of the shock waves felt by the news media and the manner in which it was handled, reflects an entire society. The young singer, and now his memory, represents the worries, dreams and illusions of the entire nation. The fact that the death of a singer ranked so highly for the president that he hastened to sign the condolence book says something. Yes, a state as young as this, established just in 1991, has earned the right to have 26-year-old heroes and to mourn the death of a young man. But is that all? Maybe this sad story has something to tell the rest of us who never heard Tose Proeski sing. FYROM, after winning the wager of survival under difficult conditions, is trying to stand on its own two feet. The environment is not ideal. Relations are only good with its northern neighbor Serbia. With Albania, they have the issue of the Albanian minority and Bulgaria has accused the country of discriminating against ethnic Bulgarian citizens. With Greece, the country faces the well-known issue over its name. The entire world refers to FYROM by its constitutional name as the Greek foreign minister goes to great lengths to convince the international community that it should not be using this name on official documents. Naturally, there are reasons, but let us take a moment to see what we have achieved: We have estranged a small nation that is friendly toward Greece and instead of turning it into a potential satellite, we have turned it into a problem. If, however, this has allowed us to become the biggest foreign investors in the country, then there is still room for progress. And – who knows? – maybe Proeski’s successor will be singing in Greek.