A prime opportunity

Greece is the oldest member of the European Union and NATO in Southeastern Europe, the region’s strongest country and most mature democracy. It has no territorial claims over its neighbors. In contrast, it drives economic development in the region. It was also a leader in bringing about Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the EU and NATO, while more recently it actively supported the induction of Croatia and Albania into the alliance and has insisted on Serbia’s European prospects. Greece has the same vision for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), not to please the USA and the other NATO partners who are in favor of the country’s accession, but because it honestly believes that FYROM should be preserved as a unified, multiethnic state, to live with security within NATO and to enjoy prosperity within the EU. FYROM’s existence serves Greece’s strategic interests and this is why Athens is not looking for winners and losers in the name dispute. It knows that if one party feels it has lost, all parties will lose in the long run. Athens is not making excessive demands. It is simply looking for a mutually acceptable agreement, an honorable compromise. One dignified and usable solution that would reflect geographical reality would be «Upper Macedonia.» In theory, «New Macedonia» (Nova Makedonija) is also acceptable, as it is the only suggestion made by the UN Security Council (in 1993). What is certain is that whatever name is eventually chosen should be used by everyone, everywhere. It should be the official and final name of the neighboring country. A few days ago, US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried referred to a Macedonian language and ethnicity. A historian himself, he should not ignore the history of Ancient Greece, of Macedonia, of Alexander the Great. Why then does he insist on doing so, even when FYROM’s first president, Kiro Gligorov, had publicly stated that his compatriots are Slavs with no relation to Alexander the Great? The Americans rarely waste their time on arguments about the past; they prefer practical solutions. It would be best, therefore, if they avoided distorting history and just focused on the present. They have the opportunity to achieve a lot if they urge Skopje to accept a real composite name. They will ensure the future of the country, built on solid bilateral ties with Athens, and they can also boost their traditional friendship with Greece, which, among others, is host to the sizable Souda Bay US naval base which was used in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as giving a nod of respect to the large Greek-American community, especially as this is an election year.

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