Only two sad stories, Macedonian and the Irish one
Only two sad stories, Macedonian and the Irish one
DJ_SHEMA The Macedonia-Greece Name Dispute: Only the Tip of the Iceberg Can Karpat, AIA Turkish and Balkan Section At the first sight, it is just a name dispute. This is, however, only the tip of the iceberg. Greece accuses Macedonia of irredentist designs against its northern region. More dramatically, Greece even denies the existing of a Macedonian nation. Behind the petty name dispute, it is hidden the denial of the existence of a whole nation. And the invisible part of the iceberg goes back as far as the 4th century BC The tip of the iceberg Josip Broz Tito signs the declaration on establishment of the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia. November 1945 (photo: AIA archive) Josip Broz Tito signs the declaration on establishment of the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia. November 1945 The Irish patriot Roger Casement, who had been executed by the British after the 1916 uprising in Ireland, put it: "I know of two tragic histories in the world - that of Ireland, and that of Macedonia. Both of them have been deprived and tormented". For thousand of years, Macedonia had never been identified with specific and constant administrative or geographical borders. First Tito, who wanted to honour the Macedonian fighters against the Nazis, recognised their national identity, and made them one of the six founder republics of the new socialist Yugoslavia. Then in 1991, during the Yugoslavia war, Macedonia peacefully obtained its independence, and for the first time had a land for its own. Yet, its powerful southern neighbour was to cause problems, which are not resolved until today. The United Nations and other international institutions recognised Macedonia as late as 1993. The cause of this delay was Greece, which had concerns about the flag, the Constitution and the name of the new country. The former flag of Macedonia depicts the sixteen-ray Vergina Sun on a red background. However, the Greek government considered the Vergina Sun to be a Greek symbol. The Vergina Sun is the emblem of the dynasty of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. By the Interim Accord between the two sides on the 13th of September 1995, Macedonia changed its flag and adopted the one that we know today, representing a golden sun on a red surface. The former flag of Macedonia The former flag of Macedonia Macedonia's first Constitution, adopted on the 17th of November 1991 included a number of clauses that Greece interpreted as promoting secessionist sentiment among the Macedonians of northern Greece, and makingz irredentist claims on Greek territory. Especially the article 49 was dangerous: "The Republic cares for the status and rights of those persons belonging to the Macedonian people in neighbouring countries, as well as Macedonian expatriates, assists their cultural development and promotes links with them". The offending articles were removed under the same 1995 interim agreement. Finally, on the 27th of June 1992, Greece demanded Macedonia to change its constitutional name, the "Republic of Macedonia". Since then the name dispute is not resolved. On the 8th of April 1993, the UN welcomed the new country under the provisional name of the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" ( Macedonia) as Greece demanded. A number of proposals and compromise formulas, such as "Upper Macedonia", have been rejected by Skopje, while Athens continues to refuse Macedonia's constitutional name. The biggest concession that Skopje is ready to make is to accept a double formula - one for its international relations, and one for its bilateral relations with Greece. Greece rejects that proposal either, arguing that any name with Macedonia in it is intolerable. Instead, Greek authorities and media prefer using the name "Skopje", which the Macedonians consider as "humiliating". Macedonia does not want to renounce the international legal right of self-identification. In fact, these three problems are linked with one another. The name dispute, which may be considered by third parts as symbolic even insignificant, is only the tip of the iceberg. The bottom goes back as far as the 4th century BC. According to the Greek point of view, the Macedonians of today did not descend from the Macedonians of ancient times, since the Slav tribes invaded the Balkan Peninsula as late as the 6th and 7th centuries. That is why the present Macedonians have no right to use this name. The Greeks claim that the ancient Macedonia is an indispensable part of Greece's 4000-years-old heritage. However, the ancient Greeks explicitly classified the Macedonians as foreigners, "barbaroi", frequently given to the Macedonians and other non-Greek groups. It is actually very interesting that Greece interiorised today the The Slav wars of the IX century. Miniature from "Menologies of the Emperor Vasily II", XI century (photo: AIA archive) The Slav wars of the IX century. Miniature from "Menologies of the Emperor Vasily II", XI century Vergina Sun, which was excavated from the Greek flag in 1978, as its national symbol - the symbol of the hated overlords, the Macedonians, who had occupied Greece for centuries. In any case, it is a neither convincing nor healthy exercise to justify the boundaries and names of modern States on the basis of events that happened more than two thousand years ago. After all, there are works, which interrogate whether the Greeks of today are really the descendants of the Helens. The very name of Greece originates from the name of a Boiotia tribe. Greece is very lucky that there is no descendent of this tribe today. However, Macedonia itself does not claim for the descent from the ancient Macedonia. In 1992, former President of Macedonia, Kiro Gligorov stated: "We are Slavs who came to this area in the sixth century. We are not descendants of the ancient Macedonia". Even that statement did not appease Greece, for the problem is more fundamental than an ancient history dispute. Greece considers a non-Greek Macedonia as a mere communist invention dated from Tito era. Greece alleges that Tito gave southern Serbia the Greek name "Macedonia" in order to put forward territorial claims against Greece. The bottom of the iceberg During the Ottoman era (14th-20th centuries), Macedonia was a "vilayet" (province), which comprised Skopje, Bitola and Thessaloniki. After the Balkan wars (1912-1913), Macedonia was divided up between Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece so that an entity called Macedonia did no longer exist. The parts annexed by these three countries called "Vardar Macedonia", "Pirin Macedonia" and "Aegean Macedonia". From 1913 on, Greece committed itself to a nation building process, and took every necessary measure in order to eradicate the Macedonian identity. In 1919, Greece and Bulgaria signed a convention for exchange of populations. Around 60.000 Macedonians left Greece and settled in Bulgaria. In 1924, a similar convention was signed between Greece and Turkey. While 40.000 Macedonians together with around 300.000 Turks left Greece, around 700.000 Greeks from Turkey permanently settled in Aegean Macedonia. Between World Wars I and II, the Macedonians suffered from violent campaigns of assimilation and denationalisation. In 1929, a legal Act was issued "On the Protection of Public Order", whereby each demand for nationality rights was regarded as high treason. During the Greek Civil War (1946-1949) between the forces of the monarchist Greek government and the communist Democratic Army of Greece (DAG), most of the Macedonians joined the latter. However, in 1949 DAG forces were defeated and around 100.000 Macedonians fled from Greece. In 1947, the Greek government adopted a law that deprived all those, who fought against the government during the Civil War, thus including many Macedonians, from their citizenship and their property. From the 1950s until these days, successive Greek administrations took anti-humanitarian measures against the Macedonians of Greece: prohibition of the Macedonian language in public and private spheres, coercive assimilation programs (prohibition of schools teaching in Macedonian, change of Slavic names into Greek ones), etc. Even today the Greek government denies the existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece. The Macedonians give a number of 41.000 Macedonians in Greece. Human Rights activists estimate their number to be 200.000, while the United States Department of State around 50.000 Macedonians living in Greece. Today there are several Macedonian organisations in Greece that fight for the preservation and promotion of Macedonian identity and culture: Rainbow political party, Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Greece, Macedonian Movement for Balkan Prosperity. These organisations demand recognition of the Macedonian minority in Greece and protection of its minority rights. Macedonian activists have never raised sensitive issues like autonomy or secession. One of the most significant measures taken by former Greek administrations was the deliberate omission of the name "Macedonia", referring to northern Greece. Until August 1988, northern Greece was simply called "Northern Greece". Today, Greece claims for the "ethnic purity" of its northern region. After all these coercive measures it would be highly surprising to have it otherwise. The historian sympathetic to Macedonians, John Shea points out that the Greek speakers brought into northern Greece (from Turkey) had no historic association with the land at all. That the Macedonians were forced to forget about their national identity for years does not change the fact that a Macedonian identity does exist. Yet, this sterile dispute puts the stability of a whole region at stake. In 2001, Macedonia was near to collapse altogether in a civil war. Ever since the EU perspective has been the only one to unite the ethnically divided country. Greece, which implicitly interrogates the existence of a Macedonian nation, threatened in November 2005 that it would veto Macedonia's entry into the EU and the NATO if the two countries cannot come to an agreement in the name dispute. Although Macedonia was granted the candidate status on the 17th of December last year, what Greece will do when deciding on the question of membership, is far from being clear. In November 2005, Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis stated: "Skopje must be well aware that the EU decisions are made unanimously". A Macedonia, deprived from its national identity and its Euro-Atlantic perspective, would be easily dragged into an ethnic chaos, which, given the dangerous geography of the country, would ignite another nationalist fire in the Balkans. Greece accuses Macedonia of irredentist designs over its northern region: "Naming a country after a neighbouring region is a de-facto irredentist strategy aimed at destabilising the region, and hoping that the country will absorb the neighbouring region". This argument is far from being convincing. It would be suicidal for a nation slightly more than 2 million people without heavy arms, air force and navy to attack its powerful neighbour, member of the NATO and the EU. John Shea stated: "It is something of a paradox that throughout its attack on Macedonia, Greece, claiming a threat from Macedonia, has been seen by its European allies and America as a greater threat to peace in the Balkans". In fact, Greece loses a precious opportunity, namely being Macedonia's EU patron, which would earn the country a lot of political prestige. Gerald Knaus of the European Stability Initiative (ESI) regrets: "It is a pity that because of the name dispute Greece cannot play the role that Austria played for Croatia". It is significant that the EU, which should play the third party in this name dispute, fails to do so. For years the EU fails to connect the Macedonia name issue to Greece's highly controversial minority policy. The EU, which does not hesitate to dig the past of the candidates as back as the beginning of the 20th century, remains surprisingly passive when one of the member States is concerned. In Greece, which became a EU member in 1981, a leaked secret National Security Service memorandum of February 1982 recommended "the non-return of the Macedonian political refugees and the hiring of non-Macedonian-speakers in the civil service and especially in schools". Despite the European Court of Human Rights' decisions, Greece did not undertake any step in order to improve the minority rights. The responsible must be the EU with its lack of determination and its ambiguous definition of minority. The EU and the UN still use the compromise name of Macedonia. However, much to the annoyance of the Greek government, the compromise is wearing increasingly thin. About 110 countries are reported to have recognised the country as the Republic of Macedonia. These include the three permanent UN Security Council members: the United States, Russia and China. However, all UN member States have agreed to accept any final agreement resulting from negotiations between the two countries. Whatever the name of the country will be, the non-Greeks will probably prefer "Macedonia" simply because any other solution is too long to spell. Although the name dispute continues to excite passions in both nations, in practice the two countries cooperate with one another. Economic relations and cooperation resumed since the Interim Accord in 1995 to such an extent that Greece is now considered one of Macedonia's most important foreign economic partners and investors. The Greek investment in the country is as high as 400 million Dollars. Following the Dayton Accord in November 1995 and the d#233;tente in the Balkans, the two countries cooperate in fields of military, culture, education, development and infrastructure on both bilateral and multi-lateral levels. Despite the name stalemate, Athens supported Skopje's attitude during the Kosovo war (1998-1999) and the civil war in Macedonia (2001). If Greece can overcome its name obsession, this will be profitable not only for Macedonia, but also for Greece as the cradle of democracy and western civilisation. Related items: A Long Voyage: Macedonia Sets Sail for Europe (5.2.2006) (11.10.2005)[url]http://www.axisglobe.com/article.asp?article=647[/url] Political Solution and Terrorism in Macedonia http://www.axisglobe.com/article.asp?article=430
wolf_pack Nice to see newly stated opinions, but unlike us, the Irish felt what an economic boom looks like (especially in the early 90's). What are the related links to this article?