The Macedonian Tendency: Will the Greek Macedonian Dispute Be Solved?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Will the Greek Macedonian Dispute Be Solved?

By David Edenden

I was really caught by surprise, in the early 1990's, when the Greeks reacted so vociferously to the name of the Republic of Macedonia , given that it has been around since 1945. Although Macedonia suffered, the controversy had the happy result of focusing attention on the plight of ethnic Macedonians living in Greece.

I had always thought that Greeks, as a people, had greater concerns regarding Turkey and Cyprus and minority rights for Greeks in Albania, than to spend valuable political capital on a minor issue. Greece became the laughing stock of Europe.

The drum beat for a shift in Greek policy is gathering momentum. First Greece's ambassador to Macedonia (here) (here) (here) and now Nikos Konstandaras . Greek moderates do not want to be further humiliated, when all its friends and allies move forward with Nato and EU membership for Macedonia, without a thought to Greece or its bizarre position that ethnic Macedonians go on Ebay and bid on a new ethnic identity.

Now if we can only get the Greek Issues Caucus, Christopher Hitchens and Robert D. Kaplan, Matthew Nimetz on board, not to mention all the pseudo human rights groups, all will be fine.

Nikos Konstandaras is a columnist for Post Global, moderated by David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria, at Newsweek. He is the managing editor and a columnist of Kathimerini, the leading Greek morning daily. He is also the founding editor of Kathimerini’s English Edition, which is published as a supplement to The International Herald Tribune in Greece, Cyprus and Albania.

This is a long and thoughtful article. I have highlighted the phrases that are quotable.

‘A purely Greek problem’
ekathimerini.com

By Nikos Konstandaras

The Foreign Ministry’s recall of the Greek ambassador to Skopje shows the dead-end that Greece has reached in the dispute over a permanent name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Theodora Grosomanidou committed the sin of commenting to a reporter for The Financial Times that Greece has to face the new reality, as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been recognized under its constitutional name by more than half of the members of the United Nations.”

What she did not need to add was that among those countries are the United States, China and Russia – which means that the big powers, all of them, have moved on and will not pay heed to Greece’s arguments. The only thing that Greece has to show for the enormous diplomatic capital that it has spent on this issue over the past 17 years is the (impatient) tolerance of its friends and the ridicule of its rivals.

However justified a country’s arguments might be on an issue – and Athens has all the right in the world to protest against Skopje’s behavior – there comes a time when its leadership has to estimate whether persisting with a specific policy is worth the long-term costs.

We need only remember that countries have fought wars and reached peace with their enemies in a less time than the dispute between Athens and Skopje has lasted. The US involvement in Vietnam began seriously in 1961 and ended 12 years later, with the Paris peace treaty in 1973.

One might say, of course, that this is not an apt example, that the dispute between Athens and Skopje does not create the same urgent need for a solution as does a war in which tens of thousands of people lost their lives.

But it is valuable for us to remember that however much passion has been aroused by the FYROM issue, it remains a dispute that is on paper, that has to do with theories, with fears, with suspicions, with history and possible future complications. But the fact that it has aroused such passions for such a long time – wherever in the world there are Greeks – shows the need for a solution.

The clash has been mighty from the start: Athens, with the grudging support of its partners in the EU (whom the conservative Mitsotakis government in the early 1990s threatened with a return of Papandreou’s PASOK in order to garner their backing) demanded the total surrender of Skopje. This entailed dropping the use of the name “Macedonia” in any form or derivative. The other side, with no way out but also with no wish to back down, gave way nowhere (other than in dropping the use of the Star of Vergina as the national emblem, something that was a bargaining chip to start with). And the political leadership in Skopje has certainly done all it can to provoke the Greeks.

The renaming of their national airport as “Alexander the Great” last January is just the kind of decision that shows how right Greece was to complain about its neighbor’s irredentist propaganda – and at the same time how futile. On the one hand, Alexander the Great was a Greek warrior king who lived some 1,000 years before the Slavs who now call themselves “Macedonians” arrived on the scene; on the other, no one can stop anyone from calling himself or his airport or his dog by whichever name he chooses.

Our neighbors realize that they have won. From the moment that they can join NATO (which they will do soon) and the European Union (sometime in the future) under their temporary name (FYROM), they know that continuing their dispute with Greece will not cost them anything. When they accede to these organizations, they will be equal partners with Greece and will, in all probability, have more allies than Athens does – in which case they will achieve their renaming as “Republic of Macedonia” with few obstacles.

The dispute today is “a purely Greek problem – it’s not our problem,” a trade promotion minister in Skopje, Vele Samak, told The Financial Times in the same report that got Ambassador Grosomanidou into trouble. The fact that an experienced diplomat of Grosomanidou’s ilk incurs her ministry’s wrath simply for stating the obvious shows that Samak’s cynicism is justified. It shows also how much this problem will keep burdening Greece.

When an issue which demands a serious national policy becomes a flag of convenience for every kind of political adventurism, when the sincere concerns of serious people are exploited by frivolous populists across the political and social spectrum, the problem keeps growing and cannot be solved by the main political parties that govern.

But we are used to our politicians’ weaknesses. However, when the Foreign Ministry gets worked up and overreacts simply for reasons of domestic politics, then it appears that the only tactic we have is to allow ourselves to be dragged toward defeat, with the proud excuse that we never gave in, we never compromised anywhere. But is it policy to abandon the effort, to be at a loss as to the next step, to blind oneself to the facts of the situation?

4 comments:

  1. Petros HouhoulisWednesday, July 25, 2007

    Every idiot must have an opinion these days. Let's see what makes these people idiots:

    "...Theodora Grosomanidou committed the sin of commenting to a reporter for The Financial Times..."

    There is a lot of fog around what she actually said. She has supposedly explained her position to her boss and she was not formally sacked, but removed from her post four months earlier than she would - in October. What is exactly foggy?

    The person who interviewed her was not a reporter but a representative of an advertising agency - at least at that point, since this "article" was a payed advertisment of our neighbors' government, not something written by an independent journalist who would have the dignity not to alter Grossomanidous' statements. If anybody ever reads those payed advertisments in any paper, you shall notice that: A) They are clearly distinguished from the journalistic section, as every advertisment ows to be, B) The newspaper does not take any responsibility of them, neither any single journalist working in the newspaper does. In a few words, it is an advertisment, not news.

    Grosomanidous' sin was to accept to comment for an advertisment of the neighboring country. Still it is not quite clear whether she knew that the person asking her was doing it as a journalist, or as a payed advertiser, irrespectively of the profession that he declared at that moment.

    "...The only thing that Greece has to show for the enormous diplomatic capital that it has spent on this issue over the past 17 years is the (impatient) tolerance of its friends and the ridicule of its rivals..."

    The question is not just what we achieved all this time, but also what we lost. Showing "enormous diplomatic capital" means pretty much nothing. If Greece did not ask for the non-recognition of the name "Macedonia" by them when the E.U. was pressing us to accept the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, what would we achieve? The non-dissolution of Yugoslavia? Was it possible when all of the E.U. members - not to mention all of the Yugoslavs except the Serbs - had agreed upon it? Maybe we had to pay overtime to many Greek diplomats abroad just for the preservation of this issue, but I cannot consider it a sacrifice of sorts. Maybe we also showed to the world that we have balls and that we shall fight to defend our interests, always in a legitimate manner (embargoes are legitimate by the U.N., you know, in certain circumstances) a sign to other people not to mess against us diplomatically, if they don't want to get tired of something that might be not very important to them.

    "We need only remember that countries have fought wars and reached peace with their enemies in a less time than the dispute between Athens and Skopje has lasted. The US involvement in Vietnam began seriously in 1961 and ended 12 years later, with the Paris peace treaty in 1973."

    Eeh? Yea buddy, the U.S. fought a war in the other side of the planet for no apparent reason, lost 50,000 servicemen and the war and the ridicule of the planet - not just the ridicule of their enemies, this is inevitable fella, you enemies are obliged to ridicule you! - before they capitulated and lost... eh... Yea sure, the Vietnamese are "Communist" these days, like the Chinese!!! They didn't really lose anything in the long term because they had simply nothing to lose in the long term, and they were stupid enough not to know it! Vietnam had not plan to invade them, and you won't find any maps of a "United Vietnam" including parts of the U.S. territory. Maybe there shall be in the future due to the incresing presence of Vietnamese in the U.S. these days, but that wouldn't have started without the Vietnam "non"-war (The U.S. never accepted that there was a war in the first place. Now compare that with the "United Macedonia" maps that are still floating around the internet, and the references to the ancient Macedonians that were present to the military museum in Skopje, until recently. When they finally removed those referenced, they invited both Grossomanidou and her U.S. counterpart to show that there was no irredentist propaganda in there. Tell me dear Kostandaras, would there still be maps of "United Macedonia" and ridiculus claims in their military museum without the name issue? Of course, they just got their airport called "Alexander the Great", and prepare for a statue in there, but one has to note how they explain it: "We do not claim Alexander the Great's legacy, we do it for advertising purposes"!!! Everybody knows already that the airport is a bargain card, just as the flag was almost 20 years ago...

    Now let's compare the Greek losses in troops and military equipment and the economic impact of the non-war with our neighbors to the U.S. losses in the war in Vietnam. Well, yes, we lost some revenue after all, but then they bankrupted during the Albanian insurrection and we bought their pants at half price before the other Europeans sniffed the cheap deals offered in their fiefdom, so, we might have actually won, and the proof of it lies in the control of much of their economy by Greeks these days. Yes, the U.S. are in the same situation with Vietnam these days, the former Viet-kong are begging them to come back and... Invest. Oh dear, how similar were these non-wars...

    "...But the fact that it has aroused such passions for such a long time – wherever in the world there are Greeks – shows the need for a solution."

    Yea, sure, but they won't budge fella. The Greek government is talking some solutions to their direction. They won't change their stance ever. If we just accept what they "offer". If we agree to give them what they want, the only result would be to infuriate the Greeks all around the world, who have such a passion for that issue. They shall simply accuse us of betraying the Greek cause, and they shall conclude that it won't be worth fighting for Greek causes if the official Greek government is not bothering, so we'll lose them. That you would know, if you ever bothered to ask their opinion. The question is, "What do we win by accepting their demands"? The only answer is: "Their love". But we have that already! We own much of their economy. We don't need more! In any case, we won't win the love of their diaspora, nor the withdrawal of their ridiculus "United Macedonia" maps. They'll just say that they are not their official view, just the view of a bunch of lunatics (and this is the truth after all).

    "...And the political leadership in Skopje has certainly done all it can to provoke the Greeks. The renaming of their national airport as “Alexander the Great” last January is just the kind of decision that shows how right Greece was to complain about its neighbor’s irredentist propaganda – and at the same time how futile. On the one hand, Alexander the Great was a Greek warrior king who lived some 1,000 years before the Slavs who now call themselves “Macedonians” arrived on the scene; on the other, no one can stop anyone from calling himself or his airport or his dog by whichever name he chooses."

    The coin has two sides fella: They can't force us naming them as they want either. Of course they have accepted this too, and they include it in the solution. What they shall have to accept in the solution as well is that we give names in our country just as they give in theirs, so they'd better stop barking about a "Macedonian minority", that is neither Macedonian and too inexistent to be a minority (The Chinese have a bigger minority in Athens than they have in all of Greece. Yet I've never seen them demanding the recognition of a Chinese minority in Greece. Maybe because they are persecuting their minorities also, so they want support, but neither do the Germans demand for the acceptance of a German minority in Greece, nor the obligatory teaching of German in some all - German tourist areas in Greece. Yet in those very areas not only German is spoken, and perhaps taught, but even the signs in the roads are German. They owe their presence to German money, that we see coming into Greece. Yet those hillibillies want us (the Greek taxpayers) to pay for their schools and signs, but why? Don't Greeks pay for the schools and signs in their own country? How? Who is investing there? Don't they get taxes and salaries from Greek businessmen? I think that we should demand for the teaching of Greek in their schools, but we don't really need to: They are forced to learn it in order to find a better job, as they are forced to learn English more often, as we are forced to learn English, instead of their funny idiom.

    "...From the moment that they can join NATO (which they will do soon) and the European Union (sometime in the future) under their temporary name (FYROM), they know that continuing their dispute with Greece will not cost them anything..."

    How certain are you that the E.U. shall keep expanding. The French and the Dutch destroyed the constitution because they didn't want a greater E.U. If you had a better memory, you could remember that the Europeans used to deny to Turkey the entry to the E.U. because Greece was blocking it. Now that Greece withdrew the Veto, we find out that they were the ones who didn't want Turkey inside in the first place. So, who is the ridiculus one? Greece that was denying Turkey the E.U. openly, or all those hypocrites who were pointing the finger to Greece every time the issue of Turkeys' entry in the E.U. was coming forward? I think that Greece is going to be as much ridiculed for blocking the entry of new E.U. members as much as it was ridiculed when it was blocking the entry of Turkey in the past. All of those bastards shall accuse Greece of whatever in front of the press, and thank Greece from the deepest of their hearts behind the scenes. BTW, Even the U.S. has second thoughts about the Adriatic expansion of NATO right now...

    ...There's a long way forward fellas. My prediction some years abck is that they shall win the name, but lose the state. Wait and see...

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  2. I wonder, was Petros Houhoulis sober when he wrote the above, or had he been on the tsipouro? Incredible.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am always sober my dear. The real question is whether you can respond to it with something, anything at all. I am afraid that you have failed to either point to my article being offensive, or to compose any reasonable reply upon it.

    ReplyDelete
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