By David EdendenCanada to recognize Balkan state as Macedonia:
I really can't blame Alan Freeman for ignoring the plight of ethnic Macedonians in Greece as part of the Greek Macedonian dispute. See this note here as to why this is so.
OTTAWA — The Harper government has become embroiled in a major dust-up between Canada's ethnic communities after deciding to recognize the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia as just plain Macedonia, despite strong objections from Greece, which claims the name as its own.
The decision to refer to the tiny Balkan nation as Republic of Macedonia, rather than the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM for short), as it has been known by the United Nations since independence in 1992, was hailed by the Prime Minister of Macedonia.
Both nations claim sole ownership of the name.
In a statement from the capital of Skopje, Prime Minister Nikola Gruveski said yesterday hat "we were informed by the Macedonian embassy that Canada recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name, which is a good thing."
Greece immediately objected. "Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is expected to communicate today with her Canadian counterpart and convey the Greek government's displeasure," the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
And the Greek government made clear it intends to mobilize its diaspora in the battle. "It is certain that this decision also displeases hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizens of Greek origin," the Foreign Ministry said.
Foreign Affairs Canada did not comment, but its fact sheet on the country on its website now refers to Republic of Macedonia. The web page notes it was last updated on Sept. 20, 2007.
"The Greeks are pissed," seethed Jim Karygiannis, the Greek-born Liberal MP for Scarborough-Agincourt, who said that the Greek-Canadian community plans to mobilize to get the government to change its mind, noting that it had successfully fended off earlier efforts to get the name change approved under administrations of Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien.
"How would you like part of the United States to call themselves Canada?" he continued. "What if all of a sudden New York State begins to call itself Canada or Ontario?" Greece uses the name Macedonia to designate its northern province.
The MP said the Skopjans, as he referred to the Macedonians, did not even settle the area until 800 or 900 AD. "The speak a different language. They don't speak Greek. Why are they trying to distort history?"
Efforts to contact members of the Macedonian Canadian community, concentrated in Toronto, were not fruitful, but the decision was hailed on Macedonian websites.
The U.S.-based United Macedonian Diaspora headlined the news, congratulating the "dedication, perseverance and endless efforts" by Macedonian Canadians to get the name changed. It encouraged readers to send a thank-you note to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the decision.
A secretary at the St. Clement of Ohrid Macedonian Orthodox Congregation in Toronto would not comment but was clearly incensed when told that The Globe and Mail had contacted the Greek community for its view on the issue. "You called the Greeks?" she asked. "Why did you call them?"
Canada joins the United States, China and Russia in referring to the country as Republic of Macedonia in bilateral relations. It is still referred to as FYROM by the European Union and the United Nations.
Prolonged efforts at the UN to solve the dispute and come to a mutual agreement on the name have so far failed.