A Proposal for breaking the Macedonian deadlock: A matter of trust

What follows is a concrete and simple proposal how to break one of the most important deadlocks undermining the stabilisation of the Western Balkans. The aim is to bring to an end a situation that has made a mockery of European aspirations of having an effective EU foreign policy in the Balkans, a region of major strategic interest to the EU.

The issue in question is the dispute between Skopje and Athens over the name “Macedonia”. As the 19 year old conflict has grown more complicated, the breakdown of trust between the two sides – the conflict’s underlying problem – has taken on an increasingly poisonous role. This is also negatively affecting the accession prospects of the entire Western Balkans at a time when there are already strong signals that some EU member states want to put the process on hold altogether.

This may well be the last moment to try to resolve the dispute. If efforts fail now, it is perfectly possible – as some in the EU are already predicting – that the conflict will remain unresolved for another 19 years, keeping Macedonia outside the EU for the next two decades and beyond.

What is needed is a way forward that recognises the bottom lines for Athens and Skopje. It must address the most important issue directly: how to ensure that any compromise reached between the two will actually stick. Such a compromise must come soon. People on both sides, as well as in Brussels and Washington, have grown tired of a conflict that appears impossible to solve. As people give up, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as in so many frozen conflicts.

Here is the core problem. Greece realises that its only leverage to ever get the Republic of Macedonia to change its constitutional name is to use its position as a member of the EU to block Macedonia’s path to EU membership. Nothing else – not even Greek pressure to block Macedonia’s NATO accession – will do the trick.

At the same time, most politicians in Athens realise that they have a vital interest in Macedonia’s stability. Athens is in favour of Balkan enlargement. And it does not want to be used by those in the EU who have an interest in stopping Balkan enlargement for good. How can this circle be squared?

The other problem for the Greek position is that the trend in Skopje in recent years has been towards greater intransigence. It is clear that any constitutional change needs broad support in Skopje. Prime Minister Gruevski currently enjoys a strong political position, but constitutional changes will require a two thirds majority in parliament, as well as the support of both ethnic communities. There is almost certain to be a referendum as well.

Finally, although officials in Skopje and across the EU believe that the current Greek government of George Papandreou would like to see a solution – and although an intense effort for bilateral talks is currently under way – overall trust in the Greek political establishment is scarce.

People and leaders in Skopje might be prepared to make a concession on the name of the country, but only under one condition: that it ensures the country’s EU accession. To change the name for the mere promise of starting talks with an uncertain outcome at this moment is unlikely to be accepted. No Greek government can guarantee Skopje that any concession made today – to unlock the door to EU accession talks – will actually stick once a new Greek government comes to power.

At a time of great political tension due to the economic crisis, Greek leaders not only have the problem of explaining any compromise to their voters – they also fear that if Greece allows the EU accession of Macedonia to proceed today it will lose leverage, no longer being assured of a favourable compromise at a later stage.

Greece is adamant that any change of name must be erga omnes, i.e. must be part of the Macedonian constitution and used in relations with the entire world, not just with Greece or international institutions. (Some in Greece want to go further and also change the name of the people (“Macedonians”) and the language (“Macedonian”), something that stands very little chance of ever being accepted by Skopje.) In fact, the fear that a concession on the name of the country will only be a prelude to further Greek demands is what keeps leaders in Skopje from making any concession whatsoever.

In other words, both countries are trapped.

Here then is the challenge. Both Greece and Macedonia have a vital interest in ensuring that other enlargement-sceptical countries in Europe not hide behind them and their dispute to undermine the whole Western Balkans accession agenda. Yet Macedonians will only change the name erga omnes if they know that they will then actually join the EU – and that this is the last word. And Greece will only open the road to EU accession (starting with the opening of accession talks) if Macedonia changes the constitution.

How can this conundrum be resolved? It can be done through a constitutional amendment in Skopje that changes the name of the country today, allowing Athens to support the start of accession talks later this year, but that also foresees that the change will only enter into force on the day Macedonia actually joins the EU.

The constitutional change could be simple, a single paragraph that says something to the effect of:

“All references to the Republic of Macedonia in this constitution will be replaced by a reference to XX (a compromise name such as Republic of Macedonia – Vardar) on the day this country joins the European Union.”

Nothing more, nothing less.

If for some reason Skopje never joins the EU, it will never have to change its name.

If future Greek (or other neighbours’) governments find new reasons to block Macedonia’s accession in the future (there are no less than 70 veto points where unanimity in the EU is required before a candidate joins the club) the name will not yet have changed.

On the other hand, the constitutional provision will guarantee that once Macedonia is a member, the name change will become effective immediately and automatically. It can also be written into Macedonia’s accession treaty.

This solution would allow both countries and their leaders to claim a victory today. The government in Skopje will also turn Greece into a genuine ally (based on mutual interest) to facilitate its timely accession. Athens can argue that it is only opening the path to accession in return for genuine and lasting constitutional change: something no previous Greek government has achieved.

What would make this deal even more attractive – and a referendum on the constitutional amendment even more likely to succeed in Skopje – would be a parallel Greek promise to allow Macedonia to join NATO under the name FYROM (the name under which Macedonia joined the UN) once the constitutional changes have been passed.

This is still a difficult compromise for both countries. If it is adopted, however, it will end a major deadlock and send a tremendously beneficial signal to the whole of the Balkans.

Greece would be part of the solution in the region, not a source of problems. Macedonia would show that it is indeed a country ready for the complex and painful compromises that are expected of full EU members. It could once again become a trailblazer for the rest of the region, and the first to begin full accession talks before Croatia joins the EU. And it would gain a genuine ally in Greece.

PS: Cutileiro’s vision

And here is the alternative to compromise. I recently came across an interesting little book with essays on the future of Europe published by Brookings. Its title is Europe 2030. It includes a series of essays, some of which also touch on the issue of enlargement. Will any of the countries of today’s Western Balkans, aside from Croatia, be EU members by the year 2030? Will all be? Or will only some manage to accede, while others stay on the outside looking in? The authors of these essays offer all three scenarios.

The first and most pessimistic comes from one of the biggest proponents of EU enlargement, Joschka Fischer. Fischer was Foreign Minister (1998-2005) when the German government was pushing hard for what later became the EU’s biggest enlargement ever in 2004. Fischer also played a key role in pushing for Turkish candidate status in 1999 and the opening of accession talks with Turkey in 2005. He sees enlargement as a powerful tool for transforming the European neighbourhood:

“The prospect of EU membership therefore offers nothing less than successful rejuvenation of a country’s economy, society, government, and legal system. By projecting power in this way, the EU has pioneered a policy that recognizes that security in the twenty-first century must be founded not primarily on military dominance but on complete and transformative modernization as well as on the harmonization, and even integration, of national interests.”[1]

At the same time, Fischer notes, “while almost all of the EU’s neighbours wish to join, its own citizens increasingly oppose not only further expansion but also deeper political integration.” His conclusion is that this (unfortunate) tendency will likely prevail:

“I doubt that Europe’s malaise can be overcome before 2030 … While the partial creation of a common defense system, along with a European army, is possible by 2030, a common foreign policy is not. Expansion of the EU to include the Balkan states, Turkey and Ukraine should also be ruled out.”[2]

The second scenario for the Balkans is proposed by Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform in London. Grant predicts that the “entering into force of the Lisbon treaty will help the EU speak with one voice, when it has a common position on a foreign policy question.”[3] Grant also expects enlargement to continue:

“By 2030 the EU will include all of the Balkans, Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway; Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus probably will be members; and some of the Caucasus countries may have joined.”[4]

It is not altogether surprising that the most pessimistic scenarios for the Balkans come from Germany (the Berlin scenario of a never-ending accession process), while the most optimistic ones are heard in the UK (the London scenario of enlargement within this generation).

But the third scenario is in some ways the most interesting and it directly concerns Macedonia. Jose Cutileiro, a former Portuguese diplomat and general secretary of the Western European Union, expects that Turkey, Albania, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are all likely to be in the EU by 2030. However, he argues, even 20 years from now not all the Balkan states will be in the EU.

“Kosovo on its own could not join because it remained unrecognised by a number of EU countries, and Macedonia had been kept at the door by insurmountable Greek objections concerning its name, first raised in 1991, when the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was dissolved. Except for those two small, landlocked patches, the whole of the western Balkans was now part of the EU.”[5]

It is a realistic fear that unless a compromise is found now between Skopje and Athens, Macedonia might never join the EU. In this case, however, the German scenario for the whole Western Balkans becomes all the more likely, as the failure of Macedonia, the most advanced Western Balkan state, would bode ill for the whole region. Athens and Skopje, as well as the Balkans and the EU, would all be on the losing side.

[1] Europe 2030, p 6.

[2] Europe 2030, p 10.

[3] Europe 2030, p. 73.

[4] Europe 2030, p.70.

[5] Europe 2030, p. 17.

30 Replies to “A Proposal for breaking the Macedonian deadlock: A matter of trust”

  1. Proposals might be quite acceptable…..however, plese note a key mistake in your text. Namely, Macedonia did not join the UN under the name FYROM, but “former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, which you should know is significantly different from FYROM.

  2. I find it well observed and studied case from your side. I like the different approaches and the different ideas. What I would criticize is that you seem to consider that (forced or conditioned) constitutional changes are a matter to be bartered and traded with depending on demand??? To me it seemed that you consider the constitutional changes demanded by one side as a normal thing in everyday bilateral relationships between countries around the world.

  3. Dear Mr Knaus
    As much as it seams that we are stuck in a deadlock with the so called “name problem”, we are not. The only deadlock is the limited minds of the people who are running the EU, so called big European players. Can you please Mr. Spear Ruler (this seams to be the meaning of your name according to some of mine internet research) explain to me does this 2 minute research I have done for the genealogy of your name allows me to draw conclusions that you have German origins, and that your origins are from some family of warriors. Does this allow you exclusively to use this name Gerard….what makes me expert in your genealogy?
    My dear Mr. “small natural hill” how does it seam someone to play with your name, can I call you Mr.” small artificial hill” instead?
    You know my neighbor has a small natural hill in his back yard and I really do not feel calling you by your name. It is confusing to my small limited brain to make distinction between you and my neighbor’s hill….
    Come on, please stop this nonsense of analyze of the so called problem called Macedonia.
    The problem is not the name for Gods sake.
    The problem is Greeks legacy. The Greek Civil War. Robbing millions of people, expelling them from their homes. Now lets been clear, Macedonia, and when I say Macedonia I mean Republic of Macedonia, doe not claim any rights over that territory, and if you ask me personally I do not really think that on a country level we should ever try to solve this matter. But the fear of the Greeks is that once we have this name recognized that suddenly they will by miracle loose their food rich north. I totally understand their fears, but that does not mean that I will change my name just to make them feel more comfortable with their history and presence.
    My dear Mr. “small natural hill”, lets be honest as Mr. Ferid Muhic states in his column (http://www.forum.com.mk/22075) Macedonia is in Europe! Macedonians are Europeans! Macedonia doesn’t have any conflict with Greece. The meaning of the word conflict is when two opposite sides are requesting something from each other. Macedonia is not asking for anything from Greece. Macedonia doesn’t have any issue with Greece. What is happening is that Greece is placing very cleverly formulated ultimatum. And for that ultimatum we should find compromise. The “ultimatum” by definition doesn’t leave any space for compromise….some of the intellectuals in Macedonia are using the name Indecent Proposal, like Robert Redford’s movie. Demi Moore in the movie agreed to spend one night with the millionaire played by Redford, have sex for million dollars. Those million dollars will pay all their depths and they will live their life easy. But the only thing is that by having sex for money the lady’s name changes to whore, and she will need to live with this name for the rest of her life.
    Let me remind you Mr.Knaus, there is not a single country in the world using the name Macedonia except Republic of Macedonia. That is why the citizens of Republic of Macedonia declare themselves as Macedonians. The citizens of other countries that have a province called Macedonia can declare themselves as they want using extra words to determine their nationality as well.
    Americans is used only for the citizens of the USA, although Americans belonging to the Geographic region of Americas are many other nationalities such Canadians, Mexicans, Brazilians….
    It seams like the EU officials are calling Macedonia “good doggy, nice doggy” just until they find big enough stone to hit it.
    I think that there is no logic in any continues of the negotiations about their own name and identity.
    And if you are reasonable person you should by now learn that no one can change anyone’s name. If you really want to help the region you really have to focus all your energy toward explaining to Greece that they can not flex their muscles on everyone’s expense.
    Zelenkovski Mihajlo

  4. Macedonians do not want to change their constitutional name and will not change it.
    What we can offer is to change how other countries refer to our country.

    Taking that into consideration, the above proposal is not acceptable to Macedonians, which makes it useless.

  5. If the aim of ESI is to “promote stability” in Europe then it should avoid terms such as “irrational” when characterizing the position of over 85% of the Greek population, and should educate itself on why the question of the name the Skopje statelet chooses for itself is in fact pertinent to Europe’s stability.
    Many opinion leaders of the Greek public know that there is a background of irredentist claims associated with the hijacking of the (etymologically Greek) name of the region.The VMRO, the ruling party of Skopje, proudly announces to all who listen that it is the descendant of the interwar party by the same name, the leadership of which (Vancho Mihajlov et al) collaborated closely with Himmler in order to establish their vision of a Macedonian [sic] Republic.
    When the Axis was defeated, the remnants of so-called “Macedonian” irredentists joined Tito’s communists, once again supported armed rebellion which aimed seize the region of Macedonia in northern Greece (1945-49). They were defeated by the Greek people and armed forces at great cost.
    Thus the vast majority of the Greek people are not irrational to insist that provision be taken to avoid yet another effort to claim their territory by seizing the name and then claiming that the territory it encompasses within Greece (in which inhabit 2.5 million Greek Macedonians) somehow belongs to the Skopje statelet.

  6. Dear Aristide,

    what seems irrational to almost every non-Greek in Europe is the fact that Athens – wisely – has decided that the best way to engage with its Eastern neighbour, Turkey, is to turn it into a friend in the context of European integration despite the fact that there are serious and very real (and weekly) confrontations over disputed territory in the Aegean: the vision is that a fully democratic Turkey, in which the military has less clout and which is ever more integrated into the European economy is a better partner for Greece, and that the most sensitive issues can be resolved over time in the context of improving bilateral relations.

    At the same time the small northern neighbour, with a population less than half the population of Ankara alone, which has a very small defense budget, a tiny (multiethnic) professional army and which seeks to join Greece in the EU and in NATO, is kept out of these organisations whose central role is to foster cooperation and integration.

    In short: It is not different views of a very complicated history that seem irrational. It is the policies that result from these views that make no sense.

    Irish and English, Hungarians and Romanians, Austrians and Czechs, Spanish and Portuguese can have very different views of their common history, and might even disagree on the historical legitimacy of recent tragic events or borders (even de jure dispute them, as in Olivenza, claimed by Portugal and administered by Spain). But they have not turned this into an issue that dominates all their foreign policy towards a crucial region, risks destabilising it and in addition makes Greece look irrational.

    Finally, one might assess the rationality of a policy by its results. What has Greek diplomacy achieved in the past 19 years? More than a hundred countries have recognised Macedonia under the name Republic of Macedonia. Meanwhile a key strategic objective of Greece – to get the EU to engage in stabilising South East Europe - is being undermined. Everybody loses as a result. Is it not time to rethink a policy which achieves so little? 

  7. Dear Mile,

    If the government in Athens agrees to it, perfect. Friends of Macedonia and supporters of the European integration of the Balkans would rejoice. But you appear to have more trust in the ability and willingness of leaders in Athens to make concessions deeply unpopular in Greece than I do.

    This proposal addresses the next question: what if a compromise that is easily accepted in Macedonia is not on the cards?

    Then the price for this principled decision not to change the constitutional name under any circumstances is to stay outside of Nato and the EU for another two, three, four decades. The mood in the rest of the EU is such that few other countries would complain to Greece about this consequence.

    Would a compromise that sees your country renamed as North Macedonia, or Vardar Macedonia, or any other geographic qualifier, be worth the negative consequences of this? This is not for outsiders to judge, but friends of Macedonia do ask this question.

    If Macedonia would not have had the bilateral problems with Greece it might have applied for EU accession together with Bulgaria in 1995, started accession talks in 1999 and perhaps joined the EU in 2007. Instead the country experienced a terrifying decade of economic crisis, horrifying unemployment rates, interethnic tensions (almost leading to a civil war in 2001) and international isolation. And Bulgaria, in much worse shape than Macedonia throughout the 1990s, now has an unemployment rate less than half that of its neighbour. This has been bad for Europe, for the region, even for Greece, but above all it has been bad for Macedonians.

  8. Dear Mihajlo,

    Yes, let us all explain to politicians in Athens that they should just accept Macedonia’s name, lift their veto on Nato accession, and allow the start of accession talks. But what if this is not going to produce any results? It did not in the past 19 years?

    There is one prevailing illusion among many people in Macedonia: it is the belief that there is a strong constituency among EU leaders in favour of Balkan enlargement. Many EU leaders would love to postpone another Balkan enlargement forever. They do not have “small minds”, or agree with the Greek position on the name issue: they hide behind it. If we are analytical, we must make this the starting point of any reflection how to get out of the current situation.

    Of course, if Macedonia gives up on EU and NATO integration, Greece has no leverage, the name remains as it is, more countries recognise it over time, and politicians in Skopje can stop engaging in any more talks with Greece. But that seems a very high price to pay, which is why some friends of Macedonia are looking for ways to break the deadlock … without any illusions that some (perhaps most) people in Macedonia would not even accept this compromise. But let there at least be a clear choice in a referendum.

  9. Lets give a definitive end to the conflict. Lets educate SlavoSkopians. They know they are not related to Macedonians at all. In fact, they feel ashamed when reading about Macedonian history. That’s why they prohibit publication of all documents about Macedonians, SlavoSkopians or Bulgarians. That’s why they control all publications about Macedonian identity in FYROM.

    The new name of FYROM MUST distinguish them clearly from Macedonians. This means that no language, ethnicity, state, citizenship should be just Macedonian.

    Yet, we Greeks do know that, after 1944, SlavoSkopians are linked with Macedonian name. So, we have a proposal for that: Somemacedonia; some could be any slavic word: ( northern, glorious, true, high, new: sever, velik, pravo, gorno, novo.).

    Come on SlavoSkopians. Give an end to Tito’s lies. Don’t allow gov to keep you in the dark of Underground.

  10. Dear Istor,

    Macedonians (I am referring to the citizens of Greece’s Northern neighbour) will never agree to this, and why should they? 

    The end result of the Greek policy you defend is simply the status quo. This is where I am baffled: after all, this is a situation where – despite 19 years of Greek efforts – 130 countries in the world refer to Macedonia as Macedonia, and will do so forever, it being only a question of time until other EU members follow. In the meantime there will be even more adds on CNN to prove to the world that Macedonia is here to stay, even more monuments built to Aleksander the Great in Skopje, even more anger. Even in terms of Greece’s supposed national objectives, this seems an irrational and totally ineffective policy, does it not?

    In this scenario, of course, Macedonians do lose a lot; Greece CAN keep it out of the EU forever, and I have no illiusions that without a compromise it will do so. But Greece also loses a lot and gains nothing. It fails to get anything on its core demand. In addition, instead of a stable neighbour with which it could easily have friendly relations it produces a hostile country and blocks the EU expanding into the Balkans. Why is this a policy worth continuing?

    Is in not perhaps time for Greek diplomacy to do better than stubbornly pursue a policy that is obviously failing? 

    A compromise on the name of the country is the most that is conceivable, and still makes some sense, even if it seems bizar that it should happen as a result of a dictat by a nighbour – the geographic region of Macedonia is in fact divided today between Greece, Bulgaria and Greece. But to claim a monopoly on the adjective “Macedonian” as well is simply to say that the status quo is fine for Greece … no government in Skopje will ever accept this.

  11. No compromise name will be accepted by the Macedonian people, count on it. In the long-term, EU enlargement is probably in everyone’s best interests, but countries like Greece are ruled by oligarchs that need a constant “enemy” against which to run election campaigns, and this defines the professed national interest of the elite and the media. Greek political discourse is extremely petty, rude and primitive, and the behavior of Greece leading up to the current debt crisis proves what Greek loyalty to the EU really means. They cheat the EU out of billions, and no matter what, they still receive preferential treatment for their dysfunctional and hostile policies. Macedonia will never cease to exist, but the EU may cease to exist one day, as long as it plays these kinds of games with people’s lives.

  12. I would like to be civilised, constructive and short at the same time.
    I know it is very difficult, as emotions run high when discussing this issue of basic human rights of existence and self-determination.
    I don’t agree and find it insulting for somebody to call Macedonians “SlavoSkopians”.
    This is only showing how low their intelligence is, hence we cannot discuss any of this with reason. If we could, we would have resolved their problem long ago.
    And for God’s sake, put the history,Tito, VMRO and Alexander the great aside.
    Nobody knows, and certainly no amateur historian from any side of the dispute, can figure out what exactly has happened 60 years, 100 years or 2000 years ago.
    The simple fact that the people of the Republic of Macedonia, back in 1991, in a referendum chose to have a peaceful separation from what was Yugoslavia (where their Republic was called Socialistic Republic of Macedonia) and they decided to continue as Republic of Macedonia is only a natural choice and the way people felt and still feel about themselves.
    This is the highest reason of all that needs to be respected by all hot-heads, extremists, politicians, quasi-politicians, historians, do gooders…
    This is called the basic human right of self-determination and it is supposed to be Law No.1, at least today on the 21 century.
    Greece only recently (around 20 years ago) changed the name of it’s northern territory to Macedonia. But nobody from Republic of Macedonia objected to that. The first national flag chosen by the people of Republic of Macedonia was changed, due to pressure from Greece. Mind you, this was yellow star on a red background, similar to what was the flag of Socialistic Republic of Macedonia – yellow five-star on a red background. Even the constitution was changed adding clear statement that Republic of Macedonia doesn’t have any territorial pretensions to the Greece’s newly renamed region Macedonia. This was to show good will and peaceful neighbouring intentions to Greece.

    What else do you want?

    If Greece’s xenophobia (and I am sorry but there is no other word in my English vocabulary to describe their attitude to this problem of their making) is really about the world not giving enough “credit” to the Greece’s ownership of a historical name and geographical differentiation between Greece’s (newly renamed) northern territory to Macedonia – the solution is so simple and obvious – let Greece rename it’s northern territory to “Greek Macedonia”!

    Then, the Greeks will have their “own” Macedonia, both geographically (which is probably the most accurate description of the region today anyway, although we call it “Aegean Macedonia”), and if they wish they can have it historically. We have no problems with that.

    This is such a simple and a real solution – if Greeks really want a solution of THEIR “name dispute”!

    And trust me, Macedonians of the Republic of Macedonia will allow for this to happen, because really, they are supposed to be asked for approval (if we use the Greek logic).

    My fears, and everybody else’s living in Macedonia, is that – this is not the real problem Greeks want to solve.

    The real problem is much more mean and hidden in the Greek’s fascistic agenda to completely eradicate Macedonian nation, language and history.

    Well, my friends, no matter how civilised and understanding we are – this is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Not even for the price of Republic of Macedonia not getting in EU and NATO!

    Nobody in the world will agree to kill his dignity, identity, language and country in order to be accepted in a group of nations not as themselves, but as something new and forcibly changed.

    European Union has lost it’s core values only because allowed for a single vote to veto anything that is progressive and natural.


  13. Please keep in mind, that this are talks between both countries, not negotiations! They do the talks by international pressure, Greece does not want to recognize Macedonians, Macedonia will never change it name, which, let me say, exists even before 1991.
    During YU times, Greece had no problems to name the people and the state as Macedonia.

    As lons as no big player like the US or EU without GR forces a party to change its position, this issue will not be solved.

    Again: Greece has a problem, not Macedonia. They know whats their name. Greece has an identity problem!!!

  14. I’m just back from a week in Macedonia (FYROM).
    Nobody I met there had any other name to refer to their country fellows or to the (dominant) language than “Macedonian”. So Greece’s idea of having anything sounding Macedonian removed from the culture of this country is just a dream that even years of Ottoman and then Serbian control failed to achieve. As to the actual risks posed by Macedonian nationalism towards Macedonian Greece, it is simply non-existent.
    So I guess Macedonians will be able to compromise only about the external name of their country and that’s why the proposal put here sounds rather realistic. All the talk about the destruction of Slavic minorities in Greece and the historical expansionist agenda of Macedonian nationalism may have been true, but is simply useless for the future of the region and of the concerned countries

  15. – Macedonia applied for entering UN with its constitutional name, i.e. Republic of Macedonia, in a letter to the UN on Jan 22, 1993 (doc. No. s/25147)

    – Prior to the security council the prime minister protests to be named else than our constitutional name, and says “ the Republic of Macedonia will in no circumstances be prepared to accept the ”former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia” as the name of the country” in a letter to the Secretary General of the UN dated April 6th 1993 ( doc. No. s/25541)

    – In the resolution 817 of the UN Security council dated April 7th 1993, is written:
    The Security Council recommends to the General assembly that the state whose application is contained in Document s/25147 be admitted to membership in the UN….

    In the resolution adopted by the general assembly of the UN from April 27th 1993 ( un doc no 47/225) is written:
    – The General Assembly decides to admit the state whose application is contained in document A/47/876-S/25147 to membership in the UN…

    Please note that the state’s name in the application in in the document s/21475 is: Republic of Macedonia

    The fast that the general assembly decides that that member shall be PROVISIONALLY REFERRED TO WITHIN THE UN as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” does not mean by any standard that this country is accepted with that name..but only PROVISIONALLY REFFERED TO!

    It is plain to see the difference …only if proper investigative journalism took place, a mistake such as this one, can only be done if you have not researched enough, or the reporter is biased.

  16. ” People and leaders in Skopje might be prepared to make a concession on the name of the country, but only under one condition: that it ensures the country’s EU accession. ”

    In a word: people in Skoje are called Macedonians and they are not prepared to make any “concessions” so as to erfase themselves from the map in order to join some failed union.

    It is incredible that this European Union is defering to Greece’s racist policies — a coutnry which stole 450 BILLION euro and threatens to break apart the EU.

    Would you do away with the German nation if Greece demanded it to enter some club?! No more Germany tomorrow, but you are members of a union just because Greece wants that, imagine that.

  17. Dear Gerald,

    I will try to explain reasons for the “dispute” (I call it “the problem that Greece has with Macedonia”). I would stick to facts:

    Have you at all researched international law, conventions, agreements, etc?
    I am not an expert, but have read somewhere an article stating this:
    A country that possesses at least 5% of a region/territory, may choose the name of that region for its name if no other country has already taken that name. So, we have the Right to the name even lawfully, let alone justly. And yet, we do not object to Greece naming its northern part Macedonia.

    Now I also know this:
    1. Republic of Macedonia named itself in 1944. And that’s only because prior to this year it had been occupied for centuries, but the people always referred to themselves as Macedonians who live in Macedonia, only have no independent state. And they fought for it and won it.
    2. the region of North Greece was renamed to Macedonia in the 1980s. Prior to this, the name Macedonia was forbidden in Greece. Why?! It’s a matter of feelings connected to their “greatest enemy” in history – Phillip II of Macedon
    After WWII, they wanted to conduct ethnic cleansing. Most of the Macedonian people were either killed during the civil war, or deported to Uzbekistan, Poland, Romania, …. This was done behind the screen that they were “communists”. Their land and properties were seized and given (actually left to be taken by “turning the heads aside”) to Greek colonists who came to live there after Greece made an agreement to exchange population with Turkey.

    Remnants of this politics still persevere in Greece, as Macedonians still living there are not recognised as minority; our Macedonian language that they speak is forbidden – they suffer reprimands if they do (various administrative obstacles) –

    Bottom line, there are deeper reasons for the “dispute” than just the name; Greece would not stop at the name. They actually have had scenarios, in agreement with the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, to erase Republic of Macedonia from the map. And whilst at it, our ancestors, as close as our grandparents/parents, fought for this country and its name; and we will not change it for the prospective of becoming a member of any organisation. If that organisation doesn’t want us with our own name, why on Earth would we even want to be their members?

  18. To ChZG:

    Sir, you went to Macedonia, not to “FYROM”. The second word is meaningless and there is no country named as such. Please be appropriate in your discussion.

    A name is a name for external use so that others can call you what you are. There is no such a thing as “internal name” and “external name”. The idea is ridiculous on its face.

    Simply there is no compromise with our name and identity! The proopsal put forth here is neither sound nor realistic. It takes an unenforcable demand by Greece and pretends to give a process of its implementation.

    Rather than continue this charade, the right thing to do is face that Macedonian people and nation exist without any ifs or buts. Greece must face that there is a northern neighbor called Macedonia. That’s where the problem lies — in Greece — and that;s where the soplultions need to be directed.

  19. Very stupid, tendentious and non-realistic analysis.

    The Macedonians will NEVER change the name, not for any international organization like NATO, and least for the labile and nationalist European Union.

    As a commentator above said, they haven’t changed their name under 500 years slavery by the ottomans, and they will surely not change it and erase themselves just because a failed (EU member) state wanted.

    There is only one solution to this problem – everybody to admit the truth – that this greek “problem” is stupid and pure nonsense.

  20. The Macedonian question is just a means of the greek government to keep the greek people busy thinking of something else other then their national debt which estimates around 330 billion euros. After receiving the grant from the EU there was another estimate in the Greek media that Greece will need around 1200 billion euros total for a full economic recovery. I would reccomend to the greek people to pay more attention to what their government is doing regarding the economy of the country than bother with the affairs of their neighbours.

  21. “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

    Joseph Goebbels

    Now lets keep it really simple. There has been a lot of repeating of various views, thoughts, analyses and whatnots regarding this issue, that anybody without extensive expirience about this problem would be lost in the quagmire.

    So let’s put all the politics and history aside and focus on the problem. Greece feels intimately connected to the name Macedonia, and they have a region called Macedonia within their country. But unless Greece decides to change its name to Macedonia, I really don’t see how we have a problem at all.

    For example:

    1. Here’s a list of various cities called Paris:


    And nobody has a problem with that.

    2. There is a region in France called Bretagne (Brittany):


    And I don’t see GB or France blocking each other entering whichever multinational organization.

    3. There’s even a hotel in Athens called Grande Bretagne (Great Britain):


    So it appears even Greeks have absolutely no issues whatsoever regarding such nomenclature.

    So I believe our position should be such. Total refusal of any talks (or negotiations) on the matter. Absolutely ridding ourselves of that sad, sad reference name mentioned above. Even at the cost of our entering the EU and/or NATO. If Greece has a problem with our naming our country and ourselves Macedonia and Macedonians, then let it be their problem, not ours. And in the meantime pushing a large and aggressive diplomatic campaign and lobbying all over the world, promoting our stands and points of view.

    Sadly this is and has been beyond the capabilities of our politicians and diplomats (which we keep reelecting for some reason) for some time now. So the current position of the world (that gives a damn) toward this issue is pretty much reflected in this article. I guess the need for us to change the name of our country (nationality, language, etc.) has been repeated sufficient number of times to become a normal, everyday thing. As if the problem is shared, not unilateral.

  22. Greece is a country that blackmail, bribes, falsify history, to conceal cases of assimilation and genocide over the Macedonians (there are living witnesses of it), spending more than can earn, and take from other EU members because someone allowed … .
    Europe is a community which includes a country like Greece. Except that she is a member she is undeservedly respected, even spoiled. Keeping eyes shut in front of some facts makes Europe little bit similar to those who she tolerates.
    I am not sure what good for Republic of Macedonia is to be equal to such an EU member.
    I just want to say BRAVO to Zelenkovski Mihail!

  23. It seems that the European politician are trapped in another Greek lie. This problem will never be solved and the key for solution is in greek hands. Let me tell you something of those Greek “Macedonians” …someone here mentioned 2,5 million or sort of. From 1913 till 1930 about 2 million Minor Asia Greeks moved from turkey to the North Greece (respectably greek part of Macedonia). Those greeks were more known under the name Pontos and Karamanlidis. Now most of the macedonians, bulgarians,jews were expell from Greece in 1926 (there 2 agreement between greek government and Otomans as well as with Bulgaria- so called change population). Pontos natural place of living was in North Turkey (coast line on Black see) and Karamanlidis natural place of living was in Cappadokia (central Turkey). The very same people in just over 90 years become proud “MACEDONIANS”.how come???I supposed they make that claim to justify the land that was added to Greece and the fear is very big. There are huge documents about this. History is in my opinion contra productive for prosperity. Greece has to look at the future and to stop living in a fairy tails ….you are not…I repeat you are not the Ancient Greeks. Same goes for Macedonians…I repeat you are not…the Ancient Macedonians. And who cares after all if you are or not. In modern living where black people becomes Germans,French, British etc…nobody cares and is totally irrelevant where your ancestor come from. WE ARE ALL HUMANS.Leave the Ancient people to be exactly what had to be A HISTORY and nothing more. The word “Ancient” is putted there to make difference between modern nations and ancient civilizations. What Im deeply disappointed is the view of Greeks on this issue, since they are EU member state for almost 30 years. They should know better what means EU (free movement, no borders,respecting each other etc..etc…). By the way my name is Stefan Scole a Slovenian who has Greeks and Macedonians as my friends.

  24. ups …almost forgot. I like the purpose about the amendment if this mean a true solution for this issue.But I doubt it. How about changing the way of voting ..let say by majority decisions. But that is not gonna happened, because the real problem isn’t Greece…the real problem is finding polite way of stopping the enlargement in which two very powerful states are pretty much against (and this is not aimed against Macedonia–but to Turkey)

  25. Dear Mr. Scole, we would know quickly if this is only an excuse to hide behind by other EU members: if Macedonia were to follow our proposal, and Greece were to accept it, the Commission’s judgement that negotiations should start immediately (already made one year ago) would stand. There would then be no excuse left not to begin accession talks.

    A quick response to some of the many other (mainly Macedonian) writers here. Yes, by all means, it is your right to insist on Macedonia’s name. But in fact, currently, the official name of your country in the World Bank, the IMF, the UN and the EU is FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC of Macedonia. This must be one of the silliest names in history, and giving it up for REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA – VARDAR or some such in the same fora (the WB, the IMF, the UN, the EU) can hardly be called a defeat or a denial of one’s identity. There is nothing insulting in the second name.

    Note that in our proposal the idea of this name being used erga omnes internationally would enter into force the day Macedonia joins the EU and following a referendum on whether to join the EU. So then let a big national debate begin: whether to make this compromise or join a wider Union. Some of the people on this page might then argue against it. Others might think that the main priority is to make the Macedonian state-building project a success …. that little is gained in terms of national dignity if a country with more than 20 percent unemployment and a very low per capita income sees its best people emigrate or accept Bulgarian passports. But this debate would come then, and the choice would be real.

    What we propose is that for now, this debate need not take place. Until Macedonia really has a choice between full accession and this (painful) compromise, we do not see it embracing a change of the name. And the main reason is not only principled opposition but the uncertainty what all of this would mean for other issues: say, the name of the country changes to Republic of Macedonia Vardar tomorrow erga omnes. What guarantee is there for Macedonia that a future Greek government will not veto the opening of chapters in the EU negotiations 5 years from now? None.

    Note one more thing about our proposal. We only talk about the name of the country. Macedonia will not accept a change in the name of its language or the identity of its people. At the UN, for instance, under this proposal nothing will change: there the name of the people is today “citizens of the FYROM” and it will become “citizens of the Republic of Macedonia Vardar”, while the language which is today called Macedonian will still be called Macedonian then.

    Given all of this, I find it hard to see how a support for this proposal would be a step back for any proud citizens of Macedonia, even for those who in 8 years in a referendum on EU accession OR entering in force of the constitutional amendment would vote against the EU.

    It is the best possible deal which is also realistic. The alternative is continued isolation for one of the poorest countries in Europe, which deserves better.

  26. Dear Mr.Knaus,

    First of all I appreciate your effort in finding solution for this “stupid” problem. Your way of thinking are very similar with mine and that is finding solution and not going back and looking for the ones who created this at first place. But it seems to me that either you don’t understand or don’t want to understand the CORE of this problem. And it aint the name. Im very pessimist that this problem will be solve in the near future.The requirement of the Greeks are so radical that makes this problem unsolvable. Im very convince that even if the Macedonian government accept this purpose (just changing the name) the Greek side will refused and find out new additional requirements. Don’t believe me? Then try to speak with them. At the beginning was that putting the word “Macedonia” as part of the state name directly means that that poor,small country have territorial aspiration to one bigger NATO and EU member country. Sound absurd, don’t you think? but the greek argument was exactly this !!! The greek requirements for changing the personal identity in 21 Century are not unacceptable for every normal,moderate human individual …and not just to the “proud Macedonians”. Everyone has right to their self- identification ….a thing that is forgotten by the leading politician in EU. Why I think that someone is hiding behind Greece? How come the other world player USA,China,India, Canada, Russia has solved this problem?Im thinking logical …the leader of EU if they wanted they would probarly solved this stupid problem long time ago (and more recently when we gave to Greece big amount of money)….but here comes the political and for all most economical links with Greece in which Macedonia has no chance to compare. Who the hell wants small,poor country? Here comes your part as member of Think-Tank organization (if may say that) in which Im sorry but I think that your going to the wrong direction and you are speaking to the wrong partner. Try to communicate with Greek representatives and convince them to give up their insane demands regarding identity issue,solve their issue you got the problem solved ! And please when meeting with germans,austrians,french ect..ect…just try to explain the real CORE of the problem …that would be nice and helpful. You see even on your web portal you have option to translate on Croat,Serbian, Bosnian,Montenegrin but you don’t have Macedonian Language hmm I wonder why (though I know the answer).

    Bitte verstehen Sie dies nicht als eine persönliche Kritik sondern verstehen Sie es als eine Möglichkeit für einen Vorschlag zur Lösung dieses Problems für die Zukunft.

    Sie wie auch ich sind junge Menschen die den Balkan modernisiert und ohne Altlasten sehen wollen. Nur glaube ich, dass nicht die Mazedonier diesen Prozess bremsen sondern ein EU-Staat und das seit nahezu 30 Jahren.

  27. Dear Mr Scole,

    ESI has no problem at all with the Macedonian language – the reason we have no language button for “Macedonian” (or Slovenian) is simply that we have very few translations of any of our reports into those languages and nobody in our team who can write this language well enough. I speak the former Serbo-Croatian, as do many members of our team. As do most Macedonian-speakers, I noted.

    The serious question you raise is: what is the “core” of the problem? Would Athens be satisfied simply with a change of name? Or are the proposals more radical and cannot ever be satisfied? Is ESI wasting its time trying to find arguments that might persuade both sides?

    I am not sure we gain much by speculating what Greece (or Macedonia) “really wants”. The only way to find out is to negotiate. One reality is that most of the Greek population feels as strongly about this as does the population of Macedonia. So even those Greek politicians who want this solved yesterday rather than tomorrow, who in private conversation have no problems at all to refer to their neighbour as “Macedonia”, face real (political) constraints.

    Should Macedonians care about those? Perhaps not. But if they want to see a solution, they should.

    I know that many Macedonian politicians and citizens would in fact be prepared to accept a modification in the name of the country a la “Republic of Macedonia – Vardar” if this would end this dispute. There is nothing humilitating in accepting that indeed there is a part of geographic and historical Macedonia today in three different states, after all. Nor is there anything humilitating to refer to the (multiethnic) citizens of this state as the “citizens of the Republic of Macedonia – Vardar”: after all those citizens include Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, vlachs, Serbs, Roma, etc …

    What IS humiliating and unacceptable for everyone living in Macedonia is for Greece to go further: to press for a monopoly on the use of the adjective “Macedonian”. Clearly the only way one can refer to the language spoken by Macedonians in the Republic of Macedonia is as “Macedonian language”. There is only one Macedonian language in any case. And clearly the only way one can refer to the ethnic Macedonians (as opposed to citizens of the state) is as “Macedonians.” If, as the Greek argument on the name of the country implies, there are today three Macedonias (Vardar, Aegean and Pirin) then neither of them can have a monopoly on the use of the adjective either. So Macedonian wine can come from Monastir as well as from Thessaloniki. Will Greece accept this vital distinction? I am not sure. Perhaps you are right. I have signals – form talking to people in Greece – that suggest different answers. If you are right, then the conflict has already become unsolvable and will never be solved.

    Why, one might objective, is an outsider even trying to make such distinctions? Why bother? Why not simply do one of two things: either blame the whole conflict on one side (as many in the EU would agree, “it is clearly all Greek’s fault”); or say that both sides are typically Balkanic, behaving irrationally, and the whole conflict is hopeless as a result (“why do the Macedonians insist on provoking the Greeks by naming everything after Aleksander … does this not show that they are not interested in any solution either?”). The majority opinion in the EU today combines both of these things: to blame this unnecessary conflict all on Greece, only to note in the next sentence that what makes this unsolvable is the irrationality of both sides.

    So why care? Because the simple reality that we are both aware of is that the current stand-off threatens the interests of the whole region. We are dangerously close to people just giving up on the conflict altogether. That would mean that Macedonia faces an Armenian future: an isolated place, which will see even more of its citizens try to leave, with no external anchor. This is very bad for Macedonians, for Greeks and for the Balkans as a whole.

    In any case, perhaps this is all just a waste of time. Perhaps you are right, and both sides’ red lines are simply incompatible. Perhaps we all do better to deal with simple issues where the solution is clear, such as territorial disputes between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean, the Kurdish issue, or the stand-off between Kosovo and Serbia …

    I think it is premature to conclude this just yet.

  28. Dear Mr.Knaus,

    You write one very important sentence “One reality is that most of the Greek population feels as strongly about this as does the population of Macedonia”. But Im not seeing your or anyone from EU bother with this. Maybe it is time to do something about the changing that reality. Your views, thoughts and after all your purpose has find very easy way to be broadcast on Macedonian media (printed or electronic) but I have never ever heard anything about that on Greek media. I don’t know why is that but anyway it is also essential. Maybe it is time to try that one. Of course it is perfectly clear to me that greek people are working in various EU commissions, bodies etc..etc…and there influence is huge but if we want solution someone from EU have to do something in Greece.
    Mr.Knaus, bilateral problem can not be contrary to international norms and the right of self-identification, it is impossible. Let me remind you what is stated in UN UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
    Article 15.
    * (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
    * (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
    If we are solving the problems just by way of “political power” then we should forget all small countries and “small” people.
    Now, you give me an argument that Macedonia is a region in 3 different countries, which is true. But tell me what nationality are the people who are living in Greece (macedonian region). Are we calling them Greeks or Macedonians? Which nationality has all those people living in Pirin region? of course they are Greeks / Bulgarians.
    One Bavarian is German although he is living in the region with the name Baern.
    There is region in Belgium called Luxembourg and we have country Luxembourg
    The Greek part of Macedonia is only a region but in Rep.of Macedonia it is the name of the country and after all no Macedonian has say something against Greeks who are calling themselves Greek Macedonians.
    Or the Macedonian case is something special and this entire examples is not the same???? Very simple difference is Macedonian/Bulgarian/and Greek or Greek Macedonian.
    I find very difficult to swallow the idea of “citizens of the Republic of Macedonia – Vardar”. I can only imagine what one “Macedonian” will feel on some border where the custom officer ask him/her what nationality he/she is….the answer would be Im citizen of RoM-Vardar…ok,ok, but what nationality you have ….hmmmm well that’s it: my nationality is CITIZEN. Tell me what is wrong here? You have several employee in your office with various nationality ask someone from them what they will feel like if they don’t have a nationality and someone for example who is Turkish ….have to answer that his/her nationality is Citizen of Turkey. We are all citizens of some country….but those citizens has names…Germans,Austrians,Greeks,Australians…..

    The part about Alexander or the renaming the subjects, products, roads etc..etc….is so stupid that it doesn’t deserve my comment. But that hysteria also begin in Greece in the early 90’ties the Macedonians just play childish now.

    Now, about the reality. Yes your thoughts are right that probably will be isolation but mine are much further. I’m expecting in second part of 2011 to begin with shy “shooting” between Albanians and Macedonians because EU doesn’t want to solve this and in the end the high prize will be paid by some no names Albanians and Macedonians who don’t mean anything in Brussels bureaucracy ….it is nothing special just some few shed blood. Then it will come the big savoir from Brussels with a signing paper if he get lucky if not, I, you and every EU citizen will have to pay from our salary to some General (with 10 000 EUR monthly net salary) who will be at the tampon zone between Albanians and Macedonians …and here we go again days become months, months become year, year become years. (Bosna and Kosovo..still EU forces)
    The reality is that it is putted to the Macedonians exactly like this:
    1. Change your country name – Vardar,North,Upper,Skopje
    2. Change your identity to “Citizens”
    3. we will think about the language
    Then you can join us in rich EU where milk and honey are everywhere.

    And finally the reality is that like it or not, deliberately or not, consciously or unconsciously we the Europeans slowly but for sure are implicated the Fascist doctrine of the understanding of the word “nationalism”. see Fascism and the meaning of nationalism . And how do I know that? The very latest Report of the EU for the F.Y.R.M on 82 pages there are not a single word used like MACEDONIAN PEOPLE, MACEDONIAN LANGUAGE…instead it is stated people of FYRM, the state language and other dubious words !!! In comparison with the Report for Croatia ….there are at least 70 times used the word Croat or Croatian…Report of Albania ….over 80 times used the word Albanians and Albanian. Congratulation but for me which I deeply regret, the only difference between EU (today politic toward Macedonia) and Hitler are that EU are not putting them in Concentration camps! From today my wife’s parents who are Macedonians are officially CITIZENS with a STATE language.
    Maybe your organization is unfortunately putted in such a position that you are obligated to follow EU politic I don’t know, and personally I don’t blame you if is that the case…hey if I was a young person not connected with Macedonia I will never ever jeopardize my job to help some misery, small, poor country with a lot of Pride. The only difference that I would made is trying not to “preach” them that it is only the name…I will leave them alone in there’s dark future of isolation and unrest. At least by not “preaching” them I m not going to participate of the fascistic request of some Europeans.
    But if you still want to jeopardize your job just to help those Citizens look for the solution in solving the “nation” issue by Greek side…once you do that you got the problem solved. And you have many arguments about that with Greeks ..you are the one with the Asses in your hands.
    Best regards and who know maybe our roads will bring us to meet each other.
    Best regards,

  29. The greek position is very weak not because it doesn’t make any sense, but rather because it isn’t widely accepted. The M-words have been utilised by the yugoslavs and the international community to refer to the country and the people next to the border with Greece. The world has known the inhabitants of the southernmost part of ex-Yugoslav territory as Macedonians, and there can’t be a reversal of that. The history of the whole area is a very big text, too big for anyone to have a full command of or even bother to learn. You can’t expect the millions and millions of people who make up world public opinion to comprehend it. It is a reality Greeks must come to terms with. Just as the English can be called British (historically they aren’t- they are germanic Saxons), the French can be called French (their neighbours in Franken don’t seem to mind), the Canadians can be called that (they are not actually, as they are Europeans), so can Macedonians be called as such, regardless of the accuracy of the exonym.

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