Cartoon: Oh, the Macedonia Naming Issue

[Policy.mk regularly publishes cartoons by Petar Jankov, a former musician and a renowned Macedonian cartoon artist.]

Much has been written about the Macedonian naming dispute. We propose this entry by CRPM’s president Zhidas Daskalvoski for a comprehensive overview of the dispute.

This week’s cartoon is inspired by the awkward reality Macedonia faces: the necessity of achieving a compromise for the name, has become an inevitable factor for its Euro-Atlantic integration.

[click on the image for full size]

What Is in a Name? The Macedonian Issue at Hand

[by Zhidas Daskalovski, PhD, CRPM President, originally published in European Union Foreign Affairs Journal, N 1/2010 (March 2010)]

In October, 2009, the European Commission recommended opening negotiations for membership with Macedonia, the southernmost for-mer Yugoslav republic. As at the 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest NATO leaders refused Macedonia an invitation to join the alliance after Greece de facto vetoed the decision in a dispute over the repub-lic‘s name, it is not clear when, or if, EU membership negotiations would start. The NATO blockade was made although Greece was obliged by the Interim Agreement signed with Macedonia under the auspices of the UN in 1995 not to block the admission of its northern neighbor to international organizations if it was to apply under the temporary reference used within the UN. The basic dispute between the Greeks and Macedonians concerns which nation may properly use the term ―Macedonia.‖ In a dubious legal procedure Macedonia was admitted to UN membership in April 1993 by the General Assembly Resolution 47/225 (1993), under the provision that it be “provisionally referred to for all purposes within the United Nations as the former Yugos-lav Republic of Macedonia, pending settlement of the difference that has arisen over the name of the State.” Macedonian governments have since committed to adhere to a UN process to discuss a possible solution to the “name dispute‖ although the additional conditions related to the name of the state constitute violations of the Article 4(1) of the UN Charter as interpreted by the Advisory opinion of ICJ, of 28 May, 1948, accepted by the General Assembly Resolu-tion 197/III of 1948).
The U.N. negotiator, Matthew Nimetz, is trying to reach an agreement and has made various recommendations to the parties involved. Athens insists Macedonia add a ‗qualifier‘ to its constitutional name to differentiate the country from the northern province of Greece bearing the same name. To most Greeks the use of the term ―Macedonia‖ – the name of an ancient kingdom ruled most famously by Alexander the Great and encompassing most of the Helle-nistic world – violates the national narrative of Greece and seems to imply an entitlement to the entire legacy (and even geography) of historic Macedonia. The Greeks feel their identity and historical and cultural legitimacy is questioned. Macedonians argue that the right to eth-nicity, nationality and to identity is a fundamental principle of international law, a central te-net of the international order. Macedonian citizens instinctively know what is at stake, a ma-jority consistently opting against changes of the name even if NATO membership is at stake at various polls conducted since 2008.
For Macedonia, the very future of the republic is dependent on successfully resolving this issue as the local Albanians might become restive watching the state of Albania, already a member of NATO, move forward with European integration. If the EU sides with the Greek position it will amount to declaring the Copenhagen Criteria are not important for the acces-sion of Macedonia to EU, that the most important factor is an additional criterion that has nothing to do with democracy or rule of law. The public opinion will turn against EU. Natio-nalism and ethnocentrism will be on the rise. As a result this or any subsequent Macedonian government will not have much incentive to continue the needed reforms. On the other hand, the leverage of EU on Macedonian politics will decrease. What is more important, the possi-bilities for further soft mediation of Macedonian-Albanian political disputes will diminish. Macedonian nationalism will grow but so will the ethnic Albanian one. Radicals among the Albanians have anyways been encouraged by the recent declaration and recognition of Koso-vo‘s independence. Supporting the Greek position signals to nationalists around the Balkans that Macedonia is not yet a ―normal‖ country, a state that has a secure and prosperous future in the EU. With Kosovo‘s independence, Bosnia-Herzegovina‘s problems and Serbia‘s objec-tions already complicating Balkan realities the EU does not need another crisis. Macedonian stability, which brought this country a remarkable freedom of press, is crucial as any new con-flict there could cause a wider conflict including Bulgaria, Turkey, and Albania.

Untying the Macedonian knot

[by Zhidas Daskalovski, PhD, CRPM President, originally published in the European Voice, 10.12.2009]

A proposal good enough to end the dispute over the name of the ‘former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia’?
In October the European Commission recommended opening negotiations for EU membership with Macedonia; it now seems that the EU’s leaders will not decide on opening talks until next year (“Greece blocks Macedonia talks”, EuropeanVoice.com, 8 December).

As in 2008, when NATO leaders refused to invite Macedonia to join the alliance, Macedonia’s integration into the EU is, de facto, being vetoed by Greece and its demand that Macedonia add a ‘qualifier’ to its constitutional name – the Republic of Macedonia – to differentiate the country from the northern province of Greece that bears the same name.

The temporary (and legally dubious) solution that the UN coined when it admitted Macedonia “as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” is no longer adequate as a means for the international community to circumvent this bilateral dispute.

There is a compromise solution that the UN mediator has not put forward and that would respect the concerns of both sides.

First, though, what are those concerns? To most Greeks, use of the term ‘Macedonia’ – the name of an ancient kingdom ruled most famously by Alexander the Great – violates Greece’s national narrative and seems to imply an entitlement to the legacy (and even geography) of historical Macedonia.

For their part, Macedonians argue that the right to ethnicity, nationality and identity is a fundamental principle of international law.

The solution would be for the country to be known internationally as the Republic of Makedonija. This is a name of Slavic origin and how Macedonians refer to their country in their own language.

Greece would be left with the name ‘Macedonia’, which it could use for the northernmost region of the country and, indirectly, to invoke ancient Macedon. A declaration in which the Republic of Makedonija would acknowledge that ancient Macedonia is part of Greece’s historical legacy could reinforce the agreement.

Makedonijans could co-exist along Greek Macedonians. Both governments could claim victory, one having won international recognition under basically the same name as in the constitution, the other having protected the Macedonian-ness of Greece’s history and present.

This is more than a matter of gaining membership of the EU and NATO – Macedonia’s very future depends on a resolution.

If the EU sides with Greece, it would in effect be declaring that the Copenhagen criteria for EU membership are not important in Macedonia’s case and that the most important factor is an additional criterion unrelated to democracy or the rule of law. Public opinion would turn against the EU in Macedonia. As a result, no Macedonian government would have much incentive to continue with reforms demanded by the EU. The EU’s leverage would decrease. More importantly, the possibilities for further soft mediation by the EU in Macedonian-Albanian political disputes would diminish.

Macedonian nationalism might grow, while Macedonia’s large ethnic-Albanian minority might become restive watching the state of Albania, already a member of NATO, move forward with EU integration. Ethnic-Albanian nationalism is already being encouraged by Kosovo’s independence.

The EU does not need another crisis. The EU needs to apply more pressure to end this dangerous dispute. An option is available.