Are the current Prime ministers Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev and their government teams and intellectual elites of Greece and Macedonia write a new history. Or, there will be another historical incident that will confirm that the two neighboring Balkan states do not have a human, democratic or European capacity to find a mutually acceptable solution that will unblock Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integrations and determine the future of the young democratic state and two million citizens in the European family, where they both geographically and politically belong.
If we judge just by the animosity of what is seen and especially from what is not seen and reaching out to the public, the impression is that the chances are great for burying the hatchet and removing a heavy burden that the policy of daily needs on both sides turned it into an unsolvable problem for nearly three decades.
There are many arguments “for” and doubts “against” that it is (not) a matter of acting before the international community that the two sides are ready for compromise and establishing mutual trust that leads to good-neighborliness and close relations. After the change of power in Macedonia and return of the democratic processes, both Brussels and Greece have faced the reality that Macedonia, a long-standing candidate for EU and NATO membership, will no longer be the guilty and preventer to start negotiations with the EU. On the other hand, the knowledge in Macedonia that without a compromise with Greece will precisely mark the geographical term Macedonia and will not threaten the identity of the Macedonian nation, membership in NATO or the EU are not possible, which will prevent the development and perspective of the Republic of Macedonia. It is already clear to everyone that the factor of time in this dispute goes against Macedonia. Greece has nothing to lose from the imposed dispute, while Macedonia has a lot to lose. Nine years ago, along with Croatia, Macedonia would have become a member of NATO, and a member of the EU five years ago. There is still no calculation of the damage from this loss.
Of course, Brussels is not at all concerned with the EU’s protectionism, and says that those are the rules in the Premier League, while the United States never have to even justify their aggressiveness, let alone their indifference. They don’t even have to explain their interests. Who has not learned this should not bother with politics.
This time, the cards in the Balkans are arranged in much more favorable conditions. First, in both countries, there are intensified processes that strengthen the positions of political leaders, although they run a risky and thin majority coalition. Greece is emerging from the economic crisis, and Macedonia is entering a post-independence democracy, the rule of law, and clearing up crime and corruption. America, Russia and China have increased their interest in the Balkans, and the EU has paid more attention to the future of the entire region. The improvement of Macedonia’s relations with Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia and Kosovo and the excellent relations with Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Romania and the presidency of Bulgaria with the EU are good signs on Macedonia’s path to Europe. This is also shown by carefully cited statements by the Prime Ministers Zaev and Tsipras and the foreign ministers Kotzias and Dimitrov regarding the constitutional name of Macedonia and what are being “slaughtered” behind closed doors of the United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz. For the first time since the name dispute has been imposed, the general impression is that the two countries are closest to the solution at the moment, with one saying quite a threatening and dramatic addition that if this time a mutually acceptable solution is not found, it will not happen in the near future, thus sealing the Europeanization of the Republic of Macedonia in the longer term.
However, the suspicions that this time as well nothing is not without foundation. Not only because of the chauvinists and nationalists on both sides who are very strong and powerful and who conspire hard stands that there is no compromise, that is, the term Macedonia must in no way be held in the name of the northern neighbor, and on the other hand that neither a communiqué it may be changed in the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, which would automatically mean that there is no solution. Those who are well aware of the history of the relations between the two countries and the two peoples in a coarse time period, I would say for centuries, are deeply convinced that the historical and hardship of hatred and intolerance are so great and difficult that if there is indeed some kind of obedience to Prime Ministers Tsipras and Zaev and their government teams for a historic step then make sure the obstructions in the church, in parliaments, in the presidential offices of the heads of state, in various intellectual, writers’ and scientific associations, will be so strong that as soon as the conditions for compromise begin to be announced, the first thing will be that it will accumulate all the good intentions and hopes that can be done something more.
What seems acceptable and fair to one, to others is heresy. Here’s how it would look like with a specific example. Put simply hypothetically, even if the two governments accept geographical determinant such as New Macedonia, Northern Macedonia, Upper Macedonia, as the most frequently mentioned names in the last auction. If they leave it on that, it may somehow pass in the Republic of Macedonia, which I do not think it would be possible in the Republic of Greece. If conditions are to be ‘erga omnes’, for all uses, to change the Constitution of Macedonia, the Macedonians themselves to be called new Macedonians, or Macedonians who are Upper or Lower Macedonians, their language to be a Upper Macedonian or New Macedonian, then no solution is possible even without referendums. And, with a referendum, such a proposal would be disastrous and would mark the end of a democratic government and a return to the regime of a big door. These are the realities that must be taken into account when determining a mutually acceptable solution, no matter how favorable the climate is at this moment.