Decontamination of the awareness of the name issue

Gjorgji Spasov

In early 2006, after Macedonia received the status of a candidate for EU membership on a proposal by Tony Blair, I had a chance meeting in London with the then Greek ambassador to the United States, Alexandros Mallias. During that meeting he mentioned that he “has a solution to the name dispute” and that Greece has a proposal that he believes Macedonia should not refuse. He said: “We propose a name that you have already chosen and the way you have named your country on the road signs for entering Macedonia from Greece.” The signs were then written in Macedonian language and said “Republika Makedonija” with the Latin transcription of the name “Republic of Macedonia”. I sent a telegram to the MFA about the conversation on that accidental meeting, which seemed interesting to me and soon it was announced in the Macedonian media that there was such a proposal, but that it is completely unacceptable for the Macedonian government because, if we accept it for communication with the world, we will no longer be (in English) Macedonia, but Makedonija.

Although I was not involved in the name talks, I assumed that the Greek proposal was: to achieve the “erga omnes”, by writing in our Constitution: “The constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia” in communication with the world will be used with its Latin transcription “Republika Makedonija”. The language of the nation is “Makedonski”, the nation “makedonska”, and the country code MK or MKD.

I recalled this in the past few days, when some media stated that among the set of ideas that Nimetz offered to discuss as the basis for finding a solution to the dispute are those with a Latin transcription of the name Republika Makedonija , the language Makedonski and the nation Macedonska. This time in the set of ideas for finding a solution, in addition to the Latin transcription, a geographical determinant is included such as Northern, Upper or Vardarska.

Despite the unfounded fears among many citizens of Macedonia that any addition to the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, and even its naming in the world with our Latin transcription, without the addition, such as Republika Makedonija, would lead to the endangerment of the Macedonian national identity, I completely agree with the assertion of Ambassador Nimetz, who said: With my set of ideas for resolving the dispute, “I do not interfere with the identity of the state, yet strengthen it. You have a strong identity of the state and the people. You have been independent for 25 years. But you also had identity when you were in Yugoslavia, and when you were part of the Kingdom of Serbia and the Ottoman Empire. In my opinion, the identity of people is safe and I truly believe that with my ideas it is even more strengthened and more secure. “
Against this assertion of Ambassador Nimetz and the expressed optimism from the governments of Greece and Macedonia that the dispute over the name dispute can be resolved in the interest of both nations and states, politics must take into account the high level of contamination of public opinion in both countries.

For instance, the Greek newspaper “Proto Thema” recently published a survey according to which seven out of ten Greeks are opposed to allowing our country to include the word Macedonia in its name. Numerous public opinion polls in Macedonia also show that 70 percent of citizens with Macedonian ethnicity are against any change in the name or acceptance of a geographical or time determinant in it. External and internal factors that stimulate resistance to find a solution to this dispute. Turkey, for example, supports the Euro-Atlantic integration of Macedonia, but believes that “Macedonia should not give in because Greece is wrong.” On the other hand, Russia, which does not approve Macedonia’s membership in NATO, advised Greece that it should not give in to resolving this dispute. According to Lavrov, Macedonia should make concessions because it wants to be a NATO member, and Russia will accept only a name that will be introduced in the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, for which the change requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

The protests of the nationalists in both countries and in the diaspora, who do not give what is not theirs only, are activated, and in Macedonia some of the loudest in the “defense of the name” like Stefan Vlahov Micov, Janko Bacev and “Tvrdokorni”, who have entered the Parliament and made an attempt to murder Zaev , are forming a pro-Russian party “United Macedonia” which “will advocate a radical turn in Macedonian politics by withdrawing the acts for Macedonia’s admission to NATO and EU and requesting Macedonia’s membership in the Eurasian economic union and strategic partnership with Russia. ”

It is new, however, that the protests taking place in Greece and partly in Macedonia are not publicly supported by any of the leading political parties. And the latest is that both countries have governments and prime ministers that express their willingness to come to a solution to this decades-long dispute.

Both prime ministers are bravely engaged against the dominant stream in the public opinion and show leadership that, as always with great civilizational changes, will form and not only monitor public opinion in the realization of the interests of its country. In this sense is the statement of the Prime Minister of Greece Tsipras who says: “I am a brave man who will solve this issue, regardless of how much I will lose later on the political plan. And Prime Minister Zaev declares: Life has taught me that in order to have a solution, there should be concessions from both sides, but a solution should be if we are courageous enough and patronizing towards our countries and enough to look at the prospects and the future, we take responsibility and resolve this.

And the mediator in the talks, Ambassador Matthew Nimetz expresses great hope for resolving the dispute, and Prime Ministers Zaev and Tsipras also lead in the preparation of the opposition and the churches to resolve the decades-long dispute of general satisfaction.

However, it will have to be approached much more seriously in preparing public opinion in both countries for accepting a possible solution and decontamination of awareness from nationalist pollution to those for which Thessaloniki mayor Yiannis Boutaris will declare: “People are very poorly informed and imagine various things.”