(Not) sorry for “Alexander the Great”

Aleksandra M. Mitevska

With the decision to rename the Skopje airport and the new highway to Greece, the Macedonian government made the first more specific steps to catch, probably, the last train to bring the country on the tracks leading to Brussels.
The move made by the cabinet of Zoran Zaev is actually inversely proportional to one of the first moves made by the previous ruling line, shortly after the change of power in 2006, when it gave the known name “Alexander the Great” to the modest facility in Petrovec, which was then called “Skopje Airport”. This was actually the turning point for the cooling of relations with the southern neighbor and for further complicating the dispute, which then came out as the main barricade for the integration processes of the country, before other criteria became even worse.

The change of the name of the airport, behind the veil of the alleged great concern for preserving the constitutional name of the state and the identity of the nation, was in fact an overture in the so-called ” an antiquation policy that was officially carried out by the previous head of government, thus infecting the entire Macedonian “patriotic tissue”. While the nation lived in the era of mythologization of the ancient warrior, in honor of which monuments were erected and other objects were named, once the great ideals for the Europeanization of the state were suppressed in the background.

Unlike the loud and aggressive campaign to celebrate the ancient past in this region, which lasted for almost a decade, the latest major decision of the current government was fast-paced and was generally welcomed quietly and without much publicity. As if no one was shocked that the airport, which in the meantime received a very semi-luxurious look, lost the epithet of “greatness” overnight, which stood in its name. As if no one is excited excessively because the route leading to the Aegean Sea has been left without the surname “Macedonian”, obtaining the symbolic name “Friendship”.

Decisions and theses announced by the Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, including the announcement that it is an acceptable geographical determinant for him – whatever that may seem at first glance, may seem dangerous and delicate, given the sensitivity of a large part of the Macedonians when it comes to for the glorious past and for the “names”. But Zaev’s cabinet, however, made a bold move. It is in fact in the direction of leaving history, especially that distant one, where it belongs and the state to turn to the present and the gray reality. But also to try to fix its own future.

Time will show whether Zaev made the right move with the concessions that he practically made to the benefit of the other party in the name negotiations which, in turn, apparently intensified to the maximum in the last months. Time will also show if this “sacrifice” was worth it and if official Athens and the international community appreciate it.
However, the Prime Minister’s commitment to concessions and to making brave moves should be appreciated. If not for the sake of it, at least because he deliberately puts his personal rating, as well as the whole government’s rating in line, he is probably aware that it is a bet in overcoming the dispute that burdens the Euro-Atlantic perspectives of the state. Because if we miss the chance to get a date for EU membership negotiations and an invitation to join NATO this time, who knows if there will ever be another chance. After all, the entire reform movement that is being undertaken at the moment is for this purpose.
After nearly a decade of stagnation and going backwards, in the accomplishment of the Macedonian strategic goals, the “flight” in that direction obviously begins again from where it stopped – from the runways at the Skopje airport. In doing so, politically and diplomatically, Brussels is still a very distant destination for our country. The Macedonian state-political top will have to enter even more diplomatic battles before the final line of the long-standing dispute with Greece begins to loosen, and then reach the starting position for full membership in NATO and the European Union.