Will we finally find a solution for the name dispute

Gjorgji Spasov

When Greece vetoed Macedonia’s entry into NATO at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, all hope and enthusiasm about achieving this goal were lost in Macedonia. In the wake of violated national pride, that same year, in the extraordinary general election, the nationalist force won in Macedonia. The economic situation worsened day by day due to the global financial crisis, and the authoritarian model of governance in the country was fostered. The government, although publicly claimed that it “did not deviate from the strategic goal of the country for NATO and EU membership,” began to turn towards “mother” Russia, which revealed that it could delay Macedonia’s entry into NATO and only by supporting authoritarian, nationalist and corrupt regimes in the Balkans.

Since then, talks on the name dispute with Greece under the auspices of the United Nations have been frozen, and Macedonia has been trying to find a way out of the Greek blockade.
First, Macedonia tried through a lawsuit before the International Court of Justice in The Hague to prove that Greece violates the interim agreement stating that Greece will not interfere with the membership of the “second party” of an agreement in international organizations under the provisional reference that secured entry at the UN. After this did not bring any result, despite the Court’s ruling in favor of Macedonia, as some analysts noted, Macedonia made a stupid mistake and decided to “hit where it hurt most” – its ancient pride and named monuments with figure from the ancient past to mark its territory in search of the ancient identity of the contemporary Macedonian nation. By doing so, Macedonia justified Greece’s fear over the name and made the dispute almost unsolvable.

This newly-created confusion about the “ancient identity of the contemporary Macedonian nation”, was used by Gruevski’s regime to raise the level of dispute over national identity and reinforced the claim that Greece’s goal is not only to reach compromise on a common solution to the differences around the name, but change the name of the national identity of all those who felt as Macedonian nationals in the Republic of Macedonia and who fought the battle for national identity long before the country was created after World War II.

In this sense, any intention or proposal to overcome the dispute by accepting a geographical reference was qualified as national treachery and hostile activity against its own people by the regime, while the regime secretly negotiated in the same exact way.
Many in Macedonia, in a state of hopelessness, felt that “time is on our side” and that sooner or later, Greece will realize that it has imposed a senseless dispute. There were allegations that “change of name must not be discussed” especially when 130 countries in the world recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name and we have established diplomatic relations under that name, that the majority of countries in the United Nations should only pass a resolution that terminates the importance of using the “temporary reference” after Macedonia joined the UN, and be only known as the Republic of Macedonia in the United Nations.

In the meantime, while Macedonia sent soldiers to NATO missions and received recommendations to start off negotiations for EU membership, Albania, Croatia and Montenegro were already members of NATO, and Serbia already had intense talks for joining the EU. Foreign investments and help from the EU in these countries were on the rise, as well as the level of security and standards. In an ethnically divided country like Macedonia, this created new kind of tension.

Many of us rightly felt that, in the past 10 years, some nationalist forces in Macedonia and Greece in even liked this “limbo” in relations because in time of Macedonia’s blockade to Euro-Atlantic integrations, the business of such elites, as well as crime, accompanied by corruption, took place without any particular problems. It was discovered later that during the construction of ancient monuments and landmarks in Macedonia, a great “patriotic robbery” took place.

But, with the change of power in Macedonia and the defeat of Gruevski’s authoritarian nationalist regime, new opportunities have been created in the country to solve this decade-long problem.

After the Agreement on good-neighborliness and friendship between Macedonia and Bulgaria, signed with the formulation “in Macedonian language according to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia and in Bulgarian according to the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria”, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Nikos Kotzias, in a conversation with the leader of the Macedonian opposition, stated that “Greece could be prepared to solve the name dispute according to the model of such an agreement”.

In order to reject the suspicion that Greece wanted to change the national identity of Macedonian citizens, Kotzias also stated: “I have never said the name dispute is related to language or other issues.” In fact, language, as part of a Slavic group of languages, is already being studied in more than 50 lectures at Universities around the world.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Macedonia, Nikola Dimitrov, when asked what could be a compromise on the differences over the name of the country, has repeatedly stated: “It will probably a solution that doesn’t completely please both countries.” They’ll probably insist on a geographical determinant in the current name, which will clearly indicate that the territory of the Republic of Macedonia is different from the region of Macedonia, although the word Republic is already making such a difference, and we will insist that, the decision does not jeopardize to our national identity. ”
Meanwhile, the media reminded us of the latest attempt to compromise given by the mediator in the name dispute, Ambassador Matthew Nimetz in 2013. http://prizma.birn.eu.com/

Public’s analysis of the unofficial document of what is acceptable and unacceptable to both Greece and Macedonia, it seems that the differences between the two sides are still very large and that Greece is far from being satisfied with an Agreement such as the one made with Bulgaria.

Macedonia, in the interest of resolving the imposed dispute, may also accept the current reference in international organizations “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” to be replaced by a permanent name in those organizations, such as the Upper Republic of Macedonia – and the short name Macedonia (upper) and in English Upper Republic of Macedonia, short name Macedonia (Upper). In fact, all Internet sites, even international sports competitions, mark Macedonia as Macedonia (FYR) and it doesn’t bother anyone. However, Greece’s attempt to erase the adjective “Macedonian” and prohibit it from use in language and nationality, even as Nimetz suggests “Macedonian-Makedonski, would be an introduction to a new Greek blockade of Macedonia. And if Greece doesn’t mind what is called the Hellenic Republic in the international communications of Greece, then it wouldn’t be logical to use our name in international organizations at home and change the Constitution, or change the treaties with countries that already recognized the country as the Republic of Macedonia.

The Macedonian new government is obviously prepared for a sensible dialogue and solution to the problem with Greece, despite the strong resistance that exists in the country. And it is a fact that, after the change of the authoritarian regime, Macedonia is no longer the “ticking bomb” in the Balkans, but a link that unites and a country that wants peace and cooperation in equal relations with all its neighbors. And it should be used by all those who want peace in the Balkans and the enlargement of NATO and the EU.