(Kathimerini, June 13, 2001)
Since the break-up of United Yugoslavia in1991 FYROMs territorial integrity and stability has been bound up with the maintenance of the Status Quo produced in the region by the 1913 Bucharest Treaty which ended the Second Balkan War. The status quo was re-established with the Treaty of Neigy in 1919 and the re-establishment of Yugoslavia as a federation in 1944.
For decades the map drawn up in Bucharest in 1913 constituted the common denominator in Athens-Belgrade vital interests in spite of occasional friction between the two sides and irrespective of any changes in regime. The natural, geographical, North-South axis of the Balkans was a defining factor in Greek-Yugoslav relations in both pre-war and post-war periods.
If, in one way or another, FYROM ceases to be a united country, in other words if it turns into a loose confederation with one part orienting itself towards Albania and Kosovo and the other, sooner or later, towards Bulgaria, then the 1913 status quo will, in effect, disintegrate, although the unity of the country may still be preserved on paper.
Even this mild form of revision of the Balkan map will rock any remaining stability in the region. With the countries of Southeastern Europe beyond the real extent of EU and NATO enlargement, and lack of available funds meaning that grandiose plans for reconstruction and re-organization fail to act as a stabilizing force counterbalancing nationalism, the region is certain to be the black hole in European stability for decades to come.
Proposals for changes in the map of the region need to be assessed with these findings in mind. Such proposals are voiced with increasing frequency, the most typical examples being Lord Owens article in the Wall Street Journal and the recent statement of opinion issued by the Skopje Academy of Science.
The unity of ethnically homogenous states seen as a guarantee of stability and in whose name the revision of the Balkan map has been proposed, does not constitute a solution for the region. On the contrary, it will let loose all sorts of troubles, as the collapse of the 1913 status quo in combination with the Great Powers unwillingness to act will ensnare the region in the worst instability for centuries.
It is clear that in FYROM something much more significant than a politically correct approach to the question of minorities is at stake; the geopolitical stabilizing forces of almost a century.