Greece to pay

by Stavros Ligeros

(“Kathimerini”, 7 September, 2001)

The veil of silence being maintained in Athens on the issue of the name of the FYROM may suit the Simitis government but it is by no means sure that it serves our national interests. And the reason for this is that all the indications are that the final outcome will be unfavorable for Greece, whose interests will be lost in the whirlpool of the Albanian-Slav conflict. The current revision of the FYROM constitution was from a procedural point of view an opportunity to introduce a change of name, but Greek diplomacy has not only failed to fight the necessary battle, it has failed even to raise the subject. All through this period George Papandreou has sat passively and listened to western and Balkan officials refer in his presence to the country as Macedonia.

There can be no doubt that from the political point of view the circumstances are not propitious. The West believes that it should not ask the Macedonian Slavs to make concessions on the question of the name at a time when they are already being asked to make painful concessions to the Albanian Macedonians. In fact Athens has been subjected to pressure behind the scenes not only not to raise the question, but actually to recognize the FYROM as Macedonia, the argument being that this would strengthen the unity of the neighboring state and the stability of the region.

Bearing this in mind, President Traikovsky publicly sought of the West that it recognize his country as Macedonia as a form of counterbalance to the concessions being made to the Albanian Macedonians. The Foreign Minister in fact explicitly rejected any idea of compromise on a compound name. The talks at UN headquarters have long ago become bogged down owing to this intransigence.

The name may not be the major issue in our national life, but it is by no means insignificant. If the Simitis government believes it to be so, let it say so openly and accept responsibility. Instead of doing so it attempts to play down the importance of the problem, propounding the view that the crucial issue for our national interests is to avert the break-up of the FYROM and its absorption by Albania and Bulgaria. In fact, however, there is no question of this. There is, of course, prospect of partition into cantons, but this is a blow to the Macedonian Slavs, not to Greek interests. Athens, which foolishly placed all its eggs in the Macedonian Slav basket, is now called on to pay part of the bill. Someone has to accept responsibility for the way things have turned out. Instead of blithely whistling, the Minster of Foreign Affairs owes us an explanation of his policy.

 

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