Red lines fading

(‘Stavors Lygeros 9 October, 2008)
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by Stavors Lygeros

The latest proposal by United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz should be judged on the basis of a single criterion: Does it negate the Slav-Macedonians’ effort to monopolize the Macedonian identity and legitimize a claim to the whole of Macedonia? The proposed “Republic of Northern Macedonia” is a compound name with a geographical determinant. As opposed to Upper Macedonia, however, it has the serious drawback of semiotically referring to a dismembered homeland, along the lines of Korea, or as Vietnam was.

The most important aspect is that Republic of Northern Macedonia will be used only at international organizations. This crosses the “red line,” namely that the final name must be obligatory in all uses. By proposing a double name, the mediator has violated the instructions of the Security Council for a mutually acceptable single name, not one to be used by international organizations alone. Calling on our neighbor to be recognized by this compound name guarantees nothing, since this does not bind third countries. This means that if Nimetz’s formula is accepted, Greek diplomats will have to appeal to third countries to adopt the new compound name in bilateral relations with Skopje. In other words, instead of getting rid of the problem they will have to expend precious diplomatic capital.

Nimetz is also promoting the term “Macedonian” to describe the language and, indirectly but clearly, ethnicity. This serves to legitimize the claims on the Whole (the Macedonian identity) and the Part (Slav-Macedonians). Despite this, the government is planning to use the proposal as a basis for talks. Some of its members have a superficial view of what is at stake and are trying to push aside rather than resolve the problem. This haste to do away with the problem will keep it alive. And this at a time when Greece has the political advantage in holding the key to Skopje’s NATO accession. This places our neighbors in a dilemma: They either stick to the fantasy of a “Greater Macedonia” or join NATO, with all that this entails for their survival.

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