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Greece is no bully

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The column "A name to reckon with" (Commentary, May 4) suggests the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is a small, innocent country being bullied by Greece. Not so - Greece largely sustains FYROM's economy by virtue of being the largest investor and providing almost 26,000 jobs.

Didn't FYROM choose to name itself in the most provocative way possible? Is it proper for a country, which is part of a region, to define itself in an official manner as representing the whole region?

Didn't Yugoslav communist dictator Josip Broz Tito change this region from Vardar Banovina to Macedonia in 1944 to create a false Macedonian ethnic consciousness for numerous reasons, including his campaign against Greece?

Doesn't FYROM continue to provoke Greece by distorting maps, naming its airport after Alexander the Great, printing revisionist schoolbooks and allowing inflammatory comments to be made by government officials, all of which encourage new generations to cultivate hostile sentiments against Greece?

In February, I attended a discussion at the German Marshall Fund featuring FYROM's foreign minister. I asked him to explain how his government reconciles these provocative actions. He declined to offer any defense to my assertions.

Before the summit, Greece accepted proposals from United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz as a basis for discussion, whereas FYROM didn't.

The United States has important interests in Southeastern Europe that are dependent on regional stability. Therefore, the United States has an important stake in fostering good relations among countries in the region.

However, the continuing intransigent and provocative actions by FYROM against Greece can destabilize the Balkans, to the detriment of U.S. interests.

The column states that "all other NATO members supported [FYROM's] admission into the alliance." This is false.

It's significant that Greece was supported by France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Also, the Netherlands and Belgium viewed with understanding Greece's arguments.

Greece is prepared to negotiate under U.N. auspices. The United States can use its influence to bring proper pressure on FYROM to negotiate in a good-faith manner that satisfies both countries and to cease its provocative actions against Greece. Only in this way will the interests of all parties be satisfied.

NICK LARIGAKIS

Executive director

American Hellenic Institute

Washington