- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2007


Last week’s unfortunate incident in, of all places, the U.N. General Assembly, only underscores the provocative and intransigent attitude of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) toward a member of NATO and the European Union — its neighbor, Greece.

On Sept. 25, 2007, the president of the 62nd United Nations General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, a FYROM national, compromised the credibility of the U.N. General Assembly by introducing the president of his country, Branko Crvenkovksi, as the “president of the Republic of Macedonia.”

U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe stressed that within the United Nations, the secretary-general and the Secretariat use the name “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” as referred to in Security Council resolutions.

Stability in the Balkans is precisely what we should advocate, not only for the greater U.S. interests but because it serves the interests of every country in the Balkans. The continuing unresolved issue between Greece and the FYROM over the name of the latter contributes to potential instability.

Mr. Kerim’s action contravenes Security Council Resolutions 817 (1993) and 845 (1993), and the recommendations therein regarding the provisional name under which this state was unanimously admitted to the United Nations “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”

Mr. Kerim, has severely damaged his standing and credibility as president of the General Assembly of the United Nations as he did not respect the resolutions of the body over which presides, as well as of the Security Council of the United Nations, the organization he has been called upon to serve.

In addition, his actions further undermine the efforts pursued by the United Nations to facilitate the bilateral negotiations entered into by the two countries through the secretary-general’s special envoy, Matthew Nimetz, to seek a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue. Following this unfortunate incident, Mr. Nimetz said this “demonstrates why a permanent solution is needed.”

FYROM is the intransigent party in this regard, not Greece. Greece is the biggest investor in FYROM and literally helps to sustain FYROM’s precarious economy and reduce its large unemployment.

This latest action is only one in a series of such provocations. Unfortunately, the irresponsible decision by the United States in the fall of 2004 to recognize FYROM as the “Republic of Macedonia” has contributed greatly to FYROM’s increasing intransigence and has facilitated other Western countries — most recently, Canada — to follow this path. This is a disturbing trend.

If FYROM truly wants a solution and greater stability within its borders, it needs to first stop engaging in irredentist propaganda against Greece, which violates the U.N.-brokered Interim Accord, as stated in Article 7 paragraph 1 of the Accord, signed in New York on Sept. 13, 1995, between FYROM and Greece.

Over the years maps have also been distorted, FYROM has named its airport for Alexander the Great, revisionist textbooks have been provided in schools, and new generations in FYROM are encouraged to cultivate hostile sentiments toward Greece. Further, this continuing systematic government policy will hinder FYROM’s accession to both the European Union and NATO. This is the real threat to stability in the Balkans and by extension, U.S. interests there.

There is no unqualified universally accepted rule of international law that authorizes a state to name itself anything it wants. It is not proper for a country which is part of a region to define itself officially as representing the whole region.

The usage of “Macedonian” as a nationality was an invention of Marshal Josip Broz Tito in 1944. Tito, the communist dictator of Yugoslavia, created a false “Macedonian” ethnic consciousness among his south Slavic citizens for a number of reasons, including his campaign against Greece to gain control of Greece’s province of Macedonia and the main prize of the major port city of Thessaloniki. Until Tito changed the name, this province was named Vardar Banovina.

U.S. policy then opposed use of the name Macedonia as a threat to Greece stated in a Circular Airgram on Dec. 26, 1944, by Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius Jr.

The United States today has at its disposal the influence to bring to bear persuasive arguments upon FYROM to resolve this longstanding issue that, unresolved, compromises U.S. interests in the region.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns, after a meeting in New York with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, stressed Sept. 24 “the time has come for progress on the FYROM name issue… this is our message to Skopje, and the spirit of our meeting today with the foreign minister. … We wish to exercise our influence and urge Skopje, as we do with Athens, that the time has come for progress.

This comment is welcome. But the question remains: Will the United States apply its political will, which is essential for real progress?

Nick Larigakis is executive director of the American Hellenic Institute.

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