Archive | Macedonia

The Day a #Yugoslavia Hashtag Saved the World

NOVANEWS

3423123123There’s a message and a hashtag on Twitter these days that should become the biggest meme ever. If only Yugoslavia and our world could be put back together again with a damages trial against NATO, that would be poetic justice. Unfortunately, I doubt social media will turn on its ear over a court case being built against the perpetrators of forgotten war crimes from the Bill Clinton presidency – But I can dream.

Back in February of 2016 I wrote a story about Yugoslavia and an alternative future we’d be experiencing had my country and its European puppet states destroyed that key nation. The storyline was widely cited and controversial to an extent, owing to the opinions of those from the newly established countries where Yugoslavia once stood. That report was about the loss to the peoples of those nations when a potential world power was vanished by outside forces. It said very little for the deep humanitarian scars though. When Bill Clinton authorized the destruction of the cement that held together the middle of Europe, he created a never-ending nightmare that needs to be felt. Now an international legal team has set out to get justice over NATO’s use of depleted uranium munitions, and the cancer related death and illness rising across that region since 1999.

According to these lawyers, as much as 15 tons of depleted uranium ammunition from various weapons systems deployed by NATO was used, and especially in Serbia. According to the RT report on the case, Srdjan Aleksic, is a Serbian lawyer who leads the legal team formed by the Serbian Royal Academy of Scientists and Artists, that includes lawyers from the EU, Russia, China and India. They contend that more than 30,000 people have fallen sick from exposure to the munitions in this year alone. I’ll address the munitions issue in a moment, but right here I’d like to strike the same chord I did in my earlier report on Yugoslavia by quoting award winning author of 23 books, Dr. Michael Parenti, who’s an American political scientist, political economist, and historian:

“The dismemberment and mutilation of Yugoslavia was part of a concerted policy initiated by the United States and the other Western powers in 1989. Yugoslavia was the one country in Eastern Europe that would not voluntarily overthrow what remained of its socialist system and install a free-market economic order. In fact, Yugoslavs were proud of their postwar economic development and of their independence from both the Warsaw Pact and NATO.”

My father was the Attorney General of the US state of Georgia for a time, and a constitutional lawyer, and advisor to both LBJ and Nixon. I know he would make use of this assertion by Parenti in order to establish “intent”, or in courtroom rhetoric he might say; “It goes toward establishing the intent to commit a crime, your honor”. If there were a jury present, the use of the term “mutilation” would be repeatedly drummed in, in order that the real judges might discern damages. But I digress, this is a civil liability matter amplified by a criminal act.

Wikipedia’s entry about the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia contains a photograph from an exhibit where there are three depleted uranium ordinance are on public display. There’s also a map showing the sites in Kosovo and western Serbia where these munitions were used. But that’s Wikipedia, and nobody uses Wikipedia as a viable source. So, this Le Monde diplomatique piece by Robert James Parsons is a better starting point for my report. His detailed assessment includes the allegation that investigators searching evidence of depleted uranium ordinance in Kosovo were impeded by NATO operators during their searches. For the reader, in March and April of 2001, UNEP and the World Health Organisation (WHO) published reports on the use of DU in the region based largely on investigators work on the ground, and work which was tightly supervised by NATO troops. The short version for this new legal team perhaps, is that NATO could easily have diverted investigators away from the worst areas of DU use, and probably did. Parsons’ various reports strike deep into the heart of the Serbia-Yugoslavia war crimes. Depleted uranium ordinance use in the Balkans and especially in Afghanistan are a legal time bomb about to explode. Hundreds of thousands of people may have turned themselves into internally radiated toxic waste carriers because of inhaling the dust from these munitions. I won’t go deep into Parsons’ research, but I was struck by his mentioning a US munitions factory that may have been the source of the weapons used in Yugoslavia:

“In a French TV documentary on Canal+ in January 2001 (7), a team of researchers presented the results of an investigation into a gaseous diffusion — recycling — plant in Paducah, Kentucky, US. According to the lawyer for 100,000 plaintiffs, who are past and present plant employees, they were contaminated because of flagrant non-compliance with basic safety standards; the entire plant is irrevocably contaminated, as is everything it produces. The documentary claimed that the DU in the missiles that were dropped on Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq is likely to be a product of this plant.”

The work of Parsons and other experts points to the United States of America using Iraq and other crisis areas for testing horrible weapons. The ramifications are staggering, if I am honest here. As an American and a veteran, having my belief system rebooted is not a comfortable exercise. Following the course the aforementioned researchers did, I’m led to a disturbing possibility, that the United States may have used depleted uranium not just for 30 mm and 120 mm armor and bunker piercing munitions like anti-tank rounds, but in smart bombs and missiles as well. Another independent investigator named Dai Williams pointed to the faulty UNEP report on DU use in the Balkans, and “a new generation of hard target versions of guided weapons (bombs and missiles) proposed in 1997 e.g. GBU-24, GBU-37, GBU-32, AGM-86D, AGM-65G, AGM-154C and latest versions of the BGM-109 Tomahawk.” Taken at face value, the purpose or mission of these weapons demands the capability supplied from using depleted uranium. Or in other words, the Pentagon needed depleted uranium to kill inside hardened bunkers etc. With reference to something called the “Hard or Deeply Buried Defeat Capability Program”, these reports are “at least” cause for an investigation – or a court case.

The question that arises is clear, sharp, and may lead to a damnable conclusion. “Does our government conceal from us the use of horrendous and outlawed weapons of destruction?” Given the Snowden revelations, the WikiLeaks Clinton and Podesta files, the WikiLeaks CIA leaks, and the mess in the world today…

The secrecy and the strange circumstances surrounding depleted uranium ordinance use in the Balkans, Iraq, and in Afghanistan point to cover up. The circumstances surrounding the initial UNEP and the World Health Organisation (WHO) point to a potential cover up. According to the investigators mentioned above, the Pentagon and NATO may well have carried out a “cleanup operation” in the former Yugoslavia before UNEP was even allowed in. The fact so few DU rounds were ever recovered there validates this thesis. Thousands of rounds fired at map locations absolutely traceable, and only a few DU munitions recovered? It may well be that the “lack of evidence” is really the evidence here. Turning to the medical side, every indication is that the people of these areas were affected. I’ll quote from a communication of Dai Williams from 2001:

“The population of Iraq appear to have had the highest DU exposure to date but they have also had the longest time for carcinogenic and mutagenic effects to appear.  Significant quantities of hard target guided weapons were used in the Balkans, including the regions policed by Italian and Spanish troops several of whom have died from Leukaemia.  With warheads ranging from 1000 lbs to 2 tons large quantities may have been used in Afghanistan – possibly comparable with the tonnage’s used in Iraq.  Medical evidence is bound to emerge whatever attempts the US and UK governments make to conceal the truth about these weapons.  If so the UN may need to revisit its recent resolution to ignore the DU issue in Iraq.”

Several studies from the mid-2000s showed increased levels of uranium contamination in human and environmental samples since the use of uranium weapons by US and UK forces in combat zones since 1991. Most disturbing in my research was this report from New Weapons Org that contained the following:

“… urine samples from civilians living near bombed targets in Afghanistan (UMRC 2002) showed very high levels of apparently natural uranium contamination – from 15 to 80x normal compared to the UK population (80 to 400 ng/litre compared to normal of 5 ng/litre). These observations led to the scenario that US weapons manufacturers may be using uranium alloys based on almost natural uranium feedstock instead of recycled depleted uranium.”

To sum up, I’ve alluded to a degree of “intent” being established in this current case on the use of illegal weapons in Serbia. It’s no stretch to advance the case further by showing the massive liability involved in irradiating Europe’s citizens with ordinance used in an illegal regime change at the continent’s center. Tens of thousands of people suffering health effects, no telling how many already dead, and the “motive” for covering up in such a case is immeasurable. So, if truth and equal justice is the goal of all western democracies, this new case needs to happen. And it needs to happen in full view of the people of our world. It’s time for a meme that may never come.

 

Posted in Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia0 Comments

The Summer of Balkan Hopes

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

The grand event for the Western Balkans this year is the summit of the Berlin Process countries in the Italian city of Trieste on 12 July. In recent months, expectations have been seriously pumped up that this meeting will provide a major boost to the European integration of the region, which suffers from integration decay and heavy geopolitical headaches. The six Balkan countries in the region hope the EU will untie its purse to the scale of a Marshall Plan for the region, which would lift the poorest European relatives up on their feet and stop the constant brain drain and loss of labour force, with the Union in exchange hoping for a restart of the European integration in those countries, which have fallen victim to the virus of illiberalism and nationalism.

Following a nationalist winter, spring has come to the Balkans

Up until a few months ago, the region was causing serious alarm in Brussels and the capitals of member states because of the dangerous return of nationalist rhetoric from the early 1990s, hate speech, and a serious deterioration in relations between almost all countries in the region and their EU neighbours, with active intervention by Russia being seen under the surface. The situation deteriorated so much that it forced the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Federica Mogherini (Italy, Socialists and Democrats) to admit during her Balkan tour that “the Balkans can easily become one of the chessboards where the big power game can be played”.

Following a heavy winter of questions often asked whether there was a new war coming to the Balkans, the situation today does not seem so desperate. There is no significant improvement in relations between the countries of the region, but the geopolitical conditions are considerably more favourable to the EU. Montenegro has finally become a member of NATO, despite Russia’s fierce resistance and the coup attempts of the autumn of last year. There has also been a significant change in Macedonia. After two years of political instability, the country has finally got a government, headed by Zoran Zaev, who has set an ambitious reform agenda and plans to return the country to the European road, which also includes addressing the most serious problems that have hitherto stopped it – the name dispute with Greece and the signing of a friendship agreement with Bulgaria.

There is a certain, but also rather vague change in Serbia. Following the presidential election in April, the country’s political puzzle changed. Former heavily pro-Russian president Tomislav Nikolić has stepped down from the political scene and former Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić took his seat, who has the image of a pro-European leader in Brussels. This is a very controversial qualification, which is not necessarily false, but it has many conditions attached. Aleksandar Vučić is not tired of saying that Serbia’s main goal is to become a member of the EU and works hard on opening new chapters in the negotiation process. At the same time, he has been moving his country towards illiberalism and ever closer cooperation with Russia. The presidential election, however, showed him a yellow card. More  liberal and democratic political forces emerged on the political scene endangering the political domination of Vučić’s party – the Serbian Progressive Party.

Following months of uncertainty, he finally chose his heir to head the government, the young Ana Brnabić. There is no doubt that her role is to keep Vučić’s control over the executive branch, but at the same time her appointment played a very positive role for Serbia’s image to the West, as Ana Brnabić is Serbia’s first female prime minister and besides she publicly declared herself a member of the LGBT minority. This has created expectations in the West that things are going in the right direction in Serbia, regardless of the fact that Pride parades still rather resemble military parades because of the heavy military guards. In presenting her programme to the Skupshtina, Ana Brnabić has set two priorities which are rather surprising for the region – digitisation and education.

All of this sounds rather great, but Serbia’s Western-pointed stumble with Ana Brnabić has provoked sharp reactions from Russia. For days now the press is basically concerned with what exactly did she mean when she said in an interview for Bloomberg that if pressed to choose Serbia would choose the EU, not Russia, regardless of Russia remaining a close cultural friend of the Serb people. It even got to the Serbian prime minister having to deliver a shorthand copy of the interview to the Russian ambassador to Belgrade, Aleksandar Chepurin. President Vučić stood behind his prime minister saying he saw no problem in her statement. Although it is clear that Ana Brnabić will remain under Mr Vučić’s control, her appointment may be a sign of change, though cautious and slow, in Serbia, which, along with Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, is surrounded by NATO and the EU.

Now is the time for the EU to take advantage of these changes and respond appropriately, as there are still many problems – the relations between Serbia and Kosovo, the situation in Kosovo itself and in Albania too. Nothing of what has been achieved can be taken for granted and irreversible.

Berlin+

There is also a big change on the part of the EU. On May 31 in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel delivered a speech, which was commented for months in the Balkans and beyond. In it, he made several important findings, such as “countries from outside the region try to re-establish spheres of influence through old geopolitical thinking”, or that “we can’t simply continue doing things as we did before”. In his speech, he made it clear that it is necessary to change the narrative about the EU in the region. “Of course, it also doesn’t help either when the impression is created that Europe is primarily attending to its own affairs and does not care enough about the Western Balkans”, he said and called for the narrative of the EU to adapt to reality.

This also includes an increase in EU visibility. Sigmar Gabriel has encountered an old paradox in Belgrade during his visit there earlier this year: “I don’t understand why one is greeted on the trip from Belgrade Airport into the city centre by a large poster that celebrates the Russian-Serbian friendship, while the yellow and blue of the European Union is totally invisible.” Moreover, he said, Serbs live with the impression that Russia is Serbia’s largest financial donor. Germany’s top diplomat also announced the “Berlin+” plan, which includes a serious EU financial commitment, the aim of which is to bring the Western Balkans back on the right track.

The extent to which Sigmar Gabriel was on the right track was evident from the fact that his idea has been floating around for months in Serbian media and around the Balkans in general. For the first time in a long time, news from/about the EU prevailed over those from/about Russia. For weeks, the only talk was about how much money the EU would give, that it would be a Marshall Plan of sorts, what projects are to be funded, and so on. This is quite a rare phenomenon, especially on the Serbian media scene where Russia is most often present with comments from Ambassador Chepurin or Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zaharova on all topics, and a close second is the United States, embodied by Deputy Assistant Secretary Brian Hoyt Yee, who is entrusted with the mission of taking care of the Balkans. His opinion is also often present in Serbian media, and the EU participation is limited to opening or blocking of chapters.

The “Berlin+” plan is expected to be officially presented by the European Commission namely in Trieste today (July 12). The sum in question is not quite clear. There is talk of a “substantial new funding”, which will be part of the annual connectivity package. It is also expected that the treaty for the Transport Community will be signed, which will finance the integration of transport networks in the region. Sigmar Gabriel’s words from back in May make it clear that work will be done to build motorways between Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, which will be funded by an additional Infrastructure fund.

Another important initiative expected to be officially announced in Trieste is the creation of a regional economic zone, which has also been discussed in the Balkans for months, and has even been a cause for renewed tension. The idea was launched for the first time this spring in Sarajevo, interpreted as an initiative by Aleksandar Vučić for the creation of a regional market following the model of the European single market. However, some countries, such as Kosovo and Macedonia, have seen attempts to regain Serb dominance in the region, or an attempt to replace EU membership with a regional initiative. Others support the idea, headed by the EU Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations and Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn (Austria, EPP).

What is to be presented on Wednesday is an economic zone whose goal will be to boost the region’s attractiveness for investment. As Sigmar Gabriel warned in March, however, such an initiative would be successful only if work is done on establishing the rule of law in these countries, as investors will not want to invest if they do not have legal certainty. Another idea on which the Bulgarian EU Council presidency, that starts on 1 January, is working on is the abolition of roaming charges in the Western Balkans. According to a high-ranking Bulgarian diplomatic source, there is already talk about this with the newly appointed Bulgarian EU commissioner Maria Gabriel (EPP), who is responsible for the EU’s digital policy. The aim is to start a discussion on the topic first and then to come up with a concrete plan, which would be a part of the idea of ​​a regional economic zone, the source told euinside.

The idea is not new, but it also has a favourable environment available after the abolition of roaming charges within the EU itself. Several years ago, telecoms in the Western Balkan countries had attempted to agree to the removal of roaming charges in the region or at least to lower prices, but that ended with no result.

As is usually the case at Berlin process summits, it is inevitable that the strained bilateral relations emerge. It is possible that the issue of the border dispute between two parties in the Berlin process – Slovenia and Croatia – will attempt to take over the agenda, as it happened at the annual Dubrovnik forum a week ago. Expectations, however, are that economic benefits will prevail over petty Balkan quarrels. This can only happen if the amount of the financial commitment turns out to be serious enough. This package has the potential to be game changer in the region.

The countries in the Berlin Process from the EU side are Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. The Trieste summit will be a debut on the international stage for Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić. Next year will be the last meeting for the Berlin process. It will take place in London. Some have already expressed scepticism and even criticised the idea that a leaving Britain would host such a forum. But this is unjustified criticism. Britain has always been heavily engaged in the Western Balkans, and there is no reason for it to change its policies towards this region even after exiting, as Prime Minister Theresa May’s behaviour has clearly shown in recent months.

What is more, holding the summit in London is a strong signal for the future foreign-policy relations of the UK and the EU. London hosting it is also a good example of the fact that EU developments should not be overly dramatised. If countries are aware of their national interests and strategic goals, dialogue and mutual cooperation are fully possible. Something the Western Balkan countries still fail to learn.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, SerbiaComments Off on The Summer of Balkan Hopes

The State-Name of Macedonia Historical Analysis, Political Implications

NOVANEWS
 

The “Macedonian Question” is today actual for several reasons of whom two are of the fundamental importance:

1. The Albanian secession in the FYROM; and

2. The Greek dispute with the FYROM authorities over several issues.[1]

For the matter of illustration, for instance, Greece is so far blocking Macedonia’s joining NATO and the EU because of an on-going dispute between the FYROM and Greece. The main disputable issue is the title of “Macedonia” used in the country’s Constitution in the form of the official state-name as the Republic of Macedonia.[2] When the ex-Yugoslav Socialist Republic of Macedonia voted for independence on September 8th, 1991[3] as the Republic of Macedonia that was confirmed as the official constitutional name in November 1991[4], Greece became with a great reason immediately reluctant of recognising the country under such official name in addition to some other significant disputable issues in regard to the independence of FYROM.

In essence, according to the Greek administration, the use of this name is bringing direct cultural, national and territorial threat to Greece and the Greek people. The Greeks feel that by using such name, the FYROM imposes open territorial claim on the territory of the North Greece that is also called (the Aegean) Macedonia. To make things clear, Greece claims and with a right reason, to have an exclusive copyright to the use of the name of Macedonia as the history and culture of ancient Macedonia were and are integral parts of the Greek national history and civilization and nothing to do with the present-day “Macedonians” who are the artificial creation by the Titoist regime of the Socialist Yugoslavia after the WWII.[5]

The FYROM (the Republic of Macedonia)

A Basic Historical Background

A present-day territory of FYROM was formerly part of the Byzantine, Bulgarian and Serbian Empires until 1371/1395 when it became included into the Ottoman Sultanate followed by the process of Islamization. The Christian population of the land was constantly migrating from Macedonia under the Ottoman rule especially after the Austrian-Ottoman wars and uprisings against the Ottoman rule. After the 1878 Berlin Congress, Bulgaria started to work on annexation of all historical-geographic Macedonia and for that reason it was established in 1893 openly pro-Bulgarian Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (the IMRO).

After the Second Balkan War in 1913 Macedonian territory became partitioned between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria. During the WWI, Macedonia was a scene of a heavy battles between the forces of the Central Powers and the Entente (the Salonika Front or the Macedonian Front). After the WWI, according to the Treaty of Neuilly, the territorial division of historical-geographical Macedonia between Serbia (now the Yugoslav state), Greece and Bulgaria was confirmed followed in the next years by a large population movement which transformed the ethnic and confessional composition of Macedonia’s population primarily due to the population exchange between Greece and Turkey after the Greco-Turkish War of 1919−1922. In the interwar period, despite continued activism by the IMRO terrorists from Bulgaria, the aim to annex the Yugoslav (Vardar) Macedonia became unfulfilled. After WWII, the Vardar Macedonia became transformed into one of six Yugoslav socialist republics (the Socialist Republic of Macedonia) followed by the official recognition of the Macedonian nation, language and alphabet by the Yugoslav communist authorities – a decision which alienated Bulgaria and Greece from Yugoslavia.[6]

The FYROM flag from 1995

The proclamation of state independence of the Yugoslav portion of Macedonia under the official name the Republic of Macedonia immediately created an extremely tense relationship with the neighbouring Greece as Macedonia developed rival claims for ethnicity and statehood followed by the appropriation of the ancient Macedonian history and culture. This Greco-Macedonian rivalry became firstly epitomized in a dispute on Macedonia’s official state-name for the very reason that Greece objected to the use of the term Macedonia in any combination of the name of the state of its northern neighbour.

An Origin of the Dispute

The dispute between Greece and the FYROM regarding the Macedonian official state-name came on agenda when ex-Yugoslav Socialist Republic of Macedonia adopted its new Constitution in November 1991 in which the country official name was declared as the Republic of Macedonia. As a matter of political fight against the FYROM Government, Greece blocked the European Union (the EU) to recognize Macedonia’s independence[7] and on December 4th, 1991, the Greek Government officially declared its good will to recognize the independence of ex-Yugoslav Socialist Republic of Macedonia but only if it would:

  1. Made a clear constitutional guarantee of having no claims to the Greek territory.
  2. Stop a hostile propaganda against Greece.
  3. Exclude the term “Macedonia” and its derivatives from a new official name of the state.

The first of these three conditions was a Greek reaction to the disputable Article 49 in Macedonia’s new Constitution which declared that the Republic of Macedonia cares for the status and rights of those persons belonging to the Macedonian people in all neighbouring countries as well as the Macedonian expatriates, assisting in their cultural development, and promoting links with them.[8] This article was interpreted by Greece as an indirect reference to the (unrecognized) Macedonian minority (i.e. “Slavophile Greeks”) in the North Greece (the Aegean Macedonia) and it was perceived as a threat to the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Greece. The EU concerning this matter supported Greece and stated in the same month that it would only recognize a new Macedonian state if it guaranteed to have no territorial claims against any neighbouring EU member state[9] and not to engage in any act against such state, including and the use of a state-name that potentially can imply the territorial claims.

Basically, only under the pressure by Brussels, the Parliament (Sobranie) in Skopje amended Macedonia’s Constitution in January 1992 and as the results, the formal constitutional guarantees were provided that the country would not interfere in the internal affairs of other states and would respect the inviolability of the international borders of any state. Macedonia’s authorities fulfilled only the minor EU requirements, hopping to be soon recognized by the same organization, but two crucial problem-issues (the state-name of Macedonia and the Article 49 in the Constitution) which caused the fundamental Greek dissatisfaction, still remained unchanged. Therefore, the EU sided with Greece and decided in June 1992 not to recognize the republic if it uses the term Macedonia in its official state title.[10]

However, at the first glance, it may seem that the EU supported the Greek policy in 1991 toward the Macedonian Question as it aligned itself with Greece as a member state of the bloc, but in fact, it was not the case. Greece’s position and arguments have been publicly rejected and even ridiculed by the officials from several EU member states, but three crucial real politik reasons made the EU to officially side in 1992 with Greece in her dispute with the FYROM:

  1. In an exchange for the EU support on the Macedonian Question, Greece promised to ratify the Maastricht Treaty (signed in February 1993), to participate in sanctions against Serbia (its traditional ally), and to ratify the EU financial protocol with Turkey.
  2. By taking the same position as Greece, the EU demonstrated its own internal political cohesion and unity, trying at the same time to thwart the use of Greek veto right in order to protect its own national interest within the EU.
  3. A last factor that contributed to the EU support for the Greek case was a fear that the Greek Government might fall if the Republic of Macedonia would be recognized under that name.[11]

Alternative Official Names for Macedonia

A variety of alternative names for ex-Yugoslav Socialist Republic of Macedonia were proposed after 1991 in order to solve the problem and normalize relations with Greece – a most important Macedonia’s neighbour and economic partner. It was quite clear that Greece herself would not accept any kind of state-name that includes a term “Macedonia” and therefore a variety of solutions without a term of “Macedonia” were suggested by Athens, ranging from Dardania and Paeonia (used in antiquity to name regions to the north of the ancient Macedonia) to the names of the South Slavia, the Vardar Republic[12], the Central Balkan Republic and the Republic of Skopje (named after Macedonia’s capital). All other name suggestions which used the designation Macedonia, mainly proposed by the Macedonian side, were in no way acceptable to Greece from political, historical and moral reasons.

What Greece could accept as a kind of temporal solution was the state-name of the country with the designation Macedonia but only to make clear difference between Macedonia as a former republic of Yugoslavia and Macedonia that is a region in (the North) Greece. These solutions included names, for instance, the North Macedonia, a New Macedonia or the Slavic Republic of Macedonia.[13] Greece even suggested that a new state of Macedonia could adopt two names: 1. One official for the external use, without mentioning designation Macedonia, and 2. One unofficial for internal use, which could include designation Macedonia. However, all these Greek solutions were rejected by the Macedonian authorities who insisted on the recognition of Macedonia’s independence exactly under the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia.[14]

Ancient Vergina in Greece

The FYROM and the “Sun of Vergina”

The ex-Yugoslav Socialist Republic of Macedonia was gaining the international recognition step by step, although not in majority cases under its constitutional name as the Republic of Macedonia. By early 1993 the new state was able to become a member of the International Monetary Fund (the IMF) under the name the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (the FYROM)[15] and by April 1993 the United Nations (the UN) also admitted Macedonia under such provisional name as a temporal compromise between the Macedonian and the Greek authorities. It was agreed that a permanent state-name of Macedonia that is going to be used in the foreign affairs had to be decided later through a process of mediation by the UN. However, the FYROM was not allowed to fly its original state flag (from 1991) at the UN headquarters as the official state emblem as Greece strongly opposed such idea.

The real reason for this Greek decision was basically of the essential nature of the political conflict with the authorities in Skopje as the flag was composed by the yellow-coloured sixteen-ray sun of star from Vergina on the red-coloured background. The background colour was not a problematic issue, but the yellow “Sun of Vergina” on the flag, however, created the fundamental dispute between two states together with the issue of the official state-name of Macedonia. The Greek Government strongly opposed the Macedonian authorities to use the “Sun of Vergina” as a state emblem at least for two good reasons as:

  1. It was an insignia of the ancient Macedonians of the Macedonian Empire.
  2. It was found between two world wars in Vergina that is an ancient town on the territory of the present-day Greece but not of the FYROM.

The Greek authorities is understanding the “Sun of Vergina” as a symbol which has nothing to do either with the territory of the FYROM or with the ethnic Macedonians, or better to say, with Macedonia’s Slavs.[16] The Greeks are clear in this matter having a position that the history and culture of the ancient Macedonians does not belong to the historical and ethnic heritage of the FYROM but quite contrary, they belong to the Greek (Hellenic) inheritance. Therefore, the use of the “Sun of Vergina” by the FYROM authorities is seen by Greece as an act of falsification of history and a cultural aggression on the state territory of Greece with unpredictable political consequences in the future. That is the same as well as with the cases of naming certain institutions and public objects with the names of Philip II (national soccer stadium in Skopje) or Alexander the Great (the highway in the FYROM and the Skopje airport) or with erections of the monuments devoted to them (on the main city square in Skopje).

The Embargo and Further Negotiations

In 1993 several states recognized Macedonia under the official state-name as the FYROM but there were also and those states who recognized the country as the Republic of Macedonia. Macedonia was recognized by six EU members followed by the United States of America (the US) and Australia by early 1994. However, the Greek Government experienced Macedonia’s recognition of independence without the final fixing the question of Macedonia’s administrative name for the external usage as her own great diplomatic and national defeat, and as a response to such situation, Athens imposed a strict trade embargo to the FYROM on February 17th, 1994 for the sake to more firmly point out its unchanged position regarding several problematic issues in dealing with its northern neighbour. The embargo had a very large, and negative, impact on Macedonia’s economy as its export earnings became reduced by 85% and its food supplies dropped by 40%. On the other side, the economic blockade was very much criticised by the international community including and the EU and, therefore, not much later became lifted in 1995, but after successful negotiations between Greece and the FYROM, when these two countries finally recognized each other and established diplomatic relations. The FYROM, as a part of a settlement package with Greece, was also forced to change the official flag of the state on which the “Sun of Vergina” was replaced with the “Macedonian Sun”.[17]

The flag of Greek Macedonia (the Aegean Macedonia) with the Sun of Vergina

However, the negotiations between the FYROM and Greece in regard to a permanent state-name of Macedonia are still being conducted by the UN, and this problem is not solved properly up today on the way that the both sides are going to be fully satisfied. The issue arose several times concerning the FYROM possibility to join both the NATO and the EU as Greece (member state of both organizations) threatened to use a veto right in order to stop Macedonia’s admission if previously the problem of Macedonia’s state-name is not solved in the Greek favour. Talks between the FYROM and Greece are permanent up to now with some new alternative state-name proposals by both sides as, for instance, the Constitutional Republic of Macedonia, the Democratic Republic of Macedonia, the Independent Republic of Macedonia, the New Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Upper-Macedonia.

Nevertheless, the talks proved that no one of these proposals is acceptable for both parties. The FYROM proposed as a workable solution to use changed state-name only in relations to Greece, but at the same time to keep its constitutional state-name in all other international relations. However, even this proposal did not lead to a final and sincere solution as Greece insisted that a final deal must be applied internationally. The UN mediator’s compromising proposal to rename the state was as the Republic Macedonia-Skopje. Nevertheless, despite all possible efforts that were made to solve the problem, no agreement could be reached so far and, therefore, the NATO and the EU memberships of the FYROM are very problematic as one of the membership requirements is to reach agreements with Greece on all disputable political questions including and the official Macedonia’s state-name.[18]

Concluding Remarks

It is quite remarkable that a dispute between the FYROM and Greece on Macedonia’s official state-name after 1991, which looks probably quite trivial on the first sight, can have so large political and other implications with unpredictable consequences in the future. One can wonder how Greece and the FYROM became firmly stuck to their positions for a quarter of century. However, the very fact is that this dispute is actually directly connected with their national identities and cultural inheritance.

Sources

Georges Castellan, History of the Balkans from Mohammed the Conqueror to Stalin, New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Loring M. Danforth, “Claims to Macedonian Identity: The Macedonian Question and the Breakup of Yugoslavia”, Anthropology Today, 9 (4), 1993, 3−10.

Nicolaos K. Martis, The Falsification of Macedonian History, Athens: Graphic Arts, 1983.

James Pettifer (ed), The New Macedonian Question, New York: Palgrave, 2001.

Hugh Poulton, The Balkans: Minorities and States in Conflict, London: Minority Rights Publications, 1994.

Victor Roudometof, “Nationalism and Identity Politics in the Balkans: Greece and the Macedonian Question”, Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 14 (2), 1996, 253−301.

Notes

[1] James Pettifer (ed), The New Macedonian Question, New York: Palgrave, 2001, 15−27.

[2] The term Macedonia is of the Greek origin.

[3] This day is celebrated in the FYROM as the Independence Day.

[4] James Pettifer (ed), The New Macedonian Question, New York: Palgrave, 2001, xxv.

[5] Nicolaos K. Martis, The Falsification of Macedonian History, Athens: Graphic Arts, 1983.

[6] Bulgaria never recognized separate Macedonian nationality, language and alphabet. For Bulgarians, all Macedonia’s Slavs are of the Bulgarian origin. Greece is recognizing only the existence of the Macedonian Slavs but not on its own territory where all Slavs are considered as the Slavophone Greeks [Hugh Poulton, The Balkans: Minorities and States in Conflict, London: Minority Rights Publications, 1994, 175].

[7] Greece is a member of the EU from 1981.

[8] The Constitution’s day of adopting is November 17th, 1991 and day of entry into force November 20th, 1991.

[9] At that time it was the European Community which became next year the European Union.

[10] Victor Roudometof, “Nationalism and Identity Politics in the Balkans: Greece and the Macedonian Question”, Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 14 (2), 1996, 253−301.

[11] Loring M. Danforth, “Claims to Macedonian Identity: The Macedonian Question and the Breakup of Yugoslavia”, Anthropology Today, 9 (4), 1993, 3−10.

[12] The territory of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (the FYROM) is also known as the Vardar Macedonia, contrary to the Macedonian territory in Bulgaria – the Pirin Macedonia, and in Greece – the Aegean Macedonia. A geographical-historical territory of Macedonia became divided between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria as a consequence of the Balkan Wars of 1912−1913: “…Bulgaria who had only a little piece of Macedonia in her share: the Struma Valley between Gorna Dzumaja (Blagoevgrad) and Petric with the Strumica enclave. Greece received all Macedonia south of Lake Ohrid and the coast with Thessalonika and Kavala. Serbia was given Northern Macedonia and the center up to Ohrid, Monastir (Bitola) and the Vardar” [Georges Castellan, History of the Balkans from Mohammed the Conqueror to Stalin, New York: Columbia University Press, 1992, 381]. In essence, Greece received 60%, Serbia 30% and Bulgaria 10% of the geographic-historical territory of Macedonia. A Present-day FYROM is in fact the Vardar Macedonia that became annexed by the Kingdom of Serbia in 1913 known in Titoist Yugoslavia as the Socialist Republic of Macedonia with the capital in Skopje.

[13] The Greeks are not the Slavs.

[14] Loring M. Danforth, “Claims to Macedonian Identity: The Macedonian Question and the Breakup of Yugoslavia”, Anthropology Today, 9 (4), 1993, 3−10.

[15] Victor Roudometof, “Nationalism and Identity Politics in the Balkans: Greece and the Macedonian Question”, Journal of Modern Greek Studies, 14 (2), 1996, 253−301.

[16] Loring M. Danforth, “Claims to Macedonian Identity: The Macedonian Question and the Breakup of Yugoslavia”, Anthropology Today, 9 (4), 1993, 3−10.

[17] The Greeks in the Aegean Macedonia are using regularly a blue flag with the “Sun of Vergina” which is also in many cases put on the state flag of Greece as a historical amblem of the North Greece.

[18] The FYROM is currently a candidate state for the EU membership together with Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro.

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