Macedonia and Greece could look to EU for help

November 19, 2010

“What’s in a name?” asked love-struck Juliet by way of justifying her love for Romeo, whose Montague family was so loathed by the Capulets.

For Macedonia, rather a lot.

The name has been fought over by Greece and “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” for nearly two decades. Now European Union diplomats are telling them to ask for mediation help from the bloc. It may be the only chance, they say, for the two countries to solve a dispute that is preventing Macedonia from joining NATO and starting accession negotiations with the EU.

After a decade of talks facilitated by the United Nations to try to get the two to agree a new name for the former Yugoslav state, there is little sign of progress. EU diplomats argue that closer involvement in the talks by, say, the EU’s executive Commission or representatives of its new diplomatic service, might help the two come to an agreement.

The lack of progress frustrates some officials in Brussels, who say it sends the wrong signal to the rest of the EU-bound Balkans. It tells them that bilateral disputes can effectively block the Commission as it steers the bloc’s enlargement policy. Having officials from Brussels directly involved in talks would make it easier to use EU policies as ‘carrot and stick’ to coax the two capitals towards agreement, they say. “The EU is the missing link,” one EU official said recently.

At the core of the dispute is the insistence by Athens that Skopje has usurped a name that implies a claim on Greece’s own region of Macedonia. A U.N.-brokered deal in 1995 allowed the newly independent Balkan state to join the United Nations under the temporary designation “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. A fair amount of diplomatic creativity followed. Its envoys have sat at U.N. meetings between representatives of Thailand and Togo — the country name being considered to start with “The”. A handful of proposals for a new name have been circulated, mostly tacking on a descriptive word such as ‘Upper’ or ‘Northern’ to the name Macedonia. Other suggestions included Democratic Republic of Macedonia, Constitutional Republic of Macedonia, Independent Republic of Macedonia and Republic of New Macedonia.

But the two capitals have dug in their heels, even though both say publicly they want a solution. The latest round of talks between Macedonian and Greek leaders, who met in Brussels in October, produced no result so far.

The idea of asking the EU for help has won little airtime in Athens. And Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, when asked about the matter on a visit to Brussels this week, appeared hesitant. “The official mediator is the United Nations and it’s doing the job very well,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar organised by conservative members of the European Parliament.

EU diplomats say bringing a new player into the game may be unpalatable to the United Nations, because it could amount to conceding defeat and requiring some kind of exit strategy. But they point out that EU mediation in the Balkans has had some success in recent months. For example, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has convinced Serbia to soften its stance towards Kosovo, a major turnaround in Belgrade’s policy that has given a boost to Serbia’s EU hopes. Perhaps, a similiar diplomatic success will be possible for Skopje.


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This is a very confusing issue for someone not aware of the dispute. First of all, this article refers to that former Yugoslav Republic as Macedonia and its people as Macedonians. Yet, the two majour ethnic groups of FYROM (its official present name) are albanians and slavs (closely related to Bulgarians)). The Albanians, although aboriginals of the Balkans, do not consider themselves Macedonians. The slavic speakers, although descendants of the 6th century slavic invaders, do call themselves Macedonians. FYROM’s opposition is blaming the current government of provoking Greece by naming its main Highway and main airport by the ancient Greek-Macedonian King, Alexander the Great.

Posted by jadotville | Report as abusive

EU, first of all must examine it’s own soul,depart from the politics of the 19th century,decide on governing principles : rule of law or narrow interest. Greece has not an iota of right to ask Macedonia to change its name-not historical or material, in fact the opposite is true! Macedonia has been it for millenniums, Greece with the help of the British, Germany and France divided and occupied more than half of Macedonia in 1913, few years later it is Greece that burned to the ground whole cities and villages populated by ethnic Macedonians, changed the toponyms of and forbid the use of Macedonian language. This is well documented. How than EU supports Greece in this mind boggling issue is unexplainable. Now , instead begging forgiveness from the Macedonians, EU has the audacity to ask Macedonians to negotiate their God given name.Let me say this : even if they (EU)force the government of Republic of Macedonia to accept another name , noting will be resolved , unless they (EU) allows the Greeks to (again) kill all Macedonians. SHAME on EU!

Posted by Makedo | Report as abusive

After all these years, 19 in all, there is an entire generation of young people brainwashed by there government into believing fantasies as fact, lies as truth.
Imagine a young person, an adult which is 20 years old today and has been brought up in this region of FYROM. He knows nothing about the truth, his world and everything he knows about it has been filtered by the likes of Mr. Gruevski. This has been a straightforward task for those implementing it, if one stops to think how the situation has evolved in this newly formed country. Most likely the same people administering communist propaganda under Yugoslav rule were on to a new task “persuade our people that they are Macedonians true descendants of Alexander the Great”. Masters of the art of brainwashing they had in there hands the same people that were for decades being fed lies about the western world. Now it was something different. Persuade them that they are Macedonians. Yes, it is true that many countries in the world have recognized this area under the name of Macedonia but this was done by governments who had there own political agenda. Take for example the US. Under the Bush administration, FYROM was recognized as Macedonia. If however you visit the Metropolitan museum of New York today you will see in those exhibits that ancient Macedonia had nothing to do with this area of FYROM, that the boundaries of Macedonia to the north were about 10 to 15 miles north of what is today Greece. Can the short sighted decision of a man like Bush change history. No it cannot. Nor can the government of the US force institutions such as the MMA to change history so that it fits there agenda. What is the end product of all this. The end product is a lot of suffering and hate for young people in a newly formed country. Young people who will continue to see things not as they are but as they think they are. They will not easily wake up to the truth and for this I am truly sorry for them.

Posted by Salonikios | Report as abusive

Macedonians have right to use their native name Macedonia. Greece acquired part of Macedonia by virtue if an illegal act in 1912-13 since then they have been working on destroying the Macedonians and everything ethnic to the Macedonians. This fight is not really about the name or the ancient history and values of the Macedonians. It is rather the denial to give the Macedonians human rights as minority in Greece and the expansion and terrorization of thousands of Macedonians from 1913 to the Metaxas dictotorship.
Greece must recognize the Republic of Macedonia. Greece to recognize the Macedonians in Greece and give them true human rights.
EU to stop supporting Greece in the “name issue” because Macedonians do not have a problem with their name it is Greece that has problem with the name.
Do Macedonians have not right to self determination? Or they must ask their neighbours what go call themselves? It seems the EU policies are only effective on paper but not in the practical sense. Why would Macedonians want to join somebody that tells them go commit a national identity suicide? It is time to say NO to EU for good.

Posted by Mariamkd | Report as abusive

Repeating that Macedonians have the right to call themselves Macedonians, only confuses the issue since those that you refer as Macedonians are in fact slavs.
The Macedonian geographical area contains three major ethnic groups: Greeks, Slavs and Albanians. There is no historical justification whatsoever for the ethnic slavs to monopolize the name Macedonia. Macedonians indeed existed for thousands of years but they were anything but slavs. The slavs showed up in that area long after it had been christianized and long after the Roman conquest.

Posted by jadotville | Report as abusive

Macedonians did exist for thousands of years, indeed. And here is where the confusion comes. By calling themselves Macedonians, the slavs of FYROM usurp an identity foreign to their ethnicity. The inhabitants of geographical macedonia were christianized by Paul himself in their language, the greek language (not in a slavic idiom). The slavs showed up half a millennium later and did not blend with the macedonians. The slavs kept their slavic idiom and remained non-christian. They were christianized a millennium after the macedonians in another language – old slavonic (not greek) and with another alphabet (Glagolitic). Their christianization brought them also literacy. Macedonians had both from long before.

Posted by jadotville | Report as abusive

I have a question which I would like to pose to the young people of Fyrom. I ask to pose this question only to them because the older generation, those who are today in their late sixties or seventies, know the answer but are most likely not willing to expose themselves to the public and prefer to keep this matter away from publicity. The question is ” do you know that in the 60s and 70s it was a crime punishable by law for residents of your region to proclaim that they were descendants of ancient Macedonians? If you don’t beleive me ask your grandfathers or someone older that you trust will tell you the truth. Don’t ask Gruevski, he knows but he wants to turn history around.

Posted by Salonikios | Report as abusive

If someone asks me what I was doing in the late 60s and early 70s I will tell him that I was in High School in Macedonia singing songs about the Greatness of this land (MACEDONIA XAKOUSTI). I state this just to set the record straight because people in Fyrom are being told that we Greek Macedonians started using the name Macedonia instead of Northern Greece only recently and after FYROM laid a claim to the name. If they ask what my parents, grandparents and great grandparents were doing I will show them the books and periodicals going back as far as 1889 which I have in my library and which I inherited from my ancestors and which have Macedonian poetry written in Greek and testifying to the fact that Macedonia was never regarded as something other than integral with Greece.

Posted by Salonikios | Report as abusive

Gee who do you think were the people that they called ‘Slavs’?
Of course 30% of these ‘Slavs’ have DNA that matches the Ancient Macedonians, how many Greeks do? 5% – and they are the Macedonians that have been forcibly Hellenized! How many modern Greeks have DNA that matches Ancient Greek? 35% LOL! Only? 1 in 3 of you ‘proud Greeks’ is actually Greek! Your Turkish and Albanian ancestors would be very upset at you!

Posted by MacGirl | Report as abusive

We (Macedonians) speak the language that Macedonians have been speaking for the last 1500 years. Not the ‘Greek’ language that most Greeks were forced to learn in the 19thC and Macedonians? forced to learn in the 20th. So if the Macedonians spoke Greek, why did the Greeks outlaw the language?

Posted by MacGirl | Report as abusive

If you speak a language that did not exist in the antiquity, your language is not macedonian and neither are you.
If you speak a language that did not exist during ancient macedonia it is not macedonian.
If you speak a language that did not exist when the romans invaded, it is not macedonian.
The slavic speakers (Bulgarians) that had to learn Greek in Greek Macedonia, were learning the genuine macedonian language.
The Greek speakers that had to learn the slavic idiom beyond the greek border, were loosing the linguistic link with Macedonian history and were being assimilated with the post 6th ad slav invaders

Posted by jadotville | Report as abusive

If the Macedonians spoke Greek, why did the Greeks outlaw the language ?
That question shows a lack of understanding of the linguistic situation prior to the balkan wars.
In geographical Macedonia several languages were spoken, prior to the balkan wars: turkish, albanian, slavic (bulgarian) and greek. The inhabitants of Macedonia spoke all four of them (and some others). Amongst these languages only the Greek one (and maybe albanian also) pre-existed in Macedonia prior to the roman invasion. In Greek Macedonia, the original macedonian language (greek) was promoted in the new state. In Bulgaria and Vardaska the slavic language was promoted rather than the original Macedonian one (greek).
In Albania, the albanian language was promoted. The turkish language pretty much disappeared from all four areas.

Posted by jadotville | Report as abusive

The HUGE difference between us, that many apparently refuse to see, is that they deny the original Cultural Roots of the Ancient Macedonians, which were UNDENIABLY GREEK, and try to pass off their own fabricated ‘Historical Narrative’, as reality.

Are they blind to what they claim? Have they not read the posts about how their Slavic Bulgarian language is the original Macedonian and is written on the Rosetta Stone??? Have they not seen their insulting posts about their bogus, discredited ‘gene studies’ and their racial slurs about Africans, Arabs and Turks and their relations to Greeks? Are they really unaware or just indifferent to their ludicrous positions???

The Ancient Macedonians were irrefutably Greek. They spoke Greek, believed in the Pantheon of Greek Gods and proclaimed it by spreading the Greek Language, Greek Civilization and Culture around the world!

Whatever you believe about whether today’s Greeks are connected to the Ancient Greeks by DNA, (totally irrelevant to the issue, by the way), we CAN claim to be the exclusive and only modern people, successors to Ancient Hellenic culture, precisely because we are hereditary Greeks and accept, promote and jealously guard the original Cultural Roots of ALL the Greeks, including of course the Macedonians!

The Fyromians have only VERY SLIM geographic grounds to associate themselves with the name ‘Macedonia’. WE HAVE HISTORY, GEOGRAPHY, TRADITIONS, LANGUAGE and CULTURE and no matter how much some refuse to see and respect this, we will continue to guard this inheritance from THIEVES and FORGERS, and their apologists!

Posted by Damianos | Report as abusive


IS THAT SO? Then you should find it easy to answer this simple question:

If Philip, Alexander and the Macedonians were NOT GREEK and came from a GREAT SEPARATE NATION, why didn’t they spread the so called ‘Makedonski’ language and culture’ to the known world, instead of the Language and Culture of their defeated ‘enemies’ and ‘slaves’ – THE GREEKS???

Be careful how you answer, because for ALL Great Nations there is NOTHING MORE PRECIOUS than these things!

(Of course, we all know you can’t and won’t answer)

Posted by Damianos | Report as abusive

Hi my dear friend from the Balkan summit – where are the Turks and Serbs, and of course the Kosovars? It feels really alone…

I just came back from Thessaloniki (Solun to the Slavic speakers) and I had my eyes opened. The Greeks have the absolute right to protect their MAcedonian history and my dear “Macedonians” you have lost this battle. Plus you are stealing history from everyone in the region….

Regarding the name – in Bulgaria we came up with a solution – South Western Bulgaria. By accepting this name – you will get for free: 1300 years of history, free access to a beautiful coast line, winter ski resorts, extra 6 million population, EU membership and the most important – free Bulgarian language lessons (not that you need those :) )!!!

It is really scary to see that there are really people in Macedonia, that actually believe in this fairy tale about being ancestors of ancient Macedonia. Guys, you are embarrassing yourself. You need to read a couple of books and then just accept the fact your are Bulgarians.

Bulgarians do not want steal your small country or anything. We are open to accept you without asking you for anything in return. We believe you are our lost brothers and then in response we get only hate from you…This why nobody cares about you know in Bulgaria. Every time I am in Macedonia you have at least one anti Bulgarian news on the TV. Pathetic.

BTW – Macedonia/FYROM has two options – Albania or Bulgaria – it is up to you to decide…

Posted by BGfriend | Report as abusive

Kurios Jadotville

Thank you for enlighting me with your post LOL. The problem you have is that because your Turkish and Albanian ancestors learned Greek in the 19th century, you now think you are related to everybody in history.

As far as your idea of the Ancient Macedonians being considered Greek — Harvard’s Ernst Badian (who isn’t on the Greek government payroll) stated that the Ancient Macedonians were not considered Greek by themselves or the Ancient Greeks until centuries into the Hellenic Era which was long after Alexander the Great died. Somehow modern Greeks think the Ancient Macedonians were not only Ancient Greeks — but now they are identical to the Modern Greeks. This is all modern Greek nationalist fantasy.

You are right in that the Slavs invaded Macedonia in the 6th century — and assimilated the descendants of the Ancient Macedonians. That means that the literal descendants of the Ancient Macedonians have part Slavic blood! Oh no! Mixed blood! And yes we no longer speak Ancient Macedonian — which Greeks couldn’t understand, and many writers mentioned the need for translators. We now speak a Slavic language — which is named after the people who speak it and the region it is spoken in — Macedonian. My ancestors had been speaking Macedonian a lot longer than yours have been speaking Greek, my ex-Turkish friend.

There is ‘no lack of undertanding’ on my part about the banning of the language. My grandparents were forced to speak Greek instead of Macedonian and had to change their names because the Greek government wanted to erase their identity. Go speak to people who were kicked out of the part of Macedonia that Greece took in 1913 (many were also kicked out in the late 1940s) and ask them what language they speak!

We are talking about Macedonian being banned in the 20th century and then you state “it didn’t preexist Roman times”; are you serious?

You are showing the typical Greek-nationalist attitude. Make up whatever belief you want in ancient history and then use it to justify human rights violations in modern history. Greece took the southern part of Macedonia in 1913 — then force-Hellenized the population — which is now known as Ethnic Cleansing. They are still fighting against the idea of a Macedonian identity — and that is what the vetoes are about; even Dora Bakoyannis — your ex FM said that.

Posted by MacGirl | Report as abusive

Kurios Damianos

“Fabricated historical narrative” is ironically the only thing Greece can export. You claim to be the literal descendants of the Ancient Greeks — which is laughed at by the rest of the world. Even your own historians don’t believe it. Then you say “We are the Ancient Greeks — therefore anybody we say is an Ancient Greek is our ancestor”. But you aren’t genetically related to the people you claim!

I like Thai restaurants. I do. I can even speak some simple Thai. I learned Thai in the same way your ancestors learned Greek. That doesn’t mean I have Ancient Thai ancestors. I need to have genes to prove that; and this the problem. Greeks always talk about being the descendants of the Ancient Macedonians or Ancient Greeks based on language or culture — and like you — they say ‘genetics are irrelevant’. If you want to know who your father is, what do you get? A DNA test? Or do you try to ask what language he spoke?

DNA is the only way to determine ancestry. The worlds biggest gene lab, FTDNA/iGenea, have stated that 30% of Macedonians in the Republic of Macedonia have the same markers as the Ancient Macedonians. If you love the Ancient Macedonians so much, WHY are you arguing with us? We are the closest nation genetically to them — they were our parents!

Yes the Macedonian Alexander did spread Ancient Greek culture — in the same way the British Empire has spread Tamil culture to Fiji, South Africa and elsewhere

The Ancient Greeks were a conquered people (from 338BC) who were used in administering his empire because, unlike the Ancient Macedonians, many Ancient Greeks were literate!

You can claim to be “the exclusive and only modern people, successors to Hellenic culture” and “jealously guard” your historical beliefs; go ahead, Modern Greece is a failed, corrupt, bankrupt state and if dreaming about the past is what makes you feel adequate, I am happy for you. Much of the corrupt and poverty stricken Arab world feels the same way about their own past. None of that ‘jealous guarding’ changes your Turkish and Albanian DNA!

Of course if you use such laughable beliefs to try to deny the human rights of your minorities or neighbouring states — don’t whine when the rest of the world laughs at you. 129 countries recognise Macedonia by its constitutional name — including most of the world’s powers. You are before the ICJ and you are expected to lose, because of your lack of respect for UN brokered agreements in relation to Macedonia.

No matter how many capital letters you use tough guy; remember that — 129 countries recognise human rights and call us Macedonian — despite all of the lobbying and bribing Greece has tried.

Now give my Macedonian feet a massage you Greek slave!! LOL

Posted by MacGirl | Report as abusive

I found something very interesting written by your compatriot Nikos Raptis….

A brief search in the phone directory of Athens revealed the following:

– There are about 43,000 entries of Greeks with last names beginning with the Turkish prefix “kara”.
– There are about 20,000 entries of Greeks with last names beginning with the Muslim prefix “hadji” . Of course these Greeks are fervent Christians!
– There is an unknown (but vast) number of entries of Greeks with last names ending with the Turkish suffix “oglou”, which is the ending of a great percentage of the Turkish last names.

The population of Athens is around 4 million people, about half of the total population of Greece. That? is one in 40 Greeks has a Turkish last name!

LOL – Go you modern Greeks you ;))

Posted by MacGirl | Report as abusive

There is no scientific consensus on the classification of the ancient Macedonian language. Ancient Macedonians did not just disappear, but their descendants today are living in the Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran etc. The people called Macedonian today is not 100 per cent the same, but the people called Greek today is neither fully identical with ancient Hellenes. Modern Greek language “dimotiki is quite far from classical Greek, Homer or Plato hardly could understand it.

Modern nations and national self-identifications are products of the 18-19th centuries. Greeks are entitled to call themselves so, even if in fact they are of Albanian, Aromanian, Turkish or Slavic descents, and Macedonians have the same rights.

Macedonian states, however short-lived they were, existed before the independence of the Republic of Macedonia. The Karposh uprising in the late 17th century already represented some sort of Macedonian identity, while the Krushevo Republic in 1903, or Count Gyula Cseszneky de Milvany’s Grand Voivodeship of Macedonia in 1943 were undoubtedly endeavours of Macedonian patriotism and national consciousness.

Posted by PituGuli | Report as abusive

I’m just asking why is Ancient times bring out in 21 century? Modern nations are not build up from antiquity.

Posted by Robdude | Report as abusive