FYROM: The Troublemaker of the Balkans?
October 21, 2008
One of the most significant decades-long problem in South Eastern Europe is the irripresible political use of history and national symbols by region’s governments. The case of ‘Macedonia’ is an example of the above assumption. Since its birth as a state entity in 1991, just after the dissolution of the united Yugoslavia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has based its own existence in the appropriation and use of ancient Greek names and symbols. That created de facto a clone-state without a concrete national identity; a ‘ticking bomb’ in the heart of the Balkans, as the UN High Representative in Kosovo described FYROM in December 2000.
Since its independence from Yugoslavia the state of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remains a thorn in the heart of South Eastern Europe, being a factor of political unsteadiness for the broader region. There are two major issues which create justifiable concern and doubts regarding FYROM’s contribution to Peace and Security in the Balkan peninsula: A first – and most significant – issue is the known naming-dispute with neighbouring Greece. Since its creation in 1991 and until today, Skopje bases its policy on imbecilic and anachronistic irredentist ideologies. The Greek position, being in accordance with the principles of International Law, is that nationalistic, chauvinistic and irredentist policies do not have place in the region. Therefore the appropriation of Macedonia’s name, of ancient Greek symbols (e.g Vergina Sun) and the invention of supposed minorities (e.g. Macedonian Minority) must not be used as the ‘Trojan Horse’ of irredentism. That is the actual and fundamental problem in the relations between Athens and Skopje. Greece does not express a hypersensitive or insubstantial theory about its historical heritage – on the contrary, Greece clearly defines that chauvinism must be completely abolished from Balkan politics, something which FYROM’s leadership seems not to understand. Or, perhaps, it does not want to understand it.
Furthermore, the governments of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have failed to consort with the UN-sponsored Interim Accord of 1995, broking specific provisions of that agreement. According to a U.S. Senate Resolution (SR 300), submitted in August 2007 by senators Barack Obama, Olympia Snowe and Robert Menendez, Skopje must “stop the utilization of materials that violate provisions of the United Nations-brokered Interim Agreement between FYROM and Greece regarding hostile activities or propaganda” (Article 7, Paragraph 1 of the Interim Accord). Additionally to that, the current Prime Minister of FYROM have done his best in order to break provisions of the 1995 Agreement, by grossly interfering in domestic Greek politics. He did that through public statements and interviews, either by refering to Greece’s political scandals – which have nothing to do with his business – or by posing to international organizations nonsensical issues regarding supposed repression of ethnic minorities in Greece. But such actions consist violation of Article 6 (Paragraph 2) of the Interim Accord which prohibits Skopje’s interference in the internal affairs of neighbouring Greece.
A second issue has to do with Human Rights’ protection in FYROM, within the frame of Democracy’s establishment in the country. According to the 2003 Amnesty International report for the former Yugoslav Rep. of Macedonia, opposition journalists and Human Rights activists face extrajudicial executions and intimidation. Furthermore, the Internationa Helsinki Federation for Human Rights has reported Police harassment of ethnic minorities, including Albanians and Roma. But its not only that. On January 11, 2004, the local authorities arrested Bishop Jovan of Ohrid and Exarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Skopje, a case which created obvious concern in the European Union regarding the protection of religious freedoms in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In addition to the above, FYROM’s political stability is still in doubt as long as 25% of its population are ethnic Albanians. Despite the 2001 Framework Agreement of Ohrid which brough an end to the fighting between Slavophones and Albanians, the problem still exists as a factor of fluidity in the broader region. The solution to the issue passes through the European perspective of FYROM as well as its participation in the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
However, Skopje’s declinatory political attitude of irredentism leads the country far from the international organizations; actually, it leads to nowhere. From its side, Greece wants FYROM’s existence as a stable state-entity, full member of the EU and NATO. It should be noted, once more, that the Greek governments have supported EU economic aid to FYROM, while Greece is the number one foreign investor in the country with around $1 invested capital, creating thousands of job opportunities. Athens has expressed its constant support to FYROM’s European perspective, but with the infrangible prerequisite that there will be an accepted solution: a compound name with a geographic qualifier for all uses. Nevertheless, even today, Skopje remains attached to its years-long perverse intrasigence, trying to dynamite dialogue: recently, FYROM’s leadership rejected another one proposal, submitted by the UN Mediator Matthew Nimetz. Until when? If the leadership of Skopje wants to stabilize FYROM’s creaky existence, then they have to fully understand something: that intrasigent and nationalistic practices must be abandoned as soon as possible. The future of the country is within the European Union and NATO, in harmonious co-existence with its neighbours, including Greece. Otherwise, FYROM will remain a ‘ticking bomb’ in the heart of South Eastern Europe – but then, it won’t last for ever.
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