A Plan to Recapture the Macedonian Identity and Promote Greece
By Philip Ammerman
The Hellenic Republic of Greece has lost “ownership” of the term “Macedonia.” In Greece,
this term describes the geographic region of ancient Macedonia, who’s most famous rulers
were Philip II and Alexander. Yet in the context of modern politics, the term has been
usurped by the “Republic of Macedonia”, i.e. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Since 1991, fYR Macedonia has at times not only laid claim to the entire geographic region of
ancient Macedonia, but today makes the outrageous claim to be the sole “descendant” of
ancient Macedonia—ignoring the fact that its language and culture are Slavic in origin and
bear no resemblance to the Macedonian language and culture of antiquity.
Despite these patent inaccuracies, fYR Macedonia appears to have won the battle for public
relations. A search on Google for “Macedonia” and “tourism”, for instance, does not show a
single Greek website or reference: it is dominated entirely by sites for fYR Macedonia. The
same applies to entries on TripAdvisor, Wikipedia or other important portals which affect
not only tourism, but economics and politics as well.
The government of fYR Macedonia also recently produced and aired a slick tourism
promotion clip on CNN and other international media. This was produced by Senka Film for
EUR 190,000, and can be viewed here: www.macedonia‐timeless.com. fYR Macedonia has
also launched an online investment promotion campaign on Bloomberg and other sites.
Organised under the Investment in Macedonia tag, this well‐organised site can be viewed
here: http://www.investinmacedonia.com/. In each case it is clear that fYR Macedonia
continues to make biased and unsubstantiated claims, both as to history and culture, but also
as to ordinary business, investment and demographic/social conditions.
I believe that the time has come for a determined, concerted campaign by the Greek
government, the Prefecture of Macedonia Greece, the Hellenic diaspora world‐wide, as well
as Greek citizens and friends of Greece to correct the situation. I suggest a public‐private
initiative, led by ordinary citizens, to reclaim the identity of the word “Macedonia”, promote
historical and cultural truth, and also promote Greek Macedonia as a tourism and
This campaign should have four main activities:
• Welcome to Macedonia, Greece (Tourism and Culture Promotion)
• Invest in Macedonia, Greece (Investment Promotion and Business Contacts)
• An Online Campaign
• A Media Relations and Response activity.
I believe that this should be in English, or bilingual in English and Greek (and perhaps later
adding Russian, German and French). But we must remember that the language of the
internet is English: one reason that equivalent Hellenic campaigns do so badly in the search
rankings is probably that they are primarily in Greek, and perhaps oriented towards a
domestic audience rather than an international one.
I want to emphasize that the two main activities in this proposal—Welcome to Macedonia,
and Invest in Macedonia—have “real world” benefits in terms of tourism, business, etc. We
should aim to make them self‐sustaining and global brands. The other two initiatives—
Online Campaigns and Media Relations—are necessary from a purely national standpoint.
But the entire campaign will help our country regain the initiative in the current political
arena, where fYR Macedonia is apparently free to dominate international opinion, while
Greece fights a rearguard action.
Each initiative is outlined in further detail below:
This campaign promotes Hellenic tourism and culture in the Region of Macedonia. The main
product should be a 30 second film clip, to be aired on CNN, BBC and other sites, featuring
travel and cultural opportunities such as:
• Thessaloniki (the White Tower, Alexander the Great, nightlife)
• Pella, Vergina and other sites associated with the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia
• Halkidiki and the sites of Mount Athos
• Various scenes of wildlife, nature, etc.
This should be backed by a full‐scale tourism portal, which includes:
• Routes and itineraries
• Maps and guidebooks
• Links to other portals
This tourism portal must be rich enough to make the first page of Google search rankings
using standard search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques. This campaign should be
financed by public and private donations. The effort should be ongoing, producing revenue
from commissions, advertising, listings, etc. from the tourism industry.
2. Invest in Macedonia, Greece
This campaign mirrors the “Welcome to Macedonia” campaign: it comprises a 30‐second
film clip for viewing on CNN, BBC, Bloomberg, etc. as well as an investment and business
The film clip should promote Macedonia as a business and investment destination. It should
• Its status as the only EU country in the western Balkans and, apart from Bulgaria and
Romania, the only EU country in all SE Europe;
• Access to high standard human resources from Thessaloniki and other major cities;
• Access to generous tax benefits from the Invest in Greece Agency as well as EU funding;
• Access to major markets such as the Balkans and Turkey, as well as Italy through the
newly‐finished Egnatia Highway and Igoumenitsa port
• A high quality of life;
• Greater safety and security – compared to neighbouring countries, where crime,
corruption and political interference are at a much higher level
This media campaign needs to be backed by a fully‐fledge portal, with a directory of firms,
lists of investment opportunities and projects, profiles of free trade and investment zones,
These two main campaigns need to be supported by the unglamorous but nevertheless vital
tasks of online campaigning and media relations.
3. Online Campaigns
It is clear today that the proliferation of the internet has become a major factor in affecting
individual decisions, judgement, and knowledge. With Google as the world’s leading search
engine, followed by Yahoo and a few others, it is vital that websites and opinions featuring
the true story of Macedonia be promoted through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This
• Well‐designed content and html or other programme code;
• Specific use of keyword density and frequency;
• Frequent updates and new content;
• A high number of referring links from other sites;
• Online advertising.
We need to promote not only the “Invest in Macedonia” and “Welcome to Macedonia” sites,
so that we can eventually displace content from FYROM, but we also need to support the
hundreds of other sites, such as the American Hellenic Institute, the Australian Macedonian
Advisory Council, and others.
What is needed is a network of sites which slowly shifts the results pages of Google and
other search engines to our sites. This calls for one or more full‐time programmers,
supported by a network of hundreds of volunteers, who can dedicate a few hours each week
to this vital cause.
It is also clear from recent and recurring articles in The Washington Post and other
mainstream media that the majority of journalists have little idea of historical reality or even
fair and balanced reporting. We need to develop a media response team that will:
• Continually monitor online and print media for stories on Macedonia;
• Mobilise a network of hundreds—or thousands—of Greeks in Greece and among the
diaspora, as well as friends of Greece‐to respond to biased articles when needed;
• Routinely submit articles and opinion pieces on politics, tourism, culture, even restaurant
and hotel reviews. This will also support our online strategy, e.g. targeting TripAdvisory,
New York Times Travel, etc.
Budget and Organisation
An indicative annual budget for these campaigns starts at around EUR 1.5 million for each
clip production and promotion, as well as some EUR 100,000 for office set‐up and staff. This
is EUR 3.1 million total.
It would be possible to invest in the clip and promote it online as a starting point. I believe
that once the current election is over and the new government has been announced. But in
the short‐term, one or more donors are needed to support the start‐up.
In order to achieve this plan, a non-governmental, non-profit organisation (NGO) should be
established in Greece to coordinate the campaign. This NGO should be registered by Greek
and foreign citizens interested in contributing their time and financial resources to redressing
a grave historical error, and fighting for what is right.
All expenditure should be legal and above‐board. A professional Big Four audit firm should
be hired to audit the annual accounts. It is very important that this NGO operates
professionally and according to a high standard.
I also feel that it is important that this effort should be non-governmental. Successive Greek
governments from both parties have made grave errors in handling the Macedonia issue.
This statement does not question anyone’s good intentions, but merely states the facts. Left
to the government, we will “lose” the war for the Macedonian identity: a quick look at the
fact that over 100 countries have recognised the “Republic of Macedonia”, and that Greece
does not already have an “Invest in Macedonia” or “Welcome to Macedonia” campaign, is
indicative. The fact that Greek Macedonia does not appear on the first page of Google results
is a serious, indeed frightening event, which should come as a “wake up call” for us all.
I am interested in further developing this concept, and in doing everything possible to
promote a fair, unbiased view of Greece, her history and her potential. I do not want to get
caught up in politics, but now that I have seen history being changed before my eyes, I am
worried enough to get involved.
I ask for your support: your ideas, your feedback and your thoughts are welcome. If you
believe this concept should be supported and can work to redress the current situation,
please let me know, and let’s make a plan for achieving it.
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