As regular readers will have noticed, I’ve avoided writing about the Balkans lately. There are a lot more interesting things going on elsewhere in the world. But Greece’s decision to put stickers reading “recognized by Greece as FYROM” over the MK on newly issued Macedonian license plates is too fine an opportunity to pass up.
Greece is doing this allegedly under the 1995 interim agreement with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), whose application for NATO membership Athens has blocked, first in Bucharest in 2008. Greece repeated its move more recently in Chicago this year, despite an International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision unequivocal in finding Greece in violation of the agreement in Bucharest.
Where I come from, if you want to apply an agreement you have to fulfill its terms yourself first. Greece understands this perfectly well and accused Macedonia of being in violation of the interim agreement during the ICJ proceedings. Its accusations were found to lack serious merit. Now Athens, having been found in violation, is seeking to apply the agreement it refused to apply in Chicago.
Words fail me. Mendacious maybe. They have apparently failed Skopje as well, which in the initial press report is said to be weighing its response. That’s wise. There is really no point in aggravating the situation further, tempting though it may be to do so.
But I’m not a government. I’m a blogging/tweeting professor and can suggest anything I like. I only risk hate tweets and emails. Maybe a sticker to cover the GR on Greek plates that reads “Southern Macedonia”? Or one that says “I am Greek traveling in a country whose name I don’t accept”? Ethnic Macedonians and Albanians with Greek license plates would have to be exempt from that one. Or one that declares “interim agreement be damned”?
Here in DC, most license plates read “taxation without representation,” because residents of the District of Columbia pay Federal taxes but have a representative in Congress who can’t vote in plenary (and no senators–even states smaller in population than DC are entitled to two).
Slogans of all sorts grace the license plates of most cars in the United States. I’ve always thought it unimaginative of Europeans not to use that bit of valuable real estate on the back of a car for something edifying. My favorite proposal (it isn’t reality) was for Wisconsin, a big dairy producing state: “eat cheese or die” (New Hampshire’s plates really do read “live free or die”).
Greece of course has bigger problems these days than the “MK” on its northern neighbor’s license plates. It would do well to save a few euros by cutting the funding for those “recognized as FYROM” stickers. It would do even better to stop violating an agreement it wants to apply and allow FYROM to enter NATO.