I call Macedonia Macedonia

A loyal reader writes:  “Mr. Serwer is being quoted as the USA should pressure Greece in regards to fyrom ascension to NATO.  I would really appreciate him to post something on his blog so we can discuss it.”  This presumably refers to remarks I made by Skype Tuesday to a class on Macedonia at University College ISPE in Pristina.  Here are my notes on the name question and NATO for that lecture, which was observed by a Macedonian journalist:

Macedonia’s external problem remains what it has been since independence: Greece’s unwillingness to accept its name.

Let me admit that I am not neutral on this subject. I advocated American recognition of Macedonia by its constitutional name (Republic of Macedonia) well before Washington did it.

I think any country has a right to call itself what it wants, so long as it does not harbor irredentist designs on its neighbors. This applies to the United States of Mexico, and to the US state of New Mexico, as much as it does to Macedonia and Greece.

In fact, Macedonia has already changed its constitution and flag to accommodate Greek concerns.

I am convinced that Macedonia does not have irredentist designs on Greece. Greek preoccupation with this issue is rooted in Athens’ own attitude towards minorities within Greece, as it denies they exist, and concern about Greek identity.

While claiming continuity with ancient Greece, Greek identity is much more clearly rooted in the early 19th century.

But whatever the origins, the result is a pernicious one. Greece’s current prime minister has gone as far as to say that he wants to see the dissolution of Macedonia and the formation of a Greater Albania, rather than accept a solution to the “name” issue.

This would be nothing more than comedic except for one thing: Greece’s attitude on the name issue is blocking Macedonian membership in NATO and holding up its progress towards negotiating EU membership.

The EU has been clever and invented a “high-level dialogue” that in essence substitutes for the EU accession negotiations, which in any event won’t be concluded during this decade.

The NATO issue is more urgent. Albanians in Macedonia regard NATO membership as vital to their own security, a kind of guarantee that the Macedonian state will continue in the direction of treating them properly.

Macedonia has met NATO’s criteria for membership. Its army has even fought under US command in Afghanistan and still protects NATO headquarters there.

I’ve spoken with the Vermont National Guard commander who integrated Macedonian troops with his own fighting in Afghanistan. He told me he relied on them as he would on American troops.

But Greece shows no sign of easing its veto on membership by the time of the next NATO summit in Cardiff, Wales in September.

Washington has unfortunately said that NATO membership for Macedonia depends on its resolving its problems with Greece, a position that essentially turns American leverage over to Athens.

This in my view is a serious mistake, but so far at least I’ve been unable to convince my American colleagues that they should take a more proactive role.

My own preference would be that Washington seek to end the UN mediation, which has produced nothing in almost 20 years of effort, and tell Athens that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will become a member of NATO in Cardiff, along with Montenegro, in the fall.

At the same time, Brussels should make clear to Skopje that it will need to reach a mutually acceptable accommodation with Greece before it can become an EU member.

Athens can of course still veto Macedonia’s membership in NATO, where decisions are taken by consensus.

But that would be a serious mistake if Brussels and Washington are prepared to press the issue at the highest levels. Cash-strapped Greece is in no position to annoy, much less anger, the Americans, Germans and other Europeans.

Nor is it wise for Greece to continue to ignore the 2011 decision of the International Court of Justice, which found by a 15 to 1 margin that Athens has breached the Interim Accord and rejected its allegations against the Skopje government.

While Greeks continue to claim that the Court failed to adopt any remedies, the decision was clearly a binding one that the ICJ expected Athens to implement.  The court in fact has no power to enforce its decisions.

Let me be clear: the Macedonian government, while held not to have violated the Interim Accord, is not entirely without its own responsibility in this matter, especially in recent years.

Prime Minister Gruevski has played to his own constituency by emphasizing connections to ancient Macedonia that are even more far-fetched than those of Prime Minister Samaras, which is saying something.

What we’ve got here are two democratically elected leaders who each feed the beast of ethnic nationalism in ways that are destabilizing and dangerous.

There is a real risk that they have unleashed sentiments that will be difficult to put back in Pandora’s box, which is an appropriate label given the context.

Neither Greece nor Macedonia can cause the kind of military damage that Milosevic’s Serbia did, but they can certainly cause political instability, especially if their dispute unleashes a third ethnic nationalism: the Albanian one.

I inserted as well a few remarks based on my experience in Italy, where I met only one person (in 10 years of living there) who claimed descent from the ancient Romans.  Italians know that the Romans were conquered by various “barbarians”–Goths, Vandals, and the like–so that modern-day Italians are thoroughly mixed genetically.  Rome at one point had a population of only 85,000 people (at the peak of the Empire and today it has more like 3 million).  How could any but a handful of Italians claim genetic descent from ancient Rome?  How much better, or worse, is the Greek claim to descent from the ancient Greeks? 

Even in the US we claim descent from Greco-Roman culture.  Washington DC was designed to be the “New Rome.”  Such claims deprive Italy and Greece of nothing.  Pride in one’s heritage should mean pride in seeing others attach themselves to it.


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19 thoughts on “I call Macedonia Macedonia”

  1. Thank you for posting your interview Mr.Serwer a few points:

    1)We know that you are not neutral in the matter from previous postings of yours.Thank you for at least admiting it
    2)It is not just greece any more,bulgaria has issues as well
    3)unfortunatly fyrom does have designs and both greek and bulgarian territoires and peoples.
    4)you are not one to speak of greek identity and feelings since you are not greek
    5)Samaras as prime minister has never made claims for a greater albania or the dissolution of fyrom.Can you please provide proof on these accusations.
    6)believe me it is not comic at all mr.Sewer
    7)we would like to see fyrom in both nato and the eu,we just need a mutual agreement as Both nato general secretary and the EU Commision have both stated.
    8)the icj verdict is non binding good luck enforcing it.
    9)do not threaten greece in her need for funds,the last time greece was bankrupt she double in size.be careful who you threaten beside the debt is held by eu countries and the imf should greece unilaterally wipe out her debt?

    will post more in a bit.but at the end all greece is saying is put a pre fix in front of macedonia ie nova macedonia or north macedonia and the problem is solved.Who really is being comic mr.Sewer?If Fyrom had such urgency to join nato she would.60 years ago they were known as vardaska please check your state department historical records for your answers.a few key hints Comintern,macedonia,1944

  2. Reading a Greek blog tonight there is a lot of chatter that the US is pushing to close all open items in the balkans especially after Crimea in fear that Russia will jump in between fyrom and NATO.The blog says that the US is pushing both sides for a agreement over the summer after elections in fyrom in May and the NATO summit in September .the name they are pushing on both sides is “the republic of upper macedonia”

  3. Macedonian was and is a crucial component of Greek identity. Macedonians did spread Greek Language and Civilization to the World.

    Greeks cannot allow any non-Greek people to monopolize the name of Macedonia. Therefore, no ethnicity, language, citizenship etc. should be named Macedonian as long as Greeks exist.

    SlavoSkopians do lie to themselves and their children and do humiliate Greek identity each time call themselves as Macedonians. The same thing goes to anybody calls them Macedonians.

    When SlavoSkopians tell the truth to themselves or their children, the name problem is solved.

    Greece has done a good proposal: SomeMacedonia.

    Yes, we, the Greeks of Macedonia, call ourselves as Macedonians since 800 BC; the entire World and USA MUST respect our self-determination right.

  4. Istor Macedonian no one has copyright or trademark on any historical name, person or an event. There is no sane reason why not to allow Macedonians to call themselves Macedonians (or Spartans for that matter if they wish to) and their country Macedonia. Where in writing and by which law or principle Macedonia would have the right on Greek territories (even if that could be possible). Wake up and give your effort in building a better Europe (and better Greece as well).

    1. We Macedonians do call ourselves as Macedonians, the last 3000 years, at least. The point is that SlavoSkopians want to monopolize our name. SlavoSkopians are not Macedonian. The name MUST distinguish them from us Macedonians as clearly as possible. A Europe built upon SlavoSkopian lies and half-truths, is not european at all.

  5. Political maturity seems to be breaking out in the second-least-likely of places (from the evidence here, it’s still too much to hope for in the southern Balkans). In Ukraine, the charismatic boxer is pulling out of the presidential race and supporting the most sensible of the other candidates (a rich man who earned his money rather than stealing it). Mr. Klichko said it’s time for the democratic forces to unite rather than to squander their chances by splitting their votes again – is it possible rationality will prevail there at last?

      1. What I had in mind was Klicko’s withdrawing from the presidential race in order to increase the chances that one of the unitary-Ukraine candidates wins the election, even though his own personal chances looked good.

        As shown here, many in the Balkans are still hung up on interpretations of the ancient past and are apparently prepared to destroy the future prospects of the region for narrowly personal and local reasons using appeals based on fitting ancient facts into modern categories (such as “nationality”).

  6. It turns out that there exist two types of Macedonians: Ones who maintain a single national identity – Macedonia and others who promote a dual combined identity – one is regional, Macedonian and the other is national, i.e. Greek.

    Now, Macedonians of Macedonia have no other identity but Macedonian. Macedonians of Greece on the other hand maintain a dual identity which of course is their own right (to be dubious about it).

    The Macedonians of the Republic of Macedonia do respect and will respect this fact. No one in Macedonia denies the right of anyone, including the Macedonians in Greece to self-determine and, further, consider themselves to be “proud Greeks”.

    Almost everyone in Greece is completely disrespectful of the right of the Macedonians living in the Republic of Macedonia to self-determine and consider themselves to be “proud Macedonians” who happen to live in a country they call the Republic of Macedonia just as the proud Greeks call their country Republic of Greece.

    About Peter’s commment related to the existence of a second argument by Bulgaria, on top of the Greek one, it is pointless to waste words as Bulgaria’s attitude to has little in common with the core EU values of celebrating diversity and respecting the various national identities, languages, cultures etc.

    The behavior of the Greek and Bulgarian governments and parts of their societies very much resembles to that of Serbia under Milosevic, which was exceptionally delusional on the issue of Kosovo which ultimately led to more tragedies and troubles for the Serbian society and state.

    One day both Greece and Bulgaria will have to humbly accept the Macedonian state and national identity as a fait accompli, just as the whole Balkans had to accept Kosovo and make room for the new Kosovar identity, no matter how hard it was for some to swallow this fact, including us here in Macedonia. While for those of you who are determined to remain stubborn about this issue, you are IN for a looong, loong battle and wait before you see Macedonian state and identity erased. In fact you are almost definitely not going to see it in your lifetime and we will not be sorry about it. You can bet on it!

    1. You, the Slavs of FYROM, do lie so pathetically to yourselves and your children about Macedonian and SlavoSkopian histories and identities that you prefer not to read or publish all books about those matters in Skopje. Alexander himself said that he was King of Greeks, just what Holy Bible says. Before you asking respect of your self-determination right you MUST respect the same right of a part of Greeks who created, defined and glorified the name of Macedonia, long time ago.

      1. What a nonsensical charade made in Greece. As ever! I sense we’ve hit some nerve here again.

        As for you Istor, you know very well that there were no Greeks at the time you are describing, only Athenians, Spartans,Corinthians, Cretans etc. Just as there were no multiple Gods for various purposes as these too are just a product of the local “Hellenic” imagination.

        Practically, this Alexander the Great character you invoked in the discussion, had no Greeks to rule over. The Holy Bible makes no mentions of the kind you talk about (such as Alexander being the King of the “Greeks”). This is despite the fact that parts of it may have even been fabricated through time by some authors influenced by the ancient Greek mythology.

        Furthermore there is no mention of “Greece” or “Greeks” or even “Hellenes” in the Holy Bible whatsoever. It does mention Macedonia and Macedonians though!

        Finally some day it may be clearer to all of you down there in Athens and Thessaloniki that the right to self-determination is…well a right to self-determination and NOT an obligation to adjust your own self-determination according to other people’s determinants.

        The sooner – the better! For your own sake, not so much ours!

        1. mk observer if there is no mention why was the new testmant written in greek ?your propoganda is effecting your reasoning.

        2. Dear MK Observer,

          people like you are the reason that no arrangement can be done between Greece and FYROM.
          Your ‘opinion’, that Greeks didn’t exist in antiquity, is against numerous evidences that prove beyond doubt the existence of Greeks in the ancient times. And i’m not talking about Athenians, Spartans, Macedonians, i am talking about Hellenes (=Greeks).
          Herodotus the first ever historian that mentioned Macedonians, stated that they were Hellenes.
          Who are you to deny this, and with what evidence?

          You see it’s rather you who deny the right of self determination to Greeks. It’s you who deny to Greeks the right to their history and heritage. And you came here to play your favorite victim role?

  7. This article definitely is biased. It underestimates the fact that the Gruevski government is actively engaging in historical revisionism: writing books, shooting movies, putting up statues, deleting information from Wikipedia pages etc and all this exactly around the ambiguity of the name Macedonia. The author himself is a proof that the solution he proposes does not work. He himself refers to the Republic as Macedonia throughout, which causes confusion because the biggest part of the region of Macedonia is, actually, in Greece. Quite the opposite, the territory of the Republic is not in Macedonia only. Bulgaria has already said that it will not tolerate a solution that contains a geographic qualifier in order to avoid any future problems. My view is that there is no future for this statelet and a lot of it has to do with its government’s own decisions. In its short life it has managed to make an enemy of absolutely every neighbour and it has now found itself in front of a dead end. I appreciate what the author is saying about the Greek national identity but nobody has raised any formal objections to that, so, why is it even being discussed?

  8. When is NATO going to do anything about Cyprus? What about the Cypriots’ right to self-determination, which was that they wish to be part of the republic of Greece by the decision of a referendum? Why was Turkey allowed to veto that? Does self-determination apply to everyone or only some people? Thanks.

  9. It seems to my after reading various articles that FYROM politicians overestimate their counties importance to NATO and the EU to which Greece has been a member for decades.
    The west does not preoccupy themselves with the name issue and for this matter neither does Greece. Greece has time on its side and the next Generation of Fyrom politicians might not think the same. In the meantime the people of fyrom suffer.

  10. I call Macedonia ‘Makethonia’ same way ancient-Greeks called the ancient-Kingdom. I call upon like-minded peoples to support the preservation of the Western worlds long-established cultural-historical narrative.

    FYRoM is not Macedonia – It is Paeonia, and then Dardania, north from Skopje.

    FYRoM [ Makedonci ] Slavs are not Macedonians…at least not in the Greek sense of that word.

    FYRoM [ Makedonski ] Language is not Macedonian-Language…more Serbo-Bulgarian renamed, August 1944. The Macedonian-language is Centum-Greek from since >3 Millenniums.

    Those who see FYRoM like Macedonia and Yugoslavs like Macedonians have issues with demography, geography and history.

  11. Macedonians = Indigenous Haemus-Natives
    Yugoslavians = Exogenous Slavic-Settlers

    Can You See It Now!

    Macedonians have right to keep as Greek as possible, the identity-characteristics of their regional-historical Haemus-Hellenic ancestors. Macedonian-Identity is recognized by the UN, protected under article 7 of the draft decleration of human-rights of indigenous peoples – FYRoM has no choice now but to contend with this reality.

    Calling FYRoM Macedonia intentionally, is being disgracefully ignorant of geography demography and history.

    Calling Yugoslavians Macedonians intentionally, is being anti-Hellenic. Anti-Hellenic act – anti-Western by extension.

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