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When the wolf has to be fed and the sheep has to be whole

20 February 2010 / 17:02:59  GRReporter
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Maria Spassova


The last visit of the international intermediary Mathew Nimits in Athens laid the cards on the negotiation table and called for the two parties to take a close look at them and to get rid of their illusions. He clearly stated: “There is no option that only one of the parties will make a compromise and both sides will have to step back”.

For Greece this would mean that there is no chance that Macedonia will be forced to change its constitutional name and nothing will change in Greece as well. If Skopje agrees to the name “New Macedonia” which is the dream of Bakoyannis and Karamanlis, then Greece will be forced to use the name Macedonia only in the commercial brands, but not as a political name. Practically this would mean that the Thessaloniki airport will no longer be called “Macedonia”, that the ministry of Macedonia and Thrace will have to be renamed to ministry of Greek Macedonia and Thrace. Well, the “Macedonian halvah” will still be called the same. Would the Greek society agree to make such a compromise?

It is more likely they would not. In a recent research of the public opinion it turned out that 82 percent of the Greeks want their government to impose a veto to the acceptance of Macedonia in NATO. From a clearly political point of view this would be the safest decision for the government of Karamanlis. All parties, all parliament members from Northern Greece and 82 percent of the citizens will back it up. This decision however brings bad external political consequences for Athens and during the meeting of Rays and Bakoyannis in Washington she was reminded of them.

These consequences will hang down with in front of the Greek diplomacy when on March 3rd in Athens will arrive the secretary general of Nato Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The allies of Greece in the alliance will be seriously aggravated if Greece confronts sharply their desire to invite Macedonia to become a member during the meeting of the top in Bucharest in April. According to diplomatic sources in case Greece imposes a veto it will be asked to withdraw its military structures from the alliance. This has already happened once in the history of Greece ironically during the government of the great Konstantinos Karamanlis and the country rushed to go back to it.

The dilemma which the Greek government is facing is difficult. The situation is not easer for the Macedonian government as well. The Macedonian government is pressed by the United States to show amenability and step back at least a little bit. The pledge is big – the membership in NATO and the date for the negotiations for membership in the European Union. To Skopje the membership in NATO is put all in one basket and it is “now or never”. George Bush will only be president of the USA for few more months and nobody knows who will inherit his position. If this somebody is called Barack Obama and even now he believes that Macedonia belongs to Greece, then Skopje will be deprived of its most powerful international ally in the face of Washington.

From a foreign political point of view Skopje will only win if at least a little bit it steps back from the name. From internal political point of view however this will be a disaster for Gruevski. Tito started to work on the creation of the Macedonian nation more than half a century ago, however it was actually formed as one in the past 15 years. The nationalism is a children’s decease of any young nation including the Macedonian one. It has very ugly faces and we see them recently in the former Yugoslavian republic even when facing Bulgarian diplomatic missions. However who has the right to say to the other if he has to feel as Macedonian, as new Macedonian or northern Macedonian. Or as a joke from Skopje says “I do not want to be a new Macedonian, I prefer to be a new democrat” (meaning a supporter of the Greek New democracy).

The citizens of the Republic of Macedonia feel proud to be Macedonians and if the government of Gruevski offers them to give up this pride, the consequences will be bad. That is exactly why Gruevski will probably turn to the most populist solution – a referendum, on which we will basically have to guess if 95 percent or 98 percent of the Macedonians will prefer to remain Macedonians.  

In order to have a win-win situation in the Greek – Macedonian argument the leaders of both of the countries have to act as leaders and lead their citizens forward and should not hide behind their opinion. It is not easy. It was not easy for Moses as well. However as a Greek saying reads “The good captain could be told in a storm”.

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