One of the most inane international disputes today is over the name of a country that is referred to in official documentation as “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, (FYROM).” Understandably, the government of this country prefers to simply be called, “The Republic of Macedonia.” (Who wants to be associated with Yugoslavia, anyway?)
The thing is, there is a large province of Greece called “Macedonia,” and the Greeks very much do not want their northern neighbors to co-opt the name.
Back and forth on this dispute has been ongoing since the end of the Balkan civil wars. The UN has even had an American diplomat, Matthew Nimitz, try and resolve the issue. He’s been on the case since 1999! Alas, positions on this issue are very hardened. To wit, consider these statements in the UN General Assembly speeches last week by Greece and Macedonia.
Greek foreign minister Н.Е. Мг. Dimitrios Droutsas:
There аre several other ореn issues in the Balkans. Оnе of them revolves around the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This is not а bilateral, pedantic dispute about historical symbols, as some try to portray it, but а regional question, with deep historical roots, related to good neighbourliness.
In order to reach а compromise оn the name issue, the two sides must meet in the middle Ьу taking reciprocal steps to bгidge the gap and reconcile their conflicting positions. Greece has already done its part. А fair and lasting solution саn only bе based оn а name with а geographic qualifier, to bе used for all purposes, erga omnes. Macedonia is а large geographic region, most of which lies in Greece. А small part is in the FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA and а smaller part in Bulgaria. The part саnnоt represent the whole and the FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA’s exclusive claims to the name “Macedonia” саnnot bе allowed to fuel nationalism. Any solution must be universally implemented because otherwise today’s situation will simply bе perpetuated.
Meanwhile, the President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov did not issue any geographic qualifiers when he referred to his country as the “Republic of Macedonia” no less than twelve times in his speech.
The Republic of Macedonia is fully committed to the process of resolving the difference with Greece within the frameworks of the mechanism established by the UN Resolutions. Our name is concerned, our right to self-identification and human dignity. We do everything in our capacity to nurture close and friendly relations with neighboring Greece, with its people. A solution can be reached only if the UN Charter, the Resolutions, the international law and principles, on which the international order rest, are respected.
So that’s what is in a name!