Of the panoply of disputes around the world today, perhaps none is more petty than the conflict over the name of a certain country that sits to the north of Greece, west of Bulgaria, south of Kosovo and Serbia, and east of Albania. If you ask the UN, NATO or the International Olympic Committee, the name of that country is the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia — FYROM.” If you ask most of the inhabitants of this country, they would be happy to just go by “Republic of Macedonia.” The problem is, the Greeks object. “Macedonia,” you see, is the name of a Greek province that borders FYROM and Athens fears that FYROM’s adoption of the name “Macedonia” would feed FYROM’s territorial aspirations for Greek Macedonia. Accordingly Greece has blocked FYROM’s attempts to be known as the Republic of Macedonia in various international forum–it has even blocked FYROM’s bid for NATO membership over the name issue. The problem, though, is compounded by healthy doses of petty nationalism, often times revolving around the identity and exploits of the most famous Macedonian of them all–Alexander the Great.
So that’s what is in a name. Into this mix comes the American diplomat Matthew Nimetz, who is the UN Special Representative for the naming dispute. Nimetz will travel to Athens and Skopje later this month to once again try and resolve this dispute. His most recent attempt at a breakthrough collapsed when Athens rejected the name “Federal Republic of Macedonia (Skopje).” I do wonder what name he will propose next. This is one of the most needless and silly on going international disputes. The sooner it is resolved, the better.