Macedonia's Name: A Step to Peace
10 December 2001
SKOPJE/BRUSSELS, 10 December 2001: The signing of the Framework Agreement on 13 August 2001 was a notable success, laying the foundation for a lasting multiethnic solution to long-standing nationality problems in Macedonia. But Macedonia is not out of danger.
The conflict with Albanians and the ambitious reforms agreed at Ohrid have undermined Macedonia’s fragile sense of national identity. This perpetuates animosity towards the Albanian minority as well as widespread resentment towards the international community. The powerful anti-reform faction in government is exploiting this sense of grievance to obstruct progress, and some elements talk openly of a return to fighting.
Unless the Macedonians’ anxiety over identity is addressed, the Framework Agreement may buckle and the country slide back into conflict. The most acute identity issue – and the one that, if resolved, would have most positive impact – is the long-running name dispute with Greece. Since 1992, at Greek insistence, Macedonia has been internationally known under the provisional name ‘former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’, or FYROM. And Greece is not the only neighbour that challenges Macedonian identity. Serbia refuses to acknowledge Macedonia’s Orthodox Church, and Bulgaria denies the existence of a Macedonian nationality and language.
A new ICG report published today, Macedonia’s Name: Why the Dispute Matters and How to Resolve It, argues that there are now compelling strategic reasons for the international community to acknowledge the country’s constitutional name, ‘Republika Makedonija’, while accepting and defending Greece’s legitimate concerns.
ICG’s detailed solution for the name dispute involves three main steps: q a bilateral treaty between Skopje and Athens which includes special concessions to Greek concerns on the name issue; q commitments by EU and NATO members to consult with Greece on appropriate measures to take if Macedonia does not honour its treaty promises; and, q use of the name ‘Republika Makedonija’ by the United Nations and other intergovernmental organisations.
Greek statesmanship is vital to the success of this initiative. It would benefit most from maintaining a stable neighbour. The international community would also require Skopje to invite the NATO and OSCE missions to extend their mandates in Macedonia in 2002, to ensure that peace is upheld and that next year’s elections are free and fair.
ICG Balkans Program Director Mark Thompson said: “This proposal is not a cure-all but the alternative – letting the name dispute fester – signals to Macedonians that the international community may not be fully committed to the Ohrid reforms, or to preserving Macedonia as an integral state. By acknowledging the country’s name, the international community will consolidate the peace and improve its own battered credibility among Macedonians”.
The full report can be downloaded here.
For further information, contact Katy Cronin or Sascha Pichler at ICG
Brussels, tel: +32 2 536 00 64 or 70, email: firstname.lastname@example.org