Monday, June 18, 2018

Macedonia? Northern Macedonia? Who cares? Macedonians do

What's in a name? Well, quite a lot if you're Macedonian, apparently.
The Republic of Macedonia is a tiny country, once part of Yugoslavia until that federation split in 1991. But there is also a region of northern Greece, just next door, that is also called Macedonia, and there has been an ongoing dispute over the name for decades now, with Greece blocking Macedonia's membership of the EU and of NATO over it.
The historical region of Macedon covers parts of what are now Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia and Kosovo. For what it's worth, Alexander the Great, perhaps the only Macedonian that history will actually remember, was born in what is now the Greek region of Macedonia. For official international purposes, e.g. in the United Nations, the Republic of Macedonia is known as "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM), which is admittedly a bit of a mouthful.
Anyway, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev have just signed an agreement to rename the Republic of Macedonia as the Republic of Northern Macedonia, in an attempt to break the deadlock, and Greece will then officially lift its political blockade, which will finally allow Macedonia into the EU and NATO.
However, the treaty signed by the two Prime Ministers is only the first step, and it must still be ratified by both parliaments and by a referendum in Macedonia, and all of that is by no means certain. Even the Macedonian President opposes the move, and angry protests continue in both countries over the agreement, with substantial parts of both countries seeing the name change as a sell-out.
It is difficult for us outsiders to get excited about it. Surely a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Well, not if you're Macedonian.

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