Should Macedonia be called Macedonia? A minister’s ‘blunder’

The issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is not just a dispute over historical facts or symbols

Yorva Tsiakara
Yorva Tsiakara - Special to Al Arabiya English
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When Greece's migration minister Yannis Mouzalas called Macedonia “Macedonia,” instead of "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)” he did not expect to provoke another strike among the irascible political parties of the country. But why all the fuss over the miswording? Several Greek analysts and politicians have expressed concerns that overseas observers tend to overlook or not to understand the severity of the perceived territorial threat and tend to misunderstand the conflict as a trivial issue over just a name.

The Minister for National Defence of Greece, Panos Kammenos, as well as representatives of the liberal-conservative political party of Greece are currently seeking Mouzalas' resignation.

The issue of the name of the FYROM is not just a dispute over historical facts or symbols. It has regional and international implications, consisting of the promotion of irredentist and territorial ambitions on the part of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The minister has breached a national line, continuously followed by the government for decades, while bringing up this sensitive topic.

Mouzalas was referring to the massive influx of refugees into the Macedonian territories when he said: “There are two sides in this story. On one hand, the people stranded at the town of Idomeni are not moving from there, hoping the border will be open soon. We have evidence that these expectations were created by several organizations claiming to be volunteers, but have no relation to those who actually help with and organize the passage to Macedonia.”

The people of Skopje have been persistently trying to impose on the international community and especially on Greece the Greek historical name of "Macedonia" for their state and national identification. Despite that, the official policy of the Greek government is to take the necessary measures against the name. The main purpose of this discrete behaviour onthe part of the government is followed in order to avoid further discussions on the subject of the Macedonian naming dispute. The "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" can be considered offensive by most Greeks, especially inhabitants of the Greek region of Macedonia. The abbreviation FYROM is acceptably used instead. However, in Greece, the extreme position on the issue suggests that there must be "no Macedonia in the title" of a neighboring country.

There are multiple reasons behind Greece's extremely discrete behaviour on this subject. Greece suspects that the Republic of Macedonia has territorial ambitions in the northern Greek provinces of Macedonia. This has been a Greek concern for decades; as far back as 1957, the Greek government expressed concern about reported Yugoslav ambitions to create an "independent" People's Republic of Macedonia with the Greek city of Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, as its capital. The concerns are further reinforced by the fact that extremist ethnic Macedonian nationalists of the "United Macedonia" movement have expressed irredentist claims to what they refer to as “Macedonia”.

However, the migration minister has already publicly apologized for his verbal mistake, pointing out it was due to fatigue. And there is no doubt he will be making sure to nap before any statement he makes from now on!

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