Thursday, July 10, 2008
The Name Dispute
As you may already know, there is a serious name dispute between Macedonia and Greece over the name "Macedonia" for the country I presently reside in. I read about this name dispute every single day when I read the English summary of Macedonian news events. The name dispute has kept Macedonia from joining NATO (it is the ONLY reason Macedonia has not be allowed to join the military alliance) and will keep Macedonia from joining the EU, if it is not resolved. Here is how the name dispute is commonly viewed here in Macedonia: "Macedonia has fulfilled all the criteria for NATO membership; Greece vetoed Macedonia because of who we are." You now see the rhetoric used to discuss this issue. I am sure the Greeks have a similarly emotionally driven come back for that quotation. But here's the thing: the playing field is not level in this dispute. Greece is already a member to the clubs Macedonia wants to join and the clubs all happen to have a consensus rule about allowing new members to join. Because of the unequal positions of the two States, Niemitz, the UN negotiator on this issue, needs to be very careful that Macedonia is treated fairly in this dispute. And, both sides need to grow up. This reminds me of a playground shoving match. By focusing on the populist rhetoric of a name issue, what are the Macedonian and Grecian politicians not discussing? Unemployment? Domestic violence? Human trafficking? Stagnant economies? This is a supposedly a dispute over identity. I can see that; however, it is also a smoke screen to not discuss bigger issues that truly affect the everyday lives of Grecian and Macedonian citizens. Until Macedonia and Greece resolve this issue, NATO and EU Membership will not be within Macedonia's reach.