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Report: Macedonia's Name: Why the Dispute Matters and How to Resolve It (ICG)

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  • Florian Bieber
    http://www.crisisweb.org/projects/showreport.cfm?reportid=507 International Crisis Group Macedonia s Name: Why the Dispute Matters and How to Resolve It On 16
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 10, 2001
      http://www.crisisweb.org/projects/showreport.cfm?reportid=507

      International Crisis Group

      Macedonia's Name: Why the Dispute Matters and How to Resolve It


      On 16 November 2001, Macedonia’s parliament passed a set of constitutional
      amendments that were agreed in August, when Macedonian and Albanian
      minority leaders signed the Ohrid Framework Agreement. Later that day,
      President Trajkovski clarified the terms of an amnesty for Albanian rebels,
      in line with international requests.
      These positive moves have breathed new life into the Framework Agreement.
      But they do not put it beyond risk, or take Macedonia itself out of
      danger. A powerful faction in government still opposes the agreed reforms,
      and will resist their implementation. Ordinary Macedonians deeply resent
      the way the Framework Agreement was reached and remain suspicious of the
      international community’s entire role. This provides a serious obstacle to
      the reform process, and a valid grievance for the anti-reform camp to exploit.
      So far as Macedonians are concerned, the Agreement contains a double
      weakness. First, it redresses long-standing minority grievances mainly by
      reducing the privileges of the majority. Secondly, its purpose of turning
      Macedonia into a ‘civic state’ – while admirable and necessary – makes
      Macedonia an anomaly in a region of emphatically ‘ethnic’ states, three of
      which uphold fundamental challenges to the Macedonian identity. Greece
      vetoes international acceptance of Macedonia’s name, Serbia denies the
      autonomy of its church, and Bulgaria (while accepting Macedonia as a state)
      denies the existence of a Macedonian language and a Macedonian nation.
      Following its success at Ohrid, the international community has tended to
      underestimate the profound challenge that the Framework Agreement poses to
      Macedonia’s already fragile sense of identity, and how this erodes the
      country’s capacity to implement the agreed reforms. This in turn has led to
      a loss of influence. The NATO and OSCE missions have let themselves be
      outflanked by the anti-reformists. Parliamentary elections – due next April
      – are no guarantee that more amenable leaders will come to power.
      The conflict with part of the Albanian minority has pushed Skopje to seek
      security help (both weapons and political support) from the very neighbours
      who challenge Macedonian identity. There is a real risk that the
      anti-reform camp in Skopje will be tempted by a military solution, even at
      the risk of national partition – a move that would be welcomed by Albanian
      extremists.
      In sum, the conflict with Albanians and the perceived shortcomings of the
      Framework Agreement have abruptly increased the importance of Macedonia’s
      identity crisis. The international community needs to reassure Macedonians
      on this issue in order to re-establish a more promising political
      environment for good faith implementation and constructive cooperation.
      The most acute identity issue – and the one that if resolved would have
      most positive impact – is the long-running name dispute with Greece. While
      both countries claim the name and heritage, the Macedonian claim is not
      exclusive. However, only the Macedonians depend on the name ‘Macedonia’ as
      the designation of both their state and their people.
      Greece has a more direct interest than other European Union members in
      stabilising Macedonia, but is extremely unlikely to amend its position
      without a clear message from its partners that they sympathise with and
      will be helpful to its basic concerns. Greek statesmanship is crucial. The
      Greek offer of financial and security assistance, while helpful, cannot
      substitute for the need to secure the Macedonian identity.
      Bilateral talks to resolve the dispute at the United Nations have not
      yielded a solution, nor – given the nature of the issue and the regional
      record on bilateral negotiations – are they likely to do so. The
      international community has a compelling strategic reason to acknowledge
      Macedonia's constitutional name as a matter of regional stability, and this
      can be done in a way that meets Greece’s legitimate concerns.
      ICG proposes a triangular solution with the following three elements coming
      into effect simultaneously:
      - A bilateral treaty would be concluded between Skopje and Athens in
      which Macedonia would make important concessions, including declarations on
      treatment of the Greek cultural heritage in the Macedonian educational
      curriculum, agreement that Greece could use its own name for the state of
      Macedonia, and strict protection against any Macedonian exploitation of its
      constitutional name to disadvantage Greece commercially or legally.
      - The member states of NATO and the European Union and others would
      formally welcome this bilateral treaty through exchange of diplomatic notes
      with the two parties, in which they would both acknowledge Macedonia’s name
      as ‘Republika Makedonija’ and promise Greece that they would consult with
      it about appropriate measures if the assurances contained in the treaty
      were violated.
      - The United Nations and other intergovernmental organisations would
      adopt and use for all working purposes the Macedonian-language name
      ‘Republika Makedonija’.
      Before formally acknowledging the name ‘Republika Makedonija’ bilaterally
      and in intergovernmental organisations, it would be reasonable for the
      international community to require at least two up-front concessions by
      Macedonia relating to the implementation of the Framework Agreement
      reforms, namely:
      - An invitation for NATO to extend its mission for at least six months
      beyond March 2002; and
      - An invitation for OSCE to extend its mission for a full twelve months
      after December 2001, with a mandate to monitor the electoral process at all
      stages, including full access and authority to make inquiries and
      recommendations.
      The most crucial benefit of this package is that it would consolidate the
      achievement at Ohrid by boosting the Macedonian sense of security and
      confidence in the international community. International recognition of the
      country by its own preferred name would supply the critical missing
      ingredient in the present situation – reassurance about Macedonian national
      identity. The proposed package would also address critical Greek
      demands: that Macedonia’s name should be changed, and that it should not
      monopolise the single name ‘Macedonia’. Greece would retain the right in
      the United Nations and other intergovernmental organisations to use its own
      preferred name for Macedonia (such as ‘Upper Macedonia’). There would be no
      bar on commercial use of the name ‘Macedonia’, or any variant of it, with
      respect to products or services from either Greece’s province of Makedonia
      or Republika Makedonija.
      Also to Greece’s advantage would be the explicit reference to the proposed
      bilateral Athens-Skopje treaty in the proposed diplomatic notes
      acknowledging Macedonia’s name. For the first time, Greece would not have
      to depend on Macedonian promises, but would be backed by leading powers
      that would make clear their endorsement of the total package.
      This proposal is not a cure-all and it requires the international community
      to break with the habit of a decade. It will be difficult to negotiate, but
      – in ICG’s judgement, after canvassing the proposal at length in Skopje,
      Athens and among some of the major international players – not
      impossible. 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. This is
      a message with dangerous implications.
      RECOMMENDATIONS
      1. In order to establish the psychological basis for achieving the crucial
      next steps toward securing sustainable peace in Macedonia, a major effort
      should now be made – led by European Union members and the United States –
      to resolve the dispute over Macedonia’s name in a way that provides
      Macedonia vital reassurance about its own national identity but at the same
      time meets Greece’s legitimate concerns. 2. The best prospects for
      agreement lie in a triangular solution with the following three elements
      coming into effect simultaneously:
      - a bilateral treaty between Skopje and Athens involving Macedonian
      concessions to Greek concerns, including allowing Greece to have its own
      name for Macedonia, and assurances as to future behaviour;
      - diplomatic notes from EU and NATO member states and others
      acknowledging Macedonia’s name as ‘Republika Makedonija’ and the terms of
      the bilateral treaty, while promising to consult with Greece on appropriate
      measures if the treaty is broken; and
      - adoption and use for working purposes by the United Nations and other
      intergovernmental organisations of the Macedonian-language name ‘Republika
      Makedonija’.
      3. Before formally acknowledging the name ‘Republika Makedonija’
      bilaterally and in intergovernmental organisations, at least two up-front
      concessions should be required of Macedonia relating to the implementation
      of the Framework Agreement reforms:
      - to invite NATO to extend its mission for at least six months beyond
      March 2002; and
      - to invite OSCE to extend its mission for a full twelve months after
      December 2001, with a mandate to monitor the electoral process at all
      stages, including full access and authority to make inquiries and
      recommendations.
      Skopje/Brussels, 10 December 2001
    • bojantik
      Florian Bieber asked me to give a comment/analysis on the ICG report concerning Macedonia s name. First of all, some background on myself: I am 22 years old,
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 19, 2001
        Florian Bieber asked me to give a comment/analysis on
        the ICG report concerning Macedonia's name.
        First of all, some background on myself: I am 22 years old,
        and have yet to finish my higher education. I work as a
        journalist at a local TV station in the capital of
        Macedonia, Skopje, and have been doing that for over a
        year now, under the guidance of one of Macedonia's most
        respected journalists, Gordana Stoshich. I am also (since
        2 weeks ago) a permanent participant on the IBB programme
        Washington Window on behalf of our TV station.

        Now, that the pleasantries are out of the way, let me
        move on to more pressing matters. Namely the ICG report
        on the dispute over Macedonia's name.

        The report itself says that its purpose is to find a
        way to repair the fragile identity of us Macedonians.
        This identity crisis has supposedly arisen from the
        framework agreement signed in Ohrid this summer. Now,
        some political parties (the "staunch" nationalists
        (there is a reason for the quotation marks)) have
        claimed throughout the parliamentary debate over the
        constitutional changes that these changes would
        deeply affect the Macedonian people (in my, as well as
        in many of my fellow countrymen's, view, this was
        only to claim some points for the upcoming elections).
        This claim only inflamed the already burning hate
        towards the international community (IC) and their role
        in brokering the deal. If you go down the streets
        and ask random people how they feel about their
        national identity though, many would probably laugh
        at you, and say "What kind of question is that?
        Of course I am Macedonian." Well, that is if you
        come across a Macedonian. But that is another
        story.
        Anyways, this proposal, in my humble opinion, would
        serve no other purpose but to alleviate some of the
        dirt that has been piled onto the name of the IC by
        local media (not that they had to bother too much :).
        It is an extremely positive agreement viewed from the
        macedonian standpoint. The fact that we will be
        recognized by the name "Republika Makedonija" (a
        transcription of the constitutional name of Macedonia
        in the latin alphabet, instead of the cyrilic) and
        not as "Macedonia, The Republic of" is something
        very easily overlooked. At least we won't be known
        as FYROM anymore. It does raise some questions as to
        how many people would know the correct pronounciation
        of the name (the "j" in Makedonija is a "y" sound,
        therefore it should be pronounced as Makedoniya), but
        this is also a minor concern. The side that would have
        to do the biggest exceptions and compromises is Greece,
        and quite frankly, I don't envy their position. In
        fact, the greek media have not even touched on this
        subject. We have yet to see how the IC reacts to
        this (if at all) and whether it will undertake some
        actions (in case it likes the proposal) to ensure its
        realization (you know, the standard blackmailing...
        oh pardon me, the standard initiative routine with
        donors conferences and a whole barrage of similar
        techniques).

        One thing that this report tells me is that the IC
        is not impervious to the effects of its mediation.
        Hopefully we will see this sort of thing more often,
        and not just with Macedonia (by this I mean, addressing
        legitimate grievances, not creating new ones :).

        Once again, allow me to reiterate, I have nothing
        against the proposal, in fact I think it is a VERY
        good proposal for Macedonia. What bothers me are the
        motives behind it.

        I hope this, somewhat, explains the position of the
        macedonian public (for I do think that in the
        raving I have been doing, I have gotten the gist
        of the public opinion here).

        Best regards, Bojan
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