One item of future E.U. agendas will be the further expansion of the Union with the inclusion of all Western Balkans. There are many issues that first must be resolved, in order for some of those countries to be able to join. Many of these countries have issues with corruption; as well as financial, social and judicial problems. One of them has a name dispute with one of the E.U. members.
Not that FYROM has the naming dispute as the only problem facing it in order to join EU. Corruption, a fragmented multi ethnic society, equality issues between the Albanian and the Slavic communities, freedom of speech and a host of others are also issues that cause the EU to be sceptical about FYROM's bid to join the block. But their most famous obstacle is Greece's objection to their name.
Is it, though, just a "silly" naming dispute, as many of our fellow European nationals think of it, obviously influenced by their national media, or does it hides a deeper dispute that one can only understand if he reads about the history of the region and understands the reasons that led to this problem?
Can anyone have any doubts about ancient Macedonia and its Greek heritage and lineage? If you travel to northern Greece and the region of Macedonia, and visit Pella, Aeges, Philippoi and Vergina, have a look at their archaeological sites and museums, there is only one culture and civilization that is obvious: Ancient Greek. You may also visit the national museum in Thessaloniki, the capital of Greek Macedonia and have a look at the artifacts there. And if ancient Macedonians were of different stock, then why do we have, after the expansion of the empire of Alexander the Great, the creation of the HELLENISTIC period in the art, history and culture of the humanity, and not the "Macedonian"? How come GREEK language was spread from the Balkans to India and not the so called "macedonian" ? Do we have any evidence of ancient "macedonian" language that is linked to the modern language of FYROM? And why were Macedonian kings found to be taking part in the Olympic games, since we know only Greeks were allowed to participate in them?
We have to understand that when we are talking about ancient Greece, we are not talking about one state or nation, not even one homogenous society. Ancient Greece was fragmented into kingdoms, city states, monarchies and tyrannies of the different Greek tribes, not very different from the way Celtic tribes organized in different political systems. Perhaps ancient Greeks were as different to each other as today are the Norwegians to the Swedish.
They spoke different dialects of the same language. As they were a nationalist and chauvinist society, their favorite debate was on who was a barbarian and who could be called Greek. To be called a barbarian was the worse insult you could give to another person or nation. So we can begin to understand some of the ancient Greek political polemics. When the Athenians, who were enemies of the kingdom of Macedon, called them barbarians, they were actually insulting them but not denying their ultimate common binding.
Even if we accept the fact that originally the Macedonians were not of Greek stock, they were totally "hellenized" by the time of Philip and Alexander. So we are tracing over more than 2000 years of Greek culture and heritage in Macedonia.
I will link that example with Prussia. Prussians were originally of Baltic stock, but after migrations and expansions, they were totally "germanized" and they now rightfully belong to the German heritage and no one challenges that. I do not believe that this is the case for Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. Even if there is the slightest doubt about the Greek origin of ancient Macedonia, FYROM's claim is also void by the proof and existence of 2000 years Greek culture in the region.
The original borders of the kingdom of Macedon were much smaller than what FYROM portrays as their motherland, and included most part of what is today the Greek part of the region and only a bit of what is today FYROM. As it expanded it conquered regions that originally belonged to other ethnic groups like the Thracians and the Illyrians. So inevitably that would lead to a more mixed population, and that is what perhaps the Athenians used to categorize their northern sworn enemies as barbarians.
Macedonians ceased to exist as an autonomous state after the expansion of the Roman empire. Never again would Macedonia be independent until the liberation of the Greeks from the Turks.
The importance of Macedonia and Alexander for Greece, is that for the first time, Alexander managed to unite all the warring Greek tribes. But not for long. From the times of the Roman empire and after, Macedonia's borders will change constantly, depending its rulers organization of their empire's regions. It was also since then, always a multinational society. In the Byzantine and Ottoman years, Macedonia's population had Greeks, Romans, Turks, Armenians, Slavs, Albanians, other Europeans and middle Eastern people.
With the Balkan wars and the collapse of the Ottoman empire, there was one question:
How to partition the region of Macedonia, a region so rich in natural resources, and with such geopolitical and strategic location?
Many wanted it. Many had interests in it. For the Greeks, apart of any economical or political motives, there was also the historical aspect of it.
Thessaloniki's Jews did not want the region to fall under either Bulgarian or Greek rule. They had under the Ottoman rule, the economic control of the region, and in fact many ultra orthodox Jews did not even want the creation of Israel, and they considered Macedonia and the promised land.
The big powers of Europe were also divided, but most of them did not want Macedonia to come under either Greek or Bulgarian control, as they have established good trade relations with the Ottoman and the Jews, plus they wanted to manage the region's resources. Austria even thought to campaign towards the south to conquer Macedonia for itself. They were too late. The Greek army liberated the region before Austria could do anything. The Ottomans, of course, did not want to lose Macedonia either, as it was a very important stronghold of their empire in Europe.
After the liberation by the Greeks, the newly created state came face to face with the multi-ethnic population of Macedonia. Population exchanges happened between Turkey and Greece as well as between Greece and Bulgaria, in order to create a more homogenous state, something that all countries wanted. Bulgaria and Greece especially got involved in a nasty and bitter struggle to gain influence over Macedonia, a continuation of long time regional struggles. Throughout the Ottoman years, the Greeks and the Bulgarians were competitive with each other to gain greater influence and lands in Macedonia. Its population in many regions was bilingual as a result of these struggles.
Before the collapse of the Ottoman empire, we have the inception of the creation of an effort to keep Macedonia either Turkish, or have it as an independent state. Such a status would serve many. Many Jewish or Turkish and communist organizations were dedicated in the creation of a pan-Macedonian consciousness, in order to keep the region independent. Many preferred to see it as an independent nation rather to fall into the hands of a newly emerged states like Bulgaria or Greece. They argued that those new nations could not handle the potential of the region on their own. This is where the problem starts.
There were slavic speakers or bulgarian speakers in the region of Greece, and also a significant Jewish population. The second community was decimated by the Nazis in WW2, the first community after the WW2 when Greece fell in a bloody civil war, chose to side with the communists and co-operated with Tito. Tito wanted the region to join the rest of the communist Balkan states on the side of USSR, and he had views on Macedonia. So he assisted the Greek communists and the slavic speakers of the region, in order to break Greece and create a Korea style nation in Europe: A northern Greek communist state in Macedonia and Thrace, and a nationalistic pro-Western southern Greek state. Western powers, notably Britain got actively involved in the conflict, with Britain fighting on the side of the Greek national army. Greece belonged in their sphere of influence after all, as agreed between the British, the Americans and the Russians in Crimea. They did not want to lose their influence on Greece , so they encouraged the Greek state to expel all the communists and their helpers after the civil war ended. The Greek civil war was seen by many as the first test of the Cold War that followed between the two blocs. Soviet (Socialist-Communist) vs USA (democracy and capitalism)
The people who were expelled from Greece, settled in what is today FYROM, most eastern Europe and ex-USSR states. Their descendants in FYROM demand to be allowed back into Greece and regain the properties of their ancestors that had been confiscated after the war. So they manipulate the issue of the naming dispute to put pressure on Greece, to accept their demands. Other Greeks who were expelled back then, were allowed to come back with the term that they will not demand compensation, rather will get an assistance to resettle by the state. The only ones who are not allowed in the country are the Slavomacedonians from FYROM. Simply because they claim land and their behavior is hostile towards Greece. Why should Greece accept their demands anyway, since their ancestors were traitors to the state, and they fought a war against Greece?
Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria made an agreement that no one will ask for lost property compensation, when they decided to exchange their populations. If Greece must be blamed for mistreatment of its slavic speaking population, then so should Britain at least, and perhaps other western countries that urged Greece to expel all communists be held to account for the disputes that arose.. Population movement and exchange did not only happen in the Balkans, but everywhere in Europe after the two major wars. Have all been compensated?
So who are the people of the FYROM?
As I mentioned, they are of slavic descent. Slavs came down the region of Macedonia 1000 years after the years of Alexander. This we know from history; so they can not have any claim on the history and heritage of ancient Macedonia.
They are of Bulgarian mainly descent, and their language is Bulgarian. There is a more academic dispute between Bulgaria and FYROM, with the first claiming that FYROM's language is Bulgarian and in fact "FYROMians are Bulgarians in denial"!! They have settled in the regions for millenia, so for geographical reasons they can call themselves Macedonians, but there are not a separate and distinctive ethnicity. Macedonia is a region of Europe, not a nation. Ancient Macedonians have been absorbed by all other Greek tribes and every nation that passed by our lands.
Today Macedonia has two or more ethnicities living in its land, the Greek Macedonians, the Slav Macedonians with Albanian and Roma minorities also present. The Greeks actually call the inhabitants of FYROM, "Slavomacedonians". That means Macedonians of Slavic descent. So as you see the issue is not about the name, rather land, heritage, history and the truth. And of course the political interests of the elites and the Governments of the two states.
We could share the name, provided they drop their claims over Greek national history and heritage, and claims over land and mud throwing against Greece about non existent suppressed minorities in its territory.
I could accept a name that could include the term "Macedonia" in their name, as long they stop their propaganda. But can they be trusted?
Why should I accept them as allies in NATO and EU, since they aggressively spread propaganda against my country? I really want to see them in those two organizations, as I believe that it is in Greece's interests to have stable and prosperous nations around it, but why should I have to sacrifice my national heritage to see this through? Perhaps many in Europe are ready to leave behind all national identity and think that this is modernism! But perhaps that is why Europe lacks of any direction or a vision, or any creative approach for its future, as culture, politics or social policies are concerned.
Macedonia should become a region of Europe. With two separate ethnic groups, one the Greek Macedonians and the other the Vardarska Macedonians (Vardarska was the name of the region of FYROM before the propaganda of Tito).
Why don't the big powers recognize that? Well because interests differ. If we acknowledge all the factors, the meddling foreign powers and their different national interests in the past, why can't this be true at this day?
Is it a totally irrelevant fact that the Americans have invested hugely in the region and they have camps between the borders of Kossovo and FYROM? (Camp Bondsteel). Is it irrelevant that Yugoslavian broke up and chip by chip all land was stripped away from Serbia, the less pro-Western state of all the emerging states?
Some compare Luxembourg with Macedonia.
There is a region in Belgium that is also called Luxembourg. But the issue there is different. Luxembourgians where given a choice, a vote if they wanted to join the Grand Duchy or stay with Belgium. Some decided to stay in Belgium and so the result the name of the region. In the Macedonia issue we have two different ethnicities that do not have the same heritage, and were not given the choice.
Another point I want to make is that name disputes are not anything new. France blocked the UK's entry in EEC back in the '70s, under the name of Great Britain, because they thought it implied territorial claims over the French territory of Bretagne! So Britain entered EEC as United Kingdom! So why Greece is being looked down now?
To conclude, FYROM belongs in EU and Europe. But it is a victim of the megalomania of it's leaders. If they continue like this, they may even face the threat of the Albanians minority, that comprises up to 30% of the population, wanting to break up and form an independent state. Though I support their EU bid, I will not compromise my national heritage to see that. I am a Greek Macedonian from Thessaloniki, and a European. I hope the people of FYROM will realize what games are being played against their true interests and push for a change in the political scene in their country, for their own good. There is no reason that our people should be hostile to each other, we lived side by side for millenia.