FYROM’s Slavomacedonism, Part II: recent developments and geopolitical context


The period after 1991

After the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991, Greek public opinion came face to face with a bitter reality. The "Socialist Republic of Macedonia", one of the Federated States of the former Yugoslav Federative Republic, sought international recognition under the name "Republic of Macedonia". Since its creation in 1945, when it was renamed from Vardarska Banovina to "People’s Republic of Macedonia" (and then to SRM), and as long it was part of Yugoslavia, it was possible for Greek authorities to turn a blind eye on its very existence. Greek governments, under NATO directives, collectively chose not to question Tito’s contentions on Macedonia. His defiant stance toward Stalin and the USSR made him a NATO favorite in the region. In addition, as Kofos states [1], "On the political level, successive Greek governments in the decades following the Civil War shared the view that Yugoslavia was a useful buffer state on the fringes of the Soviet-dominated communist world. Despite frequent irritants from the local government, press, and radio in Skopje, Athens had never raised any objections to the constitutional framework of the FSR of Yugoslavia, nor had it ever questioned its internal administrative structure of federate republics. Indeed, a Greek consulate general continued to function in Skopje, maintaining normal de facto relations with the authorities of the Republic, although officially it was accredited to the federal government in Belgrade. On the other hand, however, official Greek policy, supported by all major Greek political parties, rejected the existence of a "Macedonian" nation. This denial, however, did not negate the existence of a separate Slavic people in the SRM, but objected to its Macedonian name which was considered a constituent element of Greek cultural heritage.[2]" and then: "prior to the mid-1980s, with the exception of occasional flare ups in the press, there was little serious debate in Greece about the various aspects of the Macedonian issue. Any discussion that did occur was limited to a confined number of academics, journalists, and politicians, centered mainly in Thessaloniki."

The Greek handling

However, all that arrangement collapsed and Greece found itself next to a neighbor whose inhabitants had been raised as "Macedonians" (Makedonci) for more than four decades. The initial reflexive and unanimous reaction of Greek political parties was to vehemently oppose the request of the newly independent state: no state outside Greece could bear the name of Macedonia or its derivatives. However, this position was in sharp contrast with the neglect of previous decades. Not much later, different approaches were adopted within the conservative government of the New Democracy party; Foreign Affairs minister Antonis Samaras opted for a no compromise, while PM Constantinos Mitsotakis sought a compromising solution. The maximalist, "no Macedonia or its derivatives" view was exploited by the major opposition party of PASOK, under Andreas Papandreou, as a tactic to force the government into a tougher bargaining position. On December 17, 1991, the EC/EU foreign ministers issued a declaration asking "for constitutional and political guarantees ensuring that [the applicant state] has no territorial claims towards a neighboring Community State [Greece] and that it will conduct no hostile propaganda activities versus a neighboring Community State, including the use of a denomination which implies territorial claims." On April 13, 1992, the Council of Party Leaders convened under President of the Republic Constantinos Karamanlis (uncle of the present PM) and adopted the maximalist line (with the sole exception of only KKE’s Aleka Paparriga). At that point Samaras was dismissed by Mitsotakis, who took over the Foreign Affairs portfolio himself. However, Mitsotakis adopted himself the maximalist position outmaneuvering his party’s internal opposition and Papandreou’s as well.

European solidarity was affirmed on May 2 (Gimaraes) and June 26-27 (Lisbon) by the EU leaders who declared their readiness to acknowledge the new state, so long as a settlement with Greece had been reached. This was a diplomatic quasi-victory for Greece, who seemed to achieve all its goals. However, the war in Northern Yugoslavia, raging in 1992, gave President Kiro Gligorov more convincing arguments to support his own maximalist position: immediate recognition would foster stability in the region. Thus, when a year later, he petitioned for UN membership, thereby circumventing the EU declarations, this was granted (Decision 817/ 7.4.1993). However, membership was under the provisional name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM), and on condition that FYROM would remove the "Vergina Sun" (emblem of the ancient Macedonian dynasty) from its flag.

In May 1993, UN mediators Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance presented a draft treaty settling variou

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