Shame on Greece? Shame on who?
On the NATO summit in Bucharest (April 3rd, 2008), Greece vetoed FYROM’s accession under their constitutional name "Republic of Macedonia". For the record, the conflict between Greece and FYROM concerns the name of the latter, which wish to be officially recognized as "Republic of Macedonia" after their secession from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991. The Greek side considers this unacceptable, since one of the Greek provinces, is also called Province of Macedonia. Apart from Greek considerations that the Macedonian cultural and historic heritage are Greek, there are also issues of security that deeply worry Greeks. A country called Macedonia on their northern border could be used for eventual destabilization of Greek territories under the pretext of human rights of supposed minorities. Javier Solana (NATO secretary at the time), when asked by a reporter at a press conference during the NATO bombardments of Yugoslavia, had made it clear: human rights can indeed supersede sovereignty. We have recently seen this principle applied in Iraq, where the human rights of the Iraqi people (along with false claims of WMDs) were used as pretexts for war and occupation. Now, the Iraqi people enjoy indeed the fruits of Democracy and their human rights. Similarly, the Balkan peninsula has witnessed the secession of whole provinces from sovereign countries under the pretext of the protection of human rights of oppressed minorities. Kosovo has just gained independence from Serbia, after the guerilla war waged by the US-backed KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), an Albanian separatist movement. The subsequent NATO bombings of Serbia in 1999 led to occupation of this province by NATO forces. Of course, the fact that the largest US military base, Camp Bondsteel, has then been set up in Kosovo, is completely irrelevant. And that the Trans-Balkan pipeline will pass nearby, is just a fortuitous coincidence.
The Greek position is that the name of FYROM may include the term "Macedonia", but only preceded by a disambiguating geographical discrimination (Norther, Upper etc). The NY Times find it very hard to understand the Greek sensitivities and fears on the matter: on a fiery Editorial of April 3rd, 2008 titled "Shame on Greece: Messing with Macedonia" they condemn Greece for the veto "… Macedonia was barred for an absurd reason: Greece doesn’t like its name."
The Board of NY Times claims that "Tiny Macedonia doesn’t threaten Greece under any name." In effect, they suggest that Greeks suffer from mass paranoia as far as their fears are concerned. Maybe, in a simplistic sense, a small and poor country like FYROM cannot physically threaten anyone. However, things are not as simple as the Board of NY Times wish to make them appear. The Kosovo experience of Serbia teaches Greeks to be very careful.
And indeed, the intentions of FYROM confirm Greek fears. Lets read some excerpts from the Constitution of the "Republic of Macedonia":
Article 3. Par. 1: The territory of the Republic of Macedonia is indivisible and inviolable.
Par. 2: The existing borders of the Republic of Macedonia are inviolable.
Par. 3: The borders of the Republic of Macedonia can only be changed in accordance with the Constitution and on the principle of free will, as well in accordance with generally accepted international norms.
Article 49. Par. 1: The Republic cares for the status and rights of those persons belonging to the Macedonian people in neighboring countries, as well as Macedonian expatriates, assists their cultural development and promotes links with them. In the exercise of this concern the Republic will not interfere in the sovereign rights of other states or in their internal affairs.
Article 68. Par. 1: The Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia:…
– makes decisions concerning any changes in the borders of the Republic;
So, while borders are indivisible and inviolable, they can change indeed! This can only mean by expansion. Furthermore, the Republic "cares" for members of the "Macedonian people" living in neighboring countries, while respecting the sovereignty of those countries. Mr Solana told us how high sovereignty ranks in the NATO’s list of priorities. Should human rights issues be raised (whether true or false), we saw where this may lead a "sovereign" country.
The expansionism of FYROM goes even further. They can hardly conceal their territorial claims over Greek Macedonia, and Bulgarian Macedonia as well. Maps of this claim are generally accepted by the people and the political elites, further corroborating Greek fears.
Let us remind the NY Times, that a simple ad campaign of Absolut Vodka showing a pre-1848 map of Mexico and the USA created massive uproar in the US:
Would the NY Times characterize this as paranoia as well? I think not. Even if the map was not printed and distributed by a neighboring state, but by a simple ad agency. And even if Mexico can hardly threaten the USA. Clearly, the sensitivities of Greeks are worth much less to the Editorial Board of the NY Times than those of US citizens.
To make matters worse, the Prime Minister of FYROM, Nikola Gruevsky, seems to adhere to this expansionist policy. On 2/4/2008 he paid tribute to a national hero before a map of FYROM, expanding to Greek Macedonia and even Greek islands:
To recapitulate: given the political, economic and military context of the Balkan region, Greek fears are both reasonable and justified. Furthermore, the claim of the NY Times that "… bringing it [FYROM] into the NATO fold would enhance regional stability" is unsupported by the facts. Greece and Turkey are both NATO members since 1952 and their relations have been marked by a US-backed military junta between 1967-74 in Greece, leading to the Turkish invasion and occupation of the Northern part of the Republic of Cyprus (July 1974).
The final touch to the NY Times Editorial reads "Now they [President Bush and the EU leaders] must ratchet up the pressure on Greece to achieve that compromise so that NATO’s insult to Macedonia is reversed as quickly as possible." The Editorial was already strongly biased from its beginning. It’s the Greeks’ fault and not the other way around. This, however, reaches a new level of sentimental approach to the matter. The writers express a kind of personal resentment as to someone who had personally harmed them.
The NY Times have committed the age-old error akin to Imperial mentalities: to trample upon the national sentiments of other peoples, simply because they do not care and simply because it so serves their interests.
Dear Editorial Board of the NY Times: Shame on Greece? No, shame on you.