Sunday, November 21, 2004

The name of Macedonia

Sometimes you have to give the devil his due. The Americans have announced the policy decision to start calling the country of Macedonia, 'the Republic of Macedonia', rather than the clumsy name insisted upon by Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Greece is furious - and Bush has backed off a bit - and is now threatening to block eventual Macedonian membership in the EU (ironic, as Greece has recently admitted it lied about its finances when it gained admission to the EU). The Americans made the right decision. The stated reason for it was that it would lead to a favorable result in a scheduled referendum in Macedonia that could have overturned reforms that gave minority rights to ethnic Albanians. In fact, the reforms were not overturned, but it seems unlikely that the American naming decision had much, if anything, to do with it. No doubt the decision was motivated by typical Bush Administration bad motives, probably punishment to Greece for its independent and fair-minded policies towards the Middle East. It is also true that the Greeks have a legitimate fear that the Macedonians will attempt to claim parts of northern Greece as their own, in an attempt to create a 'Greater Macedonia'. Nevertheless, the Macedonians should be able to call their country whatever the hell they want, and it is none of Greece's business. With Alexander the Great back in the news, we're going to be seeing a lot of this typical Balkan crap, with both sides making an anachronistic claim for him (Greece has enough heroes and should probably be generous and let the Macedonians claim him, even if Alexander wouldn't have the slightest concept of belonging to either of them).