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The Greeks are uneasy about the Macedonian Minority, not about the name

By Victor Tsvetanoski

Translated and edited by Risto Stefov
rstefov@hormail.com  

Number 2648 Friday March 28, 2008

       Ex-premier of Greece Constantinos Mitsotakis in 1995 recognized that the problem with Macedonia was not the name but the Macedonian minority in Greece. “From the moment I first saw it I recognized Skopje’s theme in its true dimensions.  What made me uneasy from the beginning was not the name of this country…the problem for me was how to avoid creating a second minority problem in Western Macedonia. If the problem of the Slavo-Macedonian minority in Western Macedonia is added to the Muslim minority, which sadly, with our errors is a dangerous development, the situation will become unsustainable for Greek external politics…”, emphasized the former Greek Premier in the introduction of T. Skinakis’s book “For the name of Macedonia”.

       The announcement in the State Department report for human rights in 1991, which for the first time mentioned the existence of a Macedonian identity in Greece, was of particular concern to Mitsotakis. It has always been Greece’s aim to have Macedonia denounce the Macedonian minority in Greece and to force Macedonia to accept international binding agreements that a Macedonian minority in Greece does not exist and to cease all propaganda aimed at Greece. “This was key for the Greek-Skopjan deference”, remarked Mitsotakis. “It is truly certain that after 1950 no such minority existed in our country, because the citizens with Slavic sentiments who fought on the side of the communists left at the end of the civil war,” said Mitsotakis.

       Outside to official Athens however, there are some Greek intellectuals who have entirely different views on the name dispute. Athena Skoulariki, a sociology professor at the University of Crete, for example, says that Greece is tangled in a strategic dead end. “In the course of the last 16 years we have lost one battle after another and still haven’t seriously considered what we are doing wrong. Why is the outside world not supporting the Greek thesis on this issue? Why after so many years of trying has Greece not succeeded in convincing the international public?” asks professor Skoulariki.

       According to Skoulariki the Greek arguments are not convincing because it is a fundamental right of all people to freely choose their name. “We insist that our neighbour has no right to use the name Macedonia, ignoring the fact that during the 19th and 20th century there was a wider region called Macedonia. Looking at the problem from another point of view, diplomatically Greek diplomacy has recognized the 1913 division of Macedonia into Greek, Serbian (then) and Bulgarian Macedonia. We say that they have territorial pretensions on the Greek part of Macedonia, as if that was a country depending economically and strategically on Greece. We say that they fabricated their national history ignoring the fact that all national histories, including the Greek one, are selective and mythical, with aims at supporting the national bind. This is how all modern nations are created and based on a frame of determined historical conditions,” comments the professor from Crete University.

       This is a condition acceptable to European countries, emphasizes Skoularaki, which is incomprehensible to Greece.  At the same time the Greek foreign politic cannot free itself from its stereotypical image and remains uninformed and overloaded with sentimentality. No government as of yet has found the courage to speak openly about the country’s mistakes and as long as that remains there will always be misunderstandings about the Skopje question. Both big parties agree between themselves to change their positions without informing the people of their failures.

       “Sooner or later, ultimately, we need to accept that there is more than one Macedonia. That however does not represent danger, but quite the opposite; it gives us a chance for closer relations with the other side,” says professor Athena Skoularaki.

 

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