Wikipedia: Macedonia naming dispute

Wikipedia: Macedonia naming dispute

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Macedonia (Greece)
Republic of Macedonia

The Macedonia naming dispute is a political dispute regarding the use of the name Macedonia between the southeastern European countries of Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, formerly a federal unit of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Pertinent to its background is an early 20th century multifaceted dispute and armed conflict that formed part of the background to the Balkan Wars. The specific naming dispute, although an existing issue in Yugoslav–Greek relations since World War II, was reignited after the breakup of Yugoslavia and the newly gained independence of the former Socialist Republic of Macedonia in 1991. Since then, it has been an ongoing issue in bilateral and international relations.

Citing historical and territorial concerns resulting from the ambiguity between the Republic of Macedonia, the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia and the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon which falls mostly within Greek Macedonia, Greece opposes the use of the name “Macedonia” by the Republic of Macedonia without a geographical qualifier such as “Northern Macedonia” for use by all and for all purposes.[1] As millions of ethnic Greeks identify themselves as Macedonians, unrelated to the Slavic people who are associated with the Republic of Macedonia, Greece further objects to the use of the term “Macedonian” for the neighboring country’s largest ethnic group and its language. The Republic of Macedonia is accused of appropriating symbols and figures that are historically considered part of Greek culture such as the Vergina Sun and Alexander the Great, and of promoting the irredentist concept of a United Macedonia, which involves territorial claims on Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, and Serbia.

The dispute has escalated to the highest level of international mediation, involving numerous attempts to achieve a resolution. In 1995, the two countries formalised bilateral relations and committed to start negotiations on the naming issue, under the auspices of the United Nations. Until a solution is found, the provisional reference “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (sometimes unofficially abbreviated as FYROM) is used by international organisations and states which do not recognise translations of the constitutional name Republic of Macedonia (Република Македонија, Republika Makedonija). UN members, and the UN as a whole, have agreed to accept any final agreement on a new name resulting from negotiations between the two countries. The parties are represented by Ambassadors Vasko Naumovski and Adamantios Vassilakis, under the mediation of Matthew Nimetz. Nimetz has worked on the issue since 1994.[2]


    • 1.1 Controversy and conflict
    • 1.2 Compromise solutions
    • 1.3 Continuing dispute
    • 1.4 Interim accord
    • 1.5 Stalemate
    • 1.6 Recent proposals and the “double name formula”
    • 1.7 NATO and EU accession talks
    • 1.8 NATO non-invitation
    • 1.9 “Antiquisation” policy, 2006–2017
    • 1.10 A continuing negotiation
    • 1.11 2008 proposal and reactions
      • 1.11.1 Reaction by ethnic Macedonian politicians/diplomats
      • 1.11.2 Reaction by Greek politicians/diplomats
      • 1.11.3 Reaction by Bulgarian politicians/diplomats
    • 1.12 The International Court of Justice
      • 1.12.1 Political reactions to the Application in the ICJ
    • 1.13 Talks in 2009
      • 1.13.1 CSIS Conference
      • 1.13.2 Geneva talks
      • 1.13.3 August 2009
    • 1.14 Developments in 2010
      • 1.14.1 April 2010
      • 1.14.2 June 2010
    • 1.15 Developments in 2011
    • 1.16 November 2012 talks
    • 1.17 2013 proposals
    • 1.18 December 2013 Vergina Sun draft law
    • 1.19 2014 negotiations
    • 1.20 2017-2018 developments
  • 2 Greek position
    • 2.1 Historical concerns
    • 2.2 Territorial concerns
    • 2.3 Self-determination
    • 2.4 Semiological confusion
  • 3 Ethnic Macedonian position
    • 3.1 Self-determination and self-identification
    • 3.2 Historical perspective
    • 3.3 Ethnic Macedonian minority in Greece
  • 4 Macedonian, language and dialect
    • 4.1 Macedonian language (modern)
    • 4.2 Macedonian dialect (modern, Greek)
    • 4.3 Macedonian (ancient)
  • 5 See also
  • 6 Notes
  • 7 References


Controversy and conflict

In antiquity, the territory of present-day Republic of Macedonia equated approximately to the kingdom of Paeonia, which lay immediately north of ancient Macedonia. (The modern Greek region of Macedonia approximately corresponds to that of ancient Macedonia.[citation needed]) After the Romans conquered Greece in 168 BC they established a large administrative district in northern Greece which added Paeonia to other territories outside the original ancient Macedonia, and used the name ‘Macedonia’ to describe the whole of this new province. This province was divided in the 4th century CE into Macedonia Prima (“first Macedonia”) in the south, encompassing most of the ancient Macedonia, coinciding with most of the modern Greek region of Macedonia, and Macedonia Salutaris (“wholesome Macedonia”, also called Macedonia Secunda – “second Macedonia”) in the north, encompassing partially Dardania and the whole of Paeonia. Thus Macedonia Salutaris encompassed most of the present-day Republic of Macedonia. This situation lasted, with some modifications, until the Ottoman Empire absorbed the remnants of the eastern Roman Empire in the 15th century. Ottoman Macedonia then became part of Rumelia, controlled by the Ottoman Empire up to 1913. In 1893 a revolutionary movement against Ottoman rule began, resulting in the Ilinden Uprising on 2 August 1903 (St. Elias’s Day). The failure of the Ilinden Uprising caused a change in the strategy of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) from revolutionary to institutional. It split into two wings: one led by Yane Sandanski and fighting for autonomous Macedonia inside the Ottoman Empire or inside a Balkan Federation, and a second Supremist wing supporting the inclusion of Macedonia in Bulgaria. After the Ilinden Uprising, the revolutionary movement ceased and opened a space for the Macedonian Struggle: frequent insurgencies of Bulgarian, Greek and Serbian squads into Ottoman Europe, including the ill-defined territory of the wider Macedonian region. In 1912 rivalries resulted in the First Balkan War of 1912-1913, and the Ottomans lost most of their European lands.

In 1913 the Second Balkan War began in the aftermath of the division of the Balkans among five entities to have secured control over these territories: Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Montenegro (all hitherto recognized). Albania, in conflict with Serbia, Montenegro and Greece, declared its independence in 1912, striving for recognition. The Treaty of London (1913) assigned the region of the future Republic of Macedonia to Serbia. The outbreak of the First World War allowed Bulgaria to occupy eastern Macedonia and Vardar Macedonia, helping Austria-Hungary defeat the Serbs by the end of 1915, and leading to the opening of the Macedonian front against the Greek part of Macedonia. Bulgaria would maintain control over the area until their capitulation in September 1918, at which point the borders reverted (with small adjustments) to the situation of 1913, and the present-day Republic of Macedonia became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. This period saw the rise of ideals of a separate Macedonian state in Greece[3] and the development of nation building[4] by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in their third congress in Vienna in 1926. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes changed its name in 1929 to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the present-day Republic of Macedonia was included as South Serbia in a province named Vardar Banovina. During World War II, Axis forces occupied much of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from 1941. Bulgaria as an associate of the Axis powers advanced into the territory of the Republic of Macedonia and the Greek province of Macedonia in 1941. The territory of the Republic of Macedonia was divided between Bulgaria and Italian Albania in June 1941.

The Yugoslav People’s Liberation War began officially in 1941 in the territory of the Republic of Macedonia. On 2 August 1944 (St. Elias’s Day), honoring the fighters of the Ilinden Uprising, the Anti-fascist Assembly for the National Liberation of Macedonia (ASNOM), meeting in Serbia, constituted the Macedonian state (Democratic Federal Macedonia) as a federal state within the framework of the future Yugoslav federation. In 1946 the People’s Republic of Macedonia was established[by whom?] as a federal component of the newly proclaimed Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito. The issue of the republic’s name immediately sparked controversy with Greece over Greek concerns that it presaged a territorial claim on the Greek coastal region of Macedonia (see Territorial concerns below). The US Roosevelt administration expressed the same concern through Edward Stettinius in 1944.[5] The Greek press and the Greek government of Andreas Papandreou continued to express the above concerns confronting the views of Yugoslavia[6] during the 1980s and until the Revolutions of 1989.


The Flag of Macedonia (Greece) with the Vergina Sun.

In 1963 the People’s Republic of Macedonia was renamed the “Socialist Republic of Macedonia” when the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was renamed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It dropped the “Socialist” from its name a few months before declaring independence from Yugoslavia in September 1991.

Strong Greek opposition delayed the newly independent republic’s accession to the United Nations and its recognition by the European Community (EC). Although the Arbitration Commission of the Peace Conference on the former Yugoslavia declared that the Republic of Macedonia met the conditions set by the EC for international recognition, Greece opposed the international community recognizing the Republic due to a number of objections concerning the country’s name, flag and constitution. In an effort to block the European Community from recognizing the Republic,[7] the Greek government persuaded the EC to adopt a common declaration establishing conditions for recognition which included a ban on “territorial claims towards a neighboring Community state, hostile propaganda and the use of a denomination that implies territorial claims”.[8]

In Greece, about one million[9] Greek Macedonians participated in the “Rally for Macedonia” (Greek: Συλλαλητήριο για τη Μακεδονία), a very large demonstration that took place in the streets of Thessaloniki in 1992. The rally aimed to object to “Macedonia” being a part of the name of then newly established Republic of Macedonia. In a following major rally in Australia, held in Melbourne and organised by the Macedonians of the Greek diaspora (which has a strong presence there),[10] about 100,000 people protested.[11][12] The major slogan of these rallies was “Macedonia is Greek” (Greek: H Μακεδονία είναι ελληνική).[9]

Greece’s major political parties agreed on 13 April 1992 not to accept the word “Macedonia” in any way in the new republic’s name.[13] This became the cornerstone of the Greek position on the issue. The Greek diaspora also mobilized in the naming controversy. A Greek-American group, Americans for the Just Resolution of the Macedonian Issue, placed a full-page advertisement in the 26 April and 10 May 1992 editions of the New York Times, urging President George H. W. Bush “not to discount the concerns of the Greek people” by recognizing the “Republic of Skopje” as Macedonia. Greek-Canadians mounted a similar campaign.[citation needed] The EC subsequently issued a declaration expressing a willingness “to recognize that republic within its existing borders… under a name which does not include the term Macedonia”.[14]

Greek objections likewise held up the wider international recognition of the Republic of Macedonia. Although the Republic applied for membership of the United Nations on 30 July 1992, its application languished in diplomatic limbo for nearly a year. A few states—Bulgaria, Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia, Belarus and Lithuania—recognized the republic under its constitutional name before its admission to the United Nations.[7] Most, however, waited to see what the United Nations would do. The delay had a serious effect on the Republic, as it led to a worsening of its already precarious economic and political conditions. With war raging in nearby Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia, the need to ensure the country’s stability became an urgent priority for the international community.[15] The deteriorating security situation led to the UN’s first-ever preventative peacekeeping deployment in December 1992, when units of the United Nations Protection Force deployed to monitor possible border violations from Serbia.[16]

2014 negotiations

In February 2014, the European Parliament passed a resolution stating that according to the parliament’s assessment, the Copenhagen criteria have been fulfilled sufficiently for the country to start its negotiations for EU accession, and called for the Council of the European Union to confirm the date for start of accession negotiations straight away, as bilateral disputes must not be an obstacle for the start of talks—although they must be solved before the accession process.[172] However, whether or not the Council agreed with the parliament’s opinion, it made no mention of Macedonia’s accession negotiations at its meeting in June 2014.

The UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz, also invited for a new round of “name dispute” negotiations to begin on 26 March 2014. The invitation has been accepted by both the Greek and Macedonian authorities. According to Nimetz, the two countries had managed at the latest stranded talks in October 2013, to reach consensus of adding a “geographic term” to the disputed “Republic of Macedonia” name, to be used internationally as the new official country name. Nimetz stressed however, that substantial disagreement still existed in regards of “where the geographic term should be placed”, but hoped a new round of negotiations could end with a mutually agreed name.[173] According to the newspaper coverage of the previous 2013-negotiations, Macedonia had favored using the name “Upper Republic of Macedonia” while Greece insisted it could only approve “Republic of Upper Macedonia”,[174] while disagreement also existed towards the scope of using the new official name—with Macedonia only being ready to accept its use in bilateral affairs involving Greece and not ready to accept the Greek demand of using it “obligatory for all purposes”.[175]

2017-2018 developments

After successive defeats of the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE in both the general and municipal elections of the Republic of Macedonia, and the arrival to power of the pro-solution coalition which is led by the SDSM and DIU, efforts for the resolution of the naming dispute gained a new momentum, with the new Prime Minister Zoran Zaev vowing his determination to resolve the decades-old dispute with Greece.[176][177][178][179]

Efforts between the governments of the two countries for resolving the name dispute intensified, and on 17 January 2018, UN-sponsored negotiations had resumed, with the Ambassadors of Greece and Macedonia, Ambassadors Adamantios Vassilakis and Vasko Naumovski, meeting with the UN Envoy at Washington,[180][181] who suggested any of the following five names in his proposal, all containing the name Macedonia transliterated from Cyrillic:[a]

  • “Republika Nova Makedonija” (Republic of New Macedonia)
  • “Republika Severna Makedonija” (Republic of Northern Macedonia)
  • “Republika Gorna Makedonija” (Republic of Upper Macedonia)
  • “Republika Vardarska Makedonija” (Republic of Vardar Macedonia)
  • “Republika Makedonija (Skopje)” (Republic of Macedonia (Skopje))

Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev vowed that the solution of the name dispute with Greece will be subject to a nationwide referendum.[189]

High level contacts between the governments of the two countries also intensified, with the Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister visiting Athens for the name talks on January 9,[190] and the Macedonian PM Zaev meeting with his Greek counterpart, PM Alexis Tsipras on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland on January 24.[191][192][193] In the Davos meeting, the first of its kind in seven years, the two PMs vowed to take concrete steps to resolve the naming dispute and agreed to end Macedonian irredentism and Antiquization policies[citation needed] in exchange for Greek consent on Macedonia’s bid to regional initiatives or agreements. After the Davos meeting, the Macedonian PM announced that streets and locations such as the Alexander the Great airport in Skopje which were named by the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE after Ancient Macedonian heroes and figures such as Alexander the Great, could be renamed as a sign of goodwill towards Greece. Specifically, Zaev declared that the Alexander the Great Highway, the E-75 motorway that connects Skopje to Greece, could be renamed to “Friendship Highway”. In exchange, the Greek PM announced that Greece could consent to Macedonia’s bid to the Adriatic-Ionian Cooperation Agreement and the Hellenic Parliament could ratify the second phase of the FYROM – European Union Association Agreement as part of the Accession of Macedonia to the European Union which was blocked in 2009 by Greece owning to the name dispute.[b] The two PMs also agreed that the name talks would be promoted to the Foreign Ministerial level instead of the Ambassadorial, with the Foreign Ministers of the two countries, Nikola Dimitrov of Macedonia and Nikos Kotzias of Greece, replacing Naumovski and Vasilakis respectively.

Furthermore, the two governments agreed to confidence-building measures that could improve the relations between the two countries. Nikos Kotzias stated on the 29th September 2017 that a joint Greek-Macedonian commission would undertake a review of Macedonian schoolbooks with a view to the removal of any nationalist or irredendist content from them, an initiative proposed by the Macedonian side which later is confirmed by the Greek side to be part of the MUI.[205][206][207]

Historical concerns


Several hundred international and Greek classical scholars have lobbied for the historical concerns regarding the name dispute to be reflected in US policy.[221][222]


Territorial concerns


The region of Macedonia as perceived by ethnic Macedonian irredentists. Some ethnic Macedonian nationalists, including some at official levels, have expressed irredentist claims to what they refer to as “Aegean Macedonia” (Greece), “Pirin Macedonia” (Bulgaria), “Mala Prespa and Golo Brdo” (Albania), and “Gora and Prohor Pchinski” (Serbia) despite the fact that ethnic Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians and Serbs form the majority of the population of each region respectively.

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