It is beyond any honest doubt that the agreement arrived at on the long-standing difference between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as to the latter’s definitive official name and NATO membership, will, indeed, contribute to conditions of enhanced regional stability and cooperation.
It is also true that the Prime Ministers of the two countries deserve to be praised, honoured, even especially rewarded. Quite a few possibilities are provided for in similar occasions within the broader institutional framework and the customs of the EU.
The initiative —and, probably, whole parts of the text of the agreement—, may well have come directly from NATO; furthermore, the motives of the two Prime Ministers may well have been shrewdly self-serving, and aggressively partisan vis a vis their respective rivals at home. Nonetheless, the result is beneficial to all. They can, thus, be favourably considered to receive an award, a medal, a parchment, or whatever else might be customary and compatible with precedent. Anything, but not —for the sake of measure and good sense, for the sake of the gravity of the institution itself, not—, the Nobel Prize for Peace, as some, and not least amongst them the Socialist group at the European Parliament, have precipitated to suggest.
First and foremost, the two countries have never been in a state of war. Never has any form of violence erupted along their frontier. Diplomatic relations between them had been established since, almost, the very beginning of the life of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as an independent state. A comprehensive agreement, “The Intermediate Agreement”, functionally governs their bilateral relations in all fields since 1995. Commercial relations have always prospered. Never did the difference over the name and history of the broader Macedonian area, and the heritage of Alexander the Great(!) ―including the “right” to erect his statues and use his name―, generate any conditions of strife, humanitarian crisis, misery, or any other hardship on either side. Thessalonicans never seized pick-nicking on the lush banks of Lake Ohrid, or gambling at the Casino of Gevgelija, while the middle classes of Skopje continued, at any time since the fall of Communist Yugoslavia, to spend long weekends, combined with shopping sprees, in Thessalonica.
The most extreme elements of both sides have covered themselves with ridicule only, not blood; they have caused laughter rather than pain.
In such a context of musical comedy, a Nobel Prize for Peace would not only diminish the dignity of a time honoured and august institution. It would also, and as undesirably, discredit both countries and their peoples, presenting them to the world as so demented as to have risked war ―which they never did―, over a dispute on names and statues and the history of the 4th century b.C. … It would, also, distort the image of the Balkans, which would be made to appear more unstable than they really are. Stereotypes must never be encouraged, especially when they do not reflect realities. When all is said and done, the North Atlantic Alliance and the EU are both, by now, sufficiently well entrenched in the region. They are already capable to impose self-restrain on their members and their neighbours alike, and keep the peace.
More significantly, a Nobel Prize for Peace in this instance, would, almost inevitably, entail a really dangerous practical consequence: it would add non-existent substance and importance –and thus, renewed actuality and endurance–, to a very silly dispute which should best be allowed to deflate and be forgotten as soon as possible. It could energize fanatics on either side.
And, last but not least: would it be fair, or morally and politically sensible, to equalize –as a Nobel Prize to the two Prime Ministers in Athens and Skopje would–, this burlesque and practically harmless dispute over the names of squares and airports, and the language which Alexander the Great spoke, to the horrors of Arab-Israeli wars and the civil wars in Afghanistan and Colombia? Or to the extreme suffering of refugees –of the hungry and the homeless and the destitute of our world?
Would a Nobel Prize for Pease to Mr. Zaev and Mr. Tsipras be fair to Malala Yousafzai and the President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, or to the memory of Nelson Mandela, Yitzhak Rabin, Mother Theresa, and Dr. Schweitzer?
What a disheartening message of Western and European introversion, selfishness, self-importance, self-complacency and hard-heartedness would such a choice send to the world !..
This column has never made a secret of its support to the agreement at issue between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, despite all its imperfections, despite anything that could be said about the motivations of either side. Asked if its authors deserve to be thanked, if they merit a token of appreciation, its answer would, be a loud “YES” ―but, as we said, not with a Nobel Prize for Peace.
One more point of principal must be made though: one cannot have, suddenly, become “a wise European statesman”, while remaining Mr. Maduro’s almost sole advocate within the EU —the only other one being Mr. Salvini. The gross indecency of the Greek Prime Minister’s loud support to a murderous regime which is sitting on the huge humanitarian crisis it has provoked, should first be, explicitly, corrected before any laurels touch his brow…
Alas, this column has no access to the Norwegian Academy. Could any of our like-minded —and possibly better connected— readers help?