If intra-party tactics and mass hysteria were to prevail, a battle already half lost will end in humiliating defeat.
It should have come as a pleasant surprise to almost all on the Greek side: Mr. Zaev’s new social-democratic government at Skopje, offered Athens a compromise on the longstanding issue of the name of the south-most fragment of old Yugoslavia. What they proposed and the Greek government followed up, appears –at first sight at least–, compatible with Greece’s main conditions: the suspension of state promoted irredentist propaganda vis a vie the Greek owned part of Macedonia, and a composite name combining the geographical term “Macedonia” and a suitable definition of it.
This development should have been received as unhoped-for good news for all in Athens, as such a compromise would, for the government at Skopje, entail giving away significant advantages attained over the last 25 years. More particularly, 4 of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council and the majority of the members of the General Assembly, of the UN –including more than half of the members of both the EU and NATO–, have already, in defiance of bitter Greek opposition, recognized the state in question as simply, “The Republic of Macedonia”, brushing aside it’s provisional denomination “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, by which it had, originally, been admitted as a member of the UN.
More importantly, the media of the entire world and even the representatives of the few EU partners who nominally remain solidary to Greece on this issue, do not seem to remember, or to have ever known, any name other than “Macedonia”.
Also, a verdict of the International Court of Justice in the Hague (December 2011) –almost no one mentions it in Athens, nowadays–, denyed the right of Greece to impede, the access of the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, under this name, to NATO –and mutatis mutandis, to the EU; it has inflicted a crippling blow which, critically, limits Greek options, tactically and strategically.
And yet, the majority of Greece’s political class, and almost entirely the hoi polloi, seem to remain as intransigent as ever. Howling crowds on the verge of mass hysteria dominate the squares and avenues of Athens and Thessalonica, demonstrating against any compromise conceding the name of Macedonia. Bishops and monks leading them, brandish Pastoral roods, crosses, and censers as if they were weapons of war. The slogan “Macedonia is only Greek”, related to a geographical space half of which belongs to other countries, echoes brutally violent and stupid. The statement of mainstream –and, alas, truly liberal–, politicians that “multitudes of such strength command respect” is deplorable.
It is of course to be seen if Mr. Zaev is indeed capable –most probably he is not– to deliver a compromise based on a constitutional amendment. This would be an indispensible prerequisite as “Macedonian” irredentism, both ethnic and territorial, has its prime source in the Constitution of our neighbours. Failure to offer this essential guarante would be a rational reason for Greek politicians to remain skeptical.
Nevertheles it is utterly absurd to reject out of hand, a priori, any deal including the concession of the name “Macedonia”, geographically or otherwise qualified, to a country which does own more than one third of the territory of that region.
Those of our partners and allies who continue to display an approximation of solidarity to Greece must attempt to impress, in no uncertain terms, on the collective mind of mainstream Greek politicians that any favourable consideration given by Europe and NATO to legitimate Greek protestations at the aggressive irredentist character of the Constitution of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is subject to Greece’s, explicit, reciprocal commitment to a composite name which would, at any rate include, the name “Macedonia”; this must be especially impresed on conservative-liberals and social-democrats of the centre and centre-left, patheticaly wavering under the pressure of the more primitive elements of their parties.
If the Neanderthals of Greek politics were to impose their instincts on their civilized colleagues, if intra-party tactics and mass hysteria were to prevail, the United Nations, the European Union and NATO will, eventually, end up with a member-state named the “Republic of Macedonia”. A battle already half lost will end in humiliating defeat.