What’s in a Name: Macedonia, Greece, and the European Union

Macedonia, or should I say the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM), has been attempting to join the European Union since 2004. In 2005 the country received candidate status from the European Union and since then has been attempting to comply with the 1993 Copenhagen Conditions.

Of course the FYROM has many challenges it must overcome before joining the E.U.. It’s economy has a high unemployment rate and growing public debt. It has a poor history of minority relations with its ethnic Albanian population. The government, judiciary, and police are known to be corrupt. But, these are not the most insurmountable of the challenges Macedonia faces; indeed, if anything it is the name of FYROM, which is the country’s greatest obstacle to joining the E.U..

When the FYROM joined the U.N. in 1993, it did so under a provisional name (the name it currently has), because Greece refuses for it to be called “Macedonia.” Indeed, according to Greece, to call the nation “Macedonia,” would be an infringement on Greek territorial sovereignty and a monopolization of the name. Greece has repeatedly blocked Macedonian accession to the E.U. as well as its recent attempts to join NATO specifically because of the ongoing name dispute.

Greece’s northern-most province is also called Macedonia, which is why the Greeks are up in arms over the naming rights. At some level, this debate seems farcical. The level of Greek opposition against the FYROM borders on the absurd. From the FYROM standpoint it is almost insulting as they are denied not only a legitimate name, rather than the drawn-out mess they currently have, but also are denied access to key institutions which would benefit their country’s growth.

On April 8-9 of this year, the U.N. held another round of negotiations between the two states to try and resolve the issue. The U.N. envoy proposed the name, “Upper Republic of Macedonia,” to be used as the country’s official title. Greece has agreed to this name and now all eyes are geared towards the FYROM to see if they will accept this name proposal. If they do, then the most significant opposition to their joining of NATO and the E.U. (at least once they have completed their other reforms) will be removed, as Greece will no longer continue to oppose their passage. However, whether or not the Macedonian’s will be pleased with the name is a completely separate matter; they may see this as a bullying tactic to force them to accept the name with membership to these institutions being lorded over them as a bargaining chip.

In the end, the new proposed name is just as asinine in my opinion as is their current essay of a name. However, the benefits for joining NATO and the EU would be immense for a developing nation such as Macedonia. Thus, maybe swallowing their pride and joining might not be the worst thing in the world for the short-term. Once members of these organization, they could always attempt (though probably fail) at another name change. But will future Macedonian generations be so open to understanding or will they rebel against an imposed name?