North Macedonia, which is officially known as the Republic of North Macedonia is a country located on the Southeastern section of Europe. Kosovo borders the landlocked country to the Northwest, Albania in the west. There is Serbia in the Northeast, Bulgaria, and Greece to the east and South respectively. North Macedonia is, and the largest city is Skopje, which also serves as its capital city. The country is home to 2.06 million people, with the majority of these inhabitants belonging to the Macedonian ethnic group. Other ethnic groups include the Albanians, Aromanians, Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Romani, South Slavic People, and Turks. The country has a rich history engraved in the Persian, Greek and Roman conquests. Formerly known as the Republic of Macedonia, the small landlocked nation was forced to change its name to Northern Dispute after a long dispute with Greece, over the use of the title 'Macedonia.' The country officially adopted the name North Macedonia on February of 29th hence ending the 27-year long dispute. North Macedonia is part of Balkan countries. North Macedonia is a democratic country and a member of both the UN and the Council of Europe. North Macedonia is also a candidate for joining the European Union. It officially declared its independence in September of 1991 from the former Yugoslavia but was officially accepted in the United Nations under the name the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. As a result, this paper seeks to address some fundamental questions in regards to Macedonia changing its name and the impacts of such an action. The Greek opposed the use of the name 'Macedonia' without a geographical qualifier such as 'Northern' or 'Southern.' Since former Macedonia has finally agreed to include a geographical qualifier in its name, the paper will discuss the reason why Macedonia took 27 years to agree to include a geographical qualifier in its name. Greece has also been an important player in the events that led to the name change. Greece has been pushing for a change of the name since 1991, and now it seems to have gotten its wish. The paper seeks to find out the role that Greece played in the matter. For one to understand the issue surrounding North Macedonia's name change, they have to get an understanding of the cultural or nationalistic issues involved with the name. For two countries to be at odds for 27 years over a name underlines deeper issues between the two nations. As a result, the paper will discuss the cultural and nationalistic issues associated with the name 'Macedonia' for both the Greek and North Macedonians. However, it is essential to understand that the name change has impacts on both Macedonia and the entire world. According to Halasz (2019), the name dispute between North Macedonia and Greece had presented a challenge to the European Union and the politics of the Western World. Having that in mind one can understand how the two countries resolving their dispute could affect international geopolitics. Despite its rich history, Macedonia remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. However, its new name allows it to settle old scores and facilitates the process of joining the European Union.
Current knowledge on the causes of conflict between North Macedonia and Greece regarding the name point towards some historical, and cultural factors. Jones (2003) who conducted studies into European geopolitics compared European politics to a puzzle. The past events in the region play a significant part in influencing the current and future political developments in the area. The history of empires such as Rome, Greece, and the Ottoman Empire happens to dictate how the respective countries interact and behave on the international stage (Jones, 2003). Jones' book looks at the European conflicts from a historical perspective without singling out any specific dispute. It is comparable to the study by Bjelic and Savic (2002), who conducted a considerable amount of time in studying the Balkan wars. At some point, they even associate the Balkans with the Byzantines (Bjevic & Savic, 2002). The Byzantines were the occupants of the Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman empire as known to some people. The Byzantine empire was the remnant of the old Roman empire after it collapsed in 476 A.D (History.com Editors, 2018). Bjelic and Savic (2002), compare the Balkans to the Byzantine empire because of their diversity and orthodoxy. But even with all these information available on the Balkan region, few scholars have taken it upon themselves to delve into the issues that surround the conflict between Greece and Macedonia in regards to their name. Danforth (2010) gives an anthropological perspective to the role that ancient Macedonia played in influencing Balkan politics. According to Danforth (2010), it is essential for one to perceive Hellenism and Greece without continuous reference to Macedonia.
The term Macedonian is used with different meanings. First, the name is used to refer to the national identity of people from the Republic of North Macedonia. When the name is used in such a way, it is comparable to other nationalities such as Serbian, Bulgarian or Greek. When used in the manner discussed above, it means Macedonians are of different nationalities to the Greek. It is such use of the name that Danforth (2010) concentrates his research. The analysis conducted by Danforth is almost comparable to that of Viktor Roudometof who looked at how culture could become an essential site for political conflict (Roudometof, 2002). Like Danforth, Roudometof has focused on Greece and Macedonia question, but his study has extended to include Bulgaria hence making it more of a Balkan politics discussion. However, even with the inclusion of Bulgaria, Roudometof's research is still exact because he states the source of the conflict early in the book. Roudometof directly points the source of conflict in Macedonia to political identities (Roudometof, 2002). The book is one of the most insightful studies on the Greece-Macedonia conflict because it is direct and conclusive. It directly builds upon previous studies that focused on historical events surrounding the Roman, Greek and Ottoman Empire. For each of these powers that laid claim to the region at one point, they seemed to always fuel the conflict by creating or removing existing borders in the area. It also incorporates studies that focused on the Balkan wars. All these studies provide valuable information on the reason for North Macedonia's delay to change its name and the possible consequences of the move. Besides, these studies offer information on how the rest of the world, especially the western world, perceived the conflict between Greece and Macedonia on the name and how they are likely to react.
The Deal and the 27-Year Delay
The Greece-Macedonia naming dispute is not new. The disagreement had existed since World War II when Macedonia was still part of the larger Yugoslavia. However, the breakup of Yugoslavia in the latter part of the 20th century reignited the dispute as Macedonia declared its independence as the former Socialist Republic of Macedonia. The cause of the conflict is the ambiguity that comes with the name 'Macedonia' since there is a region in the northern side of Greece that goes by the same name. Also, there is also the historical significance where the name Macedonia is associated with the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia, which served as the birthplace for the legendary Greek conqueror Alexander the Great. Greece further cited the fact that millions of Greece nationals identify themselves as Macedonians, but they remain unrelated to the Northern Slavic people of North Macedonia. The Greek government accused the government of the former Republic of Macedonia of claiming Greek figures and symbols such as the Vergina sun and Alexander the Great. However, the most serious concern associated with the name 'Macedonia' was that it would create the irredentism among the Macedonian ethnic group that would lead to calls for a United Macedonia. The irredentism would lead to territorial claims on Greece who have some Macedonians living in the country. The name dispute has become a constant problem in international relations until the Prespa agreement of 12th June 2018. The Prespa agreement was a treaty signed by Greece and North Macedonia and covered by the United Nations auspices to end the long-standing disagreement between the two countries over Macedonia's name. According to Syrigos (2018), the agreement between the two countries, the treaty of Prespa cannot be overridden by any other deal or revoked by any additional contract. Furthermore, the agreement is legally binding for parties of both nations and is set to remain valid indefinitely (Syrigos, 2018). Also, part of the deal is that the citizens of the former Republic of Macedonia will continue to identify themselves as Macedonians in connection to citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia. The United Nations also gets to recognize the Macedonian language as among the Slavic group of languages. Part of the agreement was for North Macedonia to permanently stop the public use of Vergina sun.
Some of the factors the contributed to the delay in the agreement between Greece, and North Macedonia was the independent republic's accession to the UN and European Union (EU). Greece was seeking to block the former Republic of Macedonia from being accepted by the United Nations. Greece' attempt was unsuccessful as the UN recognized former Macedonia under as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The UN's ascension of former Macedonia damaged any hope of the two countries to reach an agreement. Former Macedonia's accession to the UN almost legitimized its name as 'Macedonia,' and they were reluctant to approach Greece or agree to any demands by the Greek government. Its failure to block former Macedonia's accession to the UN did not derail Greece' intentions as they moved to block Macedonia's accession to the EU (Koliopoulos & Veremis, 2002). Greece pushed the EU to implement additional conditions for implementation. Some of the conditions were preventing a country that had territorial claims on a neighboring country or a denomination that would imply territorial claim on other countries, from joining the EU. Greeks in other countries such as Australia, the United States, and Canada petitioned their respective governments not to recognize Macedonia's under its name. The EU also expressed its willingness to recognize the republic within those borders, but under a different name. The delays in ascension to the United Nations and failure to join the EU negatively affected the former Macedonia economy and political situation.
However, as much as Greece and the rest of the international community were willing to push for Macedonia to change its name, they exercised moderation because of the ongoing war in the neighboring countries of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia. As much as the international organizations and countries wanted to settle the dispute, the maintenance of political stability in the country and region was more important. As a result, the Bosnian war of 1992 to 1995 made it difficult for the two countries to reach an agreement. The conflict led the UN to deploy its first ever peacekeeping mission in December of 1992. Too much pressure on the former Macedonian government could have quickly escalated the situation in the Balkan region and possibly caused another conflict in the area.
Role of Greece
Greece was a significant player in the Macedonian name dispute. Greece was the main party that led to the scandal. Greece was opposed to the use of the name 'Macedonia' by their neighboring country. The link between Greece and Macedonia dates back to the Roman occupation of the region. Whe...
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