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World View: Macedonia Name Issue Triggers More Huge Protests in Northern Greece

Macedonia's new name to be put to public vote: PM

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Macedonia name issue triggers more huge protests in northern Greece
  • Protesters in Greece demand that Macedonia’s new name be ‘erga omnes’

Macedonia name issue triggers more huge protests in northern Greece

Anti-Macedonia rally in northern Greece (Kathimerini)
Anti-Macedonia rally in northern Greece (Kathimerini)

Widespread opposition continues in Greece to agree to change the name of the “Republic of Macedonia” to another name that includes the word “Macedonia.” Greeks refer to their northern neighbor as the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM), although most of the rest of the world just calls it “Macedonia.”

Greece has vetoed attempts by Macedonia to join either NATO or the EU because many Greeks consider “Macedonia” to be a pure Greek name, as well as the name of their own province of Macedonia, and they oppose another other country using it as part of their own name. They are especially infuriated by Macedonia’s claims that Alexander the Great was Macedonian. They claim that he was Greek because at that time the Kingdom of Macedon was part of Greece.

But now it appears that the governments of the two countries are close to agreeing to a new name. The solutions being discussed are adding a modifier to “Macedonia,” to get “New Macedonia” (as in New Zealand) or “Northern Macedonia” (similar to North Korea) or “Upper Macedonia.” They are under pressure to reach an agreement in time for an EU summit in late June and a NATO summit in mid-July. Once a name is agreed, the former Yugoslav republic can move forward with plans to join both the EU and NATO.

Tens of thousands of protesters in 23 northern Greek cities held rallies on Wednesday, with slogans such as “Macedonia is Greek,” “Respect our history” and “There is only one Macedonia and it is in Greece, where King Phillip and Alexander the Great were born.”

However, many politicians in Greece’s New Democracy party are opposed to any name change that includes the world “Macedonia,” while many politicians in Macedonia’s VMRO-EPMNE party are opposed to changing the name of the “Republic of Macedonia” to anything else.

Even assuming that agreement can be reached on a name with “Macedonia” and a modifier, there are disagreements over portions of Macedonia’s constitution, and whether allowing Macedonia into the EU would be a tacit agreement by Greece that people living in Greece’s province of Macedonia could be under the jurisdiction of the country.

Article 49 of Macedonia’s current constitution says the following:

The republic is interested in the regime and the rights of all persons belonging to the Macedonian people in neighboring countries, as well as Macedonian expats, by assisting in their cultural development and promoting bonds between them.

Macedonia has been asked, as part of any agreement on a new name, to remove this article from the constitution, but so far Macedonia has refused. Reuters and Kathimerini and al-Jazeera and Irish Times and Deutsche Welle

Protesters in Greece demand that Macedonia’s new name be ‘erga omnes’

The phrase “erga omnes” is a Latin term meaning “in relation to everyone.” It has a technical meaning in international law referring to acts that are illegal for any nation, such as genocide, slavery, acts of aggression, and racial discrimination.

This high-powered legal term, erga omnes, is now being referenced to discuss the much more prosaic problem of how to rename “The Republic of Macedonia” in such a way that everyone in the world will be using the same name.

According to some reports, the name most likely to be chosen is Republic of Northern Macedonia (Severna Makedonija), where Severna Makedonija is the Slavic version of the name Northern Macedonia.

The “erga omnes” question is whether the new name will be used by everyone in the world, or whether the new name will be used only by the European Union, NATO and the United Nations, with the rest of the world continuing to use “Republic of Macedonia.”

That situation already exists with the country’s current name. It is “Republic of Macedonia” to most of the world, but the official name within the United Nations, the EU and NATO is “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (FYROM).

So those in Greece who are opposing a settlement on the name are saying that unless an “erga omnes” policy is adopted, then nothing will change, except to replace one unused name (FYROM) with another (such as Severna Makedonija), but everyone will still just call it “Republic of Macedonia.”

For these people, if there is any acceptable solution at all, then it has to be an “erga omnes” solution, where the country officially agrees to change its name to “Republic of Northern Macedonia,” for the entire world. Kathimerini and Kathimerini and Kathimerini

Related Articles:

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Greece, Athens, Macedonia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM, Alexander the Great, Kingdom of Macedon, New Macedonia, Northern Macedonia, Upper Macedonia, New Democracy, VMRO-EPMNE, erga omnes, Severna Makedonija
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