The Name Game: Greece Gave Macedonia Away



Say the magic word and win $100 … that’s right, it’s Macedonia! And it’s Greek.

Macedonia is Greek. Get that? Macedonia is Greek, no matter what Greece’s envious neighbor to the north, a place called FYROM, wishes were the case.

After gaining its independence from Yugoslavia  21 years ago, you’d think the people who lived there might want to come up with an original name for their new country instead of claiming two others. But still the dispute over what Greece and FYROM can agree to call that other country drags on ad infinitum and has grown past tiresome.

The FYROMians keep saying Macedonia is theirs, and they mean more than the name as they’d like to seize Thessaloniki and have a port too. I went to an irredentist a couple of times but then stopped because he kept taking out the same tooth and claiming it was his. Arguing with him was tiresome but not as tedious as the endless talks between Greece and FYROM over the name.

As tedious news stories go, none – not even the droning-on-again-off-again Middle East peace talks, nor the doomed Cyprus re-unification negotiations – are bigger MEGO’s (My Eyes Glaze Over) than the preposterous sham engaged in between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which is called only “Macedonia” by as many as 133 countries.

Americans might know how Greeks feel if Canada suddenly decided to call itself the United States and put out a map showing it owned all the way down to New York. Canada is populated by Americans-in-training so the envy is obvious, although O Canada is a better national anthem and has sparked many classic hockey brawls.

What to officially call the appendage bordering on Greece’s province of Macedonia (confused yet?) has been going on for two decades. Nearly twenty years of fighting over one word, a diplomat’s dream as that means they get to keep staying in 5-Star hotels and calling room service for caviar and hookers. One word.

Sadly, the name Macedonia – which is Greek no matter how much the FYROMians complain or how many airports they name Alexander the Great – was ceded away by Greece the moment it allowed that little neighborhood to identify itself as the Former Yugoslav Republic of ………. Macedonia. It is, of course, a Greek word which should provide a clue as to which country it’s in.

Newspapers like to find the fewest words for headlines and FYROM ain’t one of them, but Macedonia is, and all Greece had to do 19 years ago was simply refuse to allow the word Macedonia in any of the silly acronymns that could have been used and we’d be talking about which century the Middle East and Cyprus talks would end, even if it’s not this one.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who has never met a tax hike or pay cut for workers he didn’t like, at least stood tall when he was Foreign Minister in the Administration of then-New Democracy leader and Premier Constantine “Marshmallow” Mitsotakis in 1993 when the so-called Macedonia Question was being debated internationally.

While Mitsotakis caved in faster than the Chicago Cubs in a pennant race, Samaras opposed allowing the name FYROM, and his departure from the party brought down the government, but too late to keep the name Macedonia in Greece.

So like it or not, Greece will eventually have to live with knowing that by whatever name it agrees to accept for FYROM – but which most of the rest of the world calls Macedonia – the only name it will be known by is … Macedonia.  That’s because Greece agreed to accept the name Macedonia in the acronym of FYROM and you can’t unring a bell.

The name game talks will keep going on because there is no answer that would not involve the word Macedonia and that’s what that other country will be called no matter how many angry comments appear in blogs or news sites in the battle for revisionist history.

FYROM, FRYROM, FO-FYROM

So while Macedonia is really Greek, only Greece really believes that anymore, and that doesn’t count in the court of public opinion. Greece is dead right, but that doesn’t matter so you can expect the FYROMians to keep peppering the Internet with inane arguments that really is disguised jealousy that makes them wish they had a real country instead of a haven for Al Capone wanna-be gangsters and political thugs.

Greece was hoping that after it had been either ignored or sold down the river by the administration of former US president George W. Bush that it would do better under Barack Obama – who uses the name Macedonia. During the Obama Administration there hasn’t been an inch of progress made because that’s the way the U.S. likes it and America keeps playing Greece for the fool.

The only cards that Greece holds is its right to block FYROM from getting into NATO or the European Union until the name dispute is settled, so we don’t have to worry about that for another 100 years or so until everyone has forgotten what the name feud was over, unless FYROM changes its name to NATO just to confuse the allies.

And while Greece’s economy is teetering, thanks to generations of greed, corruption and incompetence, Macedonia is using the lull to go on CNN and the world media pitching itself as a cheap place to invest and bring in business, and you can be sure if it does no international company is going to say it has an office in FYROM.

History doesn’t count here, only politics does, and that’s why Greece will eventually accept some version of a name which has the name Macedonia in it, and that’s the only one that will be used no matter if the final version is Upper Macedonia, Inner Macedonia, Outer Macedonia, Inside-Out Macedonia, Upside-Down Macedonia, Where’s-Waldo-Macedonia, Northern Macedonia, North of Greece Macedonia, Pseudo-Macedonia, Quasi-Macedonia, Almost Macedonia, We-Wish-We-Were-Macedonia, Too-Bad-Macedonia-is-Greek or Alexander-the-Great Slept Here in Macedonia. The key word here, in case you missed it, is …… Macedonia.

SLICKER THAN WD-40

Greece has itself to blame because it had its chance to insist that word not be in whatever name that little part of the former Yugoslavia called itself, as insignificant a little territory it is. If it were any more useless it could be part of Bulgaria. FYROM can’t even hold elections without people getting killed in gunfights or have sessions of Parliament without fistfights in the halls. FYROM is an afterthought, not a country, and doesn’t belong in the EU. If FYROM says it’s Slavic, why did it choose the name of Alexander the Great, a Greek hero, for its airport?

FYROM isn’t just land-locked, it’s brain locked, and if it wants to show its true colors, it can remove the red from its red-and-yellow flag. FYROM maps claim Greek territory as its own, including the ancient Greek city of Thessaloniki, because the Slavs want a port, a curious thought since they don’t have a real navy or a shipping industry, but that’s what happens when jealousy is a main plank of your foreign policy.

It must be tough living in a low-rent, second-rate neighborhood next to the most important country the ancient world produced, because Greece created democracy and FYROM created …. well, nothing. FYROM is the creation of the myth of political compromise, a fake amalgam of a country that didn’t exist until Greece allowed the use of a name most Greeks didn’t want used.

Maybe that’s appropriate though, since what’s important to the US and the EU is getting another country under its influence, so what matters here isn’t Greece, but grease. The real fraud is on its way and will forever be imbedded when newspaper headlines reveal the final silly compromise name that will only be called Macedonia, and it won’t be in Greece any more.

But maybe there’s a better answer, provided in Duck Soup, the inimitable Marx Brothers classic. Reach a compromise to let FYROM call itself Freedonia and even the Greeks will be singing, “Hail Freedonia!”