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Greece does not want a solution
read in Macedonian


Posit: individuals, and institutions, respond to incentives, both negative and positive.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule recently proposed that, in addition to the work being done by UN Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, there be additional talks on the so-called name issue with the EU.  Macedonia responded enthusiastically to the proposal and embraced it.  Greece, quite naturally, brushed it off.

But Greece did more than simply brush off the fresh idea.  Greece boldly claimed a lie – that their proposed and recent Memorandum of Understanding “reactivated” the whole issue of name talks in the first place.  Last week Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras claimed that “the substance of the negotiation process under Mr. Nimetz…was reactivated thanks to the Greek initiative.”

How many times has Macedonia reached out to Greece, over these past many years, requesting meetings – anytime, anywhere – to discuss the name issue?  Frankly, I do not know the answer to that question but I would like to see it – a list of times where Macedonian officials made the offer and where Greece either refused the offer or simply did not respond.

Greece plays a good game but I do not believe that Greece wants a solution to the so-called name issue.  And why should they?  Questions need to be asked: What is the current incentive, positive or negative, for Greece to solve this issue?  What great pressure is on them now that makes life so unbearable for them that they see a plus side to solving the issue?  What is the downside to Greece in keeping its current position – that Macedonia changes its name and identity?

To answer the above questions, there really is no incentive, positive or negative, because there is no pressure.  Greece is currently receiving extremely generous amounts of money from the EU to prop up its failing economy and there are no strings attached, insofar as Macedonia is concerned (or other issues, such as Greece’s relations with Turkey, for instance, or its defense spending on Russian arms even though it is a NATO member).  This would be a positive incentive – Greece gets German taxpayer money it will never pay back in exchange for modifying its position on Macedonia.  Negative incentives include diplomatic visits and other little things.

Nor is there public condemnation of Greece for hanging on to its childish position for the past twenty years.  Certainly, there is some private condemnation and private verbal abuse of Greece (and rightly so), but in the polite circles of diplomacy, no one has politely condemned Greece for its position (And it is possible to be both polite and condemning in diplomatic circles – one of my favorite definitions of diplomacy is being able to look another individual directly in the eye and being able to tell him to go straight to hell in such a way that he actually looks forward to the trip).

On the other side, it is perfectly legitimate to ask the same questions of Macedonia.  What is the incentive, positive or negative, for Macedonia to solve the issue?  The US, EU, UN and NATO have always stated and believed that membership in NATO and the EU are the driving positive incentives to solve the issue.  Never mind the fact that an additional burden not required of any other country – that of changing the country’s name and identity – have nothing to do with membership in the EU or NATO and that the issue has transformed into one of so-called “good neighborly relations.” Like Greece there are lots of little negative incentives that can and are being employed as well by these institutions – withholding diplomatic visits to Macedonia or vice versa – being some of the more petty.   But what these institutions have not clearly calculated – or understood – is that a people’s name and identity are actually more important than all of the positive and negative incentives combined.

Macedonia clearly wants a solution to this issue.  As the traveler in our documentary film, A Name is a Name acknowledges, every people and country wants to be recognized for who and what they are. And, to date, 137 countries already recognize Macedonia and the Macedonian people.  But these seemingly “all important” institutions do not and the countries that make up these institutions seem bent on pressuring Macedonia to join them at the price of giving up its name and identity, an issue these countries have never been faced with and do not understand or do not want to understand.  Macedonians do not want to give up their name and identity as the price for joining institutions whose long-term existence is dubious at best.

On the other side of the equation, Greece clearly does not want a solution.  There are no incentives, positive or negative to encourage Greece to change its current position nor do I see such incentives on the horizon.  As long as Greece continues to receive preferential treatment there is no reason to want a solution.  And that is a condemnation of the very institutions that want Macedonia to be a part of them.

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Jason Miko
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