The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M) calls itself ‘Macedonia’, but Greece rejects the name as, it asserts, implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of Macedonia .Greece has also denounced F.Y.R.O.M for claiming ancient Greek history in order to justify its claim to the name Macedonia. The country’s Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski had caused a national outcry in Greece when he renamed airports and motorways after Alexander the Great. However, the current political situation in F.Y.R.O.M has caused the resignation of Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski the country has been facing a long-running political crisis that has divided the country, entering a new phase for the country regarding its future existence as a nation, state, country.
Early parliamentary elections were held on 11 December 2016, as part of an agreement brokered by the European Union (EU) to end the protests against the government of Nikola Gruevski. The demonstrations were sparked by the wiretapping scandal involving high ranking politicians and security personnel. From 20 October 2015, a transitional government was installed including the two main parties, VMRO-DPMNE and the Social Democratic Union(SDSM). According to the Przino Agreement signed in mid-December 2015, Gruevski was required to resign as Prime Minister 120 days before the elections. However, neither VMRO-DPMNE nor the SDSM won enough seats to form a government, even with the main Albanian party (DUI) which lost much of its support because of its long association with VMRO-DPMNE. Instead the balance of power was held between two new Albanians parties, BESA and the Alliance for Albanians which campaigned on a platform of enhanced rights for Albanians in what they argued was a state run primarily in the interests of the Ethnic Slavic Macedonian majority.
President Gjorge Ivanov refused to give a governing mandate to a diverse coalition of political parties whose state objective is a stronger status for the large Albanian minority. Unable to form a government without the help of BESA and the Alliance for Albanians, the main Albanian party turned for help to Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama who summoned the leaders of various Albanian parties to a summit in Tirana. What emerged from the summit was a joint delectation which set out their conditions for entry into government with either VMRO-DPMNE or SDSM. The declaration demanded that F.Y.R.O.M would be redefined as a binational state comprised of Ethnic Slav Macedonians and Albanians, rather than Slav Macedonian Nation-State with an Albanian Minority. Also the declaration demanded the official use of the Albanian language everywhere in the country, not just in the Albanian majority areas, revision of the flag, anthem state symbols, Albanians involvement in a resolution of the dispute over Macedonia’s name with Greece, implying also abandoning the name Macedonia.
Eventually the leader of SDSM, Zoran Zaev obtained the presidential mandate to form the new government on May 17. This happened after a dramatic violent episode in parliament on April 27. The United States and the EU also exerted pressure on VMRO-DPMNE and on the President Gjorge Ivanov to remove any blockades. On the 31st May 2017 the Parliament voted Zoran Zaev as the new Prime Minister and his Social Democrat-led coalition government, consisting of a coalition with two Albanian parties’ ending months of political uncertainty. The bulk of the new cabinet comprises 17 ministers proposed by the alliance led by the Social Democrats, SDSM. The largest Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, which controls ten seats, has appointed six and the Alliance for Albanians, which has three MPs, has appointed two. BESA, the second-largest ethnic Albanian party, decided not to join the new government and not to vote for it despite initially supporting the new majority. However, BESA said it may support some of its policies. During his speech, Prime Minister Zaev presented the program of the new government, saying that joining NATO and the EU will be a priority in the following years. However, the obstacle for the country to join NATO and the EU is the long ongoing name dispute with Greece over the country’s name ‘Macedonia’. (3)
The new Foreign Affairs Minister, Nikola Dimitrov, said that the country is willing to change its name in order to overcome Greece’s objection and become a member state of NATO(1). According to the Financial Times, the minister Dimitrov said his country will consider new proposals on its provisional name so that Greece can lift its 2008 NATO veto regarding F.Y.R.O.M’s membership in NATO. “I will ask Greece to reconsider what kind of neighbor they want, do they want a stable, friendly country that offers hope for democracy and justice?” said Nikola Dimitrov in an interview to the paper. “If we are a good neighbor, then hopefully political forces in Greece will realize this is a historic opportunity," he added.
Are we seeing a “new momentum” for solving the name dispute? (2) Definitely the political crisis in F.Y.R.O.M which brought a new government shows positive signs for name dispute to solve. The Greek government sees the new Skopje administration as a more co-operative partner and the EU’s enlargement Chief Johannes Hahn said that the formation of a new government in Skopje, ending a two-year long political crisis there, could lead to a breakthrough on F.Y.R.O.M’s name dispute with Greece. Prime Minister Zaev said after meeting NATO head Jens Stoltenberg that “all possible options” were being considered, including to join NATO under a provisional name and to negotiate a lasting solution with Greece later on. F.Y.R.O.M split from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 became a UN member in 1993 under the provisional name the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M). The country wanted to join the EU and NATO under the name the Republic of Macedonia, but Greece has blocked its accession talks for over a decade on grounds that it implied a territorial claim to the Greek region of Macedonia. The country’s former Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, had antagonized Greece via nationalist rhetoric, but Prime Minister Zaev new policy is to end that. Prime Minister Zaev said after meeting NATO head Jens Stoltenberg that “all possible options” were being considered, including to join NATO under a provisional name and to negotiate a lasting solution with Greece later on.
No doubt from both sides the signs are positive, it is a historical moment for this long-going name dispute to finally come to an end, and the small state in the central Balkans to seek prosperity and stability rather than sinking in isolation due to nationalist and irredentist rhetoric’s from the former government. The new Prime Minister Zoran Zaev seems to understand that primarily it is to his country’s benefit that the dispute with Greece comes to an end, as it is it the only way for future membership to NATO and the EU which would bring prosperity and stability to the country. Also the current Greek Government seems to understand that it is the best chance they will get to solve this issue, so that irredentist ideas and falsification of Greek history would come to an end. Above all a solution serves to the benefit of the Balkans, as a stable F.Y.R.O.M means a stable region.