MON, 25 SEP 1995 22:47:36 GMT
AIM, Skopje, September 21, 1995
In the beginning of October, the former Macedonian state flag will cease flying in front of all state buildings in Macedonia. By then, the Macedonian parliament is expected to change the symbol on the flag - the sixteen-pointed gold star impressed on red background, well known as the "star from Vergina". It was found in 1978 by the Greek archeologist Manolis Androlikos at the newly discovered tomb of Philip II, father of the historically more famous conqueror Alexander the Great, who lived in the fourth century B.C.
In this way the Macedonian sacrifice will be offered at the altar of the Greek-Macedonian Agreement signed last week in New York under auspices of the United Nations and under pressure exerted by Washington D.C. Greece should respond by lifting the embargo introduced in February last year against Macedonia in order to force it to change the state symbol. But, not only to change the symbol but also to change the name of the Macedonian state which, according to interpretation coming from Athens, belongs solely to the "Greek historic heritage". The concession Athens was forced to make was its consent to "temporary agreement on normalization of relations" between the two Southern Balkan states (officially the Greek-Macedonian Agreement), without what she considered to be the crucial problem being solved - the name of the Macedonian state. This is expected to be discussed some time in the future.
If those are right who claim that the compromising formula whose diplomatic name was the "small package" has brought the delight of victory to neither Macedonia nor Greece, the Greek media which concluded on the occasion that "America has won" are also right, since the USA have lately become the ones to force themselves as the decisive factor in resolving the crisis in the Balkans. Washington has not only brought resolution of the crisis in Bosnia close to its logical end - defeat of the "Greater Serbia" policy of Belgrade, but it has also filled in another allegedly incidental hole in the South of the Balkans by forcing the Greek and the Macedonian foreign ministers, Carolas Papoullas and Stevo Crvenkovski to sit at the same table. Obviously, the Americans are trying to close the Yugoslav crisis by a single move.
Indeed indecisive haggling between Athens and Skopje will continue, but it can have neither lasting nor risky consequences any more. The two parties will now bargain only about "technical" issues. They will talk about the type of documents citizens of Macedonia will have to possess in order to cross the Greek border, what will have to be included in way-bills when trucks or trains cross the border. It also seems that the diplomatic struggle concerning for Greece the crucial issue - the name of the Macedonian state - will continue.
Skopje is hoping that it will succeed in evading "talks" concerning this issue prescribed by the Agreement. As a journal close to the Macedonian government Nova Makedonija forecast on Thursday, this issue will be "frozen", or left to be discusssed when both parties manifest good will to implement what has already been been agreed in New York. The other possibility offered by the journal is that by signing the Agreement both parties have in fact agreed that there can be no agreement concerning this issues. Will Athens agree to such an approach?
Greek opposition which has been attacking the Government claims that it will. In other words, it believes that by agreeing to the Agreement, the Greek Government has dropped the last trump card from its hand which could have forced Skopje to change the name of the state. New Democracy, the greatest Greek opposition party, demands resignation of the Government, and Political Spring, the party of former foreign minister in Mitsotakis's cabinet, Andonis Samaras, goes a step further. Namely, it demands a referendum at which the Greeks would state whether they accept the Agreement signed in New York or not.
Mayor of Thessalonike called his colleagues from Greek Macedonia (a Northern Greek Province) and Thrakia to gather and protest against the Agreement and manifest loyalty to "fundamental attitudes expressed at rallies in Thessalonike and Athens in 1992 and 1994 respectively". In other words they remain unwavering in their defence of the "name of Macedonia being Greek", implying that no agreement with Skopje can be accepted if the word "Macedonia" is not deleted from the name of this state.
Although Macedonian opposition has severely attacked its state ledership for having agreed to take the symbol off the Macedonian flag, Gligorov and his Government are in significantly less dangerous position than Greek Prime Minister Papandreu. The opposition in Skopje headed by VMRO-DPMNE Ljupco Georgievski tried to organize a protest. But, it succeeded in gathering not more than a thousand people. Yet, the number of those who believe that this is a "shameful agreement" of Macedonian diplomacy, "national treason" and "trading with national dignity" as the opposition says, is probably much larger. However, it certainly is not large enough to shake up Gligorov and the Government of Branko Crvenkovski.
On the other hand, one should also have confidence in Macedonian practical spirit which will especially become evident once the barrier at the Greek-Macedonian border is lifted and the gate towards Thessalonike and vacations at the closest Greek seaside is opened. At this very moment the hotels in Skopje are full of Greek businessmen who have evidently impatiently waited for the moment of normalization of relations betrween Skopje and Athens to come. One should not forget that the first who welcomed the Agreement on the Greek side were representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and industrialists from Thessalonike whose economy was sacrificed for the sake of political interests in the past two years since the introduction of the embargo. Because, due to the will of Greek Government, citizens of Macedonia as the major consumers in that part of Greece were simply absent all this time.
When tangible things such as money and good life stand opposite tales about "national dignity", it will probably turn out that the first will prevail. It is true, however, that the door to comprehension was opened by tireless Assistant US State Secretary, Richard Holbrook, who kept flying between Skopje and Athens before Greek-Macedonian Agreement was signed, convincing the Macedonian President Gligorov and Greek Prime Minister Papandreu to acceopt the "defeat". Judging by the reaction of both the Greek and Macedonian opposition, they have both been defeated, although maybe just temporarily.