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Greece The Macedonian Dispute
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    The dissolution of Yugoslavia also fueled a bitter confrontation between Greece and the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Initially fashioned into a republic in the late 1940s under Marshall Josip Broz Tito, the ethnically mixed territory that Tito called the Republic of Macedonia sought international recognition of its independence under terms that many Greeks consider threatening to their territorial integrity. Greece contended that by calling itself Macedonia, the new state usurped the glory associated with the Hellenic empire of Philip of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great (fourth century B.C.). That era has been a proud historical heritage of the large northern Greek region that throughout history has borne the name of Macedonia.

    Greece's position has been that the 1913 division of the larger territory of Macedonia never was meant to create ethnic claims by a separate and distinct Macedonian nation. Greece has charged that the newly created state has irredentist and expansionist designs against its neighbors, Greece in particular. Besides the use of the name Macedonia, FYROM has used the ancient Macedonian "star of Vergina", a Greek-treasured symbol of Philip's kingdom, in its national flag. On a more substantive level, the preamble to FYROM's constitution calls on Macedonians everywhere to rise and unite under FYROM's flag--a rallying cry that Greeks find incendiary.

    Since September 1991, two different Greek administrations have attempted to convince the international community of the seriousness of FYROM's threat by bringing the dispute before the UN, while at the same time trying to conduct a dialogue with President Kiro Gligorov of FYROM. The UN-sponsored efforts almost came to fruition in summer 1993, but hopes for a settlement faded soon thereafter. Meanwhile, on the Greek domestic front, the formation of the nationalist PA party just before the 1993 elections forced all Greek parties to harden their positions on the FYROM issue.

    In February 1994, after only a few months of frustrating negotiations, and during its six-month term in the rotating presidency of the EU, the new Papandreou government imposed a trade embargo on all nonhumanitarian goods bound for FYROM via Greek ports of entry. Although all Greek political parties and the general public supported Papandreou's initiative, foreign reactions, especially those of NATO and the EU, ranged from negative to outraged. Dissenting voices inside Greece pointed out that the country's largely symbolic stance had isolated it from its European partners and increased the threat of a generalized conflict in an already explosive situation in the Balkans.

    None of these arguments affected the official Greek stand. Two months later, the European Commission (see Glossary) asked the European Court of Justice for an injunction against the Greek embargo as a serious breach of EU law.

    Despite the general success of its 1994 EU presidency, Greece did not manage to use that opportunity to advance its position on the FYROM. UN-sponsored mediation by veteran United States negotiator Cyrus Vance and, subsequently, by Clinton emissary Matthew Nimetz, succeeded only in establishing that the question of the country's name and its connotations remained the central stumbling block to any agreement.

    In late June 1994, the European Court of Justice rejected the European Commission's request for an immediate temporary injunction against the Greek embargo. Although resolution of the case itself was still several months away, this decision restored national confidence in diplomatic approaches. After FYROM president Kiro Gligorov was reelected in November, negotiations resumed, but the participants broke them off almost immediately, and Greece again appealed to the EU for redress.

    Data as of December 1994

    NOTE: The information regarding Greece on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Greece The Macedonian Dispute information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Greece The Macedonian Dispute should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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