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Автор Тема: Guardian: A Macedonian identity crisis  (Прочитано 1880 пати)


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Guardian: A Macedonian identity crisis
« на: Април 08, 2009, 05:56:43 »

Guardian, April 7, 2009
A Macedonian identity crisis
by Heather McRobie

For the former Yugoslav republic, security, EU membership and development hangs on being allowed to call itself Macedonia

Without getting into a gruesome competition of Balkan suffering, the tiny country of Macedonia – technically the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – has hardly had it easy. It's still suffering the usual and seemingly interminable problems of "transitioning" post-Communist countries, abysmal corruption levels and continued tension with neighboring Bulgaria over language and border disagreements. It might have avoided the worst of the Balkan tragedy of the 1990s, but as a European country it's hardly in the clear: as recently as 2008, violence during the parliamentary elections saw one person shot dead and several others injured.

And on top of all these problems, Macedonia is still a country in quotation marks, denied the right to call itself the name most of its citizens identify with. Eighteen years since independence, Macedonia is still "transitioning" into its own name. It has already backed down from using the ancient symbol of the Vergina Sun on its flag after Greece imposed a crushing trade embargo on the nascent country back in 1995. But Macedonia will not give up its name so easily, and, in December 2008, took the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia dispute to The Hague.

The second round of presidential elections on Sunday seem to have passed quietly, after fears before the first round that violence would erupt. But while the elections are crucial to any EU bid, they're not enough on their own. As long as Greece challenges Macedonia on its name, its access to Nato and the EU is essentially blocked. Aside from the identity crisis caused by the continuing name debate, which can surely only exacerbate ethnic tensions in the country, Greece's refusal to accept Macedonia's name is blocking the country's best chance to prosper, and harming its neighbours in the process. Although the country has had EU candidate-state status since 2005, influential European figures, including Bernard Kouchner, have clearly stated that until the name issue is resolved, there can be no further progress on the country's membership. The delay is alienating Macedonians from the EU in the interim, further isolating the country.

No one could deny that there's an unpleasant tinge of nationalism to both sides of the debate: Macedonia's name and identity within Tito's Yugoslavia was undoubtedly used to counter allegiances to Bulgaria and stoke up Yugoslavian nationalism, and some of the breast-beating in Macedonian quarters seeks to draw on the idea that modern Macedonians are the inheritors of an ancient civilisation with natural superiority to countries around it. Naming the main highway and national arena after Alexander the Great look like petty attempts to antagonise Greece. But agreeing to call the country what it wants doesn't mean endorsing chauvinistic national myths. Yes, the country called Macedonia today may well have been a modern invention. But, for practical purposes, so what? What country's national identity wasn't to some extent invented and appropriated in the 19th century? As the historian Eric Hobsbawm has shown, few surviving identities are truly "ancient". Whether Macedonians are descendants of Alexander the Great or not may be academically fascinating, but it interests me a lot less than whether or not modern Macedonians have adequate schools and hospitals. And allowing the country to call itself what it chooses is one the key ingredients to its stability and development.

It's understandable that Greece may fear letting the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia call itself Macedonia will lead to an expansionism that threatens Greece's national sovereignty, as the name also refers to a province clearly within Greece's borders. But no expert on the region seriously considers Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia expansionism to be a risk of changing the name: just looking at the two countries' size, GDPs and regional allies, is enough to rule out the possibility. Greece's politicians need to realise that, on this issue, they look like Goliath, not David, to everybody else. Some point to Macedonia's strong pro-Americanism to show that the Balkan country is hardly the underdog, but it would be churlish, even for all those of us who despised the Bush administration, to deny Macedonia its name on these grounds: perhaps, after all, Macedonia sought to strengthen ties with the US in recent years because Greece had so completely blocked its access to Europe.

Aside from anything else, a flourishing Macedonia would probably help Greece: poor neighbours never make you prosperous, and discontented ones are more likely to bring conflict and instability to your borders. It won't cure all of Macedonia's current problems, but it will give it access to new solutions, and a swift win might defuse burgeoning ultra-nationalism, which presumably festers when there is a perceived "historic injustice".

Even if the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has no historical claim to the title of Macedonia, would Greece rather win a war of words against a tiny country, or live next to a stable nation with whom it can trade, exchange ideas, and co-operate?


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Одг: Guardian: A Macedonian identity crisis
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