Whats in a name?
Well apparently a lot. For the small country of Macedonia in the Balkins, it’s name affects a lot of things. For Macedonians, the name of the country inspires them, it reminds them of their past and helps then to look into the future. So what is so bad about that? Well a bit. Macedonia’s name is just the thing which is holding it back. Macedonia’s name has sparked such a feud with neighbour country Greece, that its name might be just the thing which prevents Macedonia from joining the EU, and participating fully with the international community.
The more I research this bitter dispute which has been ongoing since Macedonia gained independence in 1991, the more flabbergasted I become. Macedonia has been repeatedly blocked from entering the EU, and suffered repeated trade embargoes from it’s Southern neighbour over a disagreement of who the regions history “belongs to.”
Part of the row comes down to the fact that there is a territory in northern Greece also called Macedonia. Apparently the Greeks believe that by naming their former Yugoslav country Macedonia, that this represents a potential attack on their sovereignty.
They also argue over which country can rightfully claim Alexander the Great as their own. And lastly, they had such a major problem with Macedonia’s first flag, and it’s inclusion of the symbolic Vergina sun.
From my research, it appears the crux of Greece’s concerns are related to what they see as Macedonia usurping their cultural heritage and potential territorial ambitions. Wait… what? So let me get this straight, one country is blocking the economic advancement of another because they don’t want to share their cultural heritage?
Let’s just dismiss the territorial ambitions bit of the feud straight away. Macedonia has so little interest in invading Greece that they have even written this fact into their constitution. It doesn’t get more serious than that.
So let’s talk about that little problem of cultural heritage. Lets just remember this is Europe. Every bit of Europe shares a bit of cultural heritage with every other country. And these two countries are neighbours! Alexander the Great conquered a massive region, and what two places were included in his kingdom? Both Greece and Macedonia! So common Greece, of course they will want to share that part of the historic and cultural identity.
And then there is that bit about the flag. The original Macedonian flag featured a symbolic sun which appears in art from the 6th to 2nd century BC from the area. The Greeks protested this “theft” of their beloved symbol so vehemently that Macedonia had to removed it from their flag.
Obviously there is a lot more to this debate than what I have outlined here, and I invite you to do some research into the subject if it interests you. But for me, the fact that this is even a debate astounds me. I mean, don’t you guys have anything better to debate and discuss in your own national politics? Like hmmm, I don’t know, the unemployment and debt crisis currently being experienced in your country?
The littlest things seem to bring this debate back into the forefront. When Macedonia erected a statue of a “warrior on horseback” (they dare not use the name Alexander the Great), all hell broke loose politically. But I mean common, how many countries of statues of important figures that are not their own? Canada has several statues of Winston Churchill, a British hero, but you don’t see us flighting it out over a theft of identity.
Australia and New Zealand have a flag so similar that it is hard for people not from these countries to tell it apart. It uses the same colours, both feature a union jack, and both feature the Southern Cross formation of stars. Do you see Australia and New Zealand imposing trade embargoes on each other? I would have to say it’s a definite no.
So why can’t Greece and Macedonia come to an agreement? You may have picked it from this article, but in my opinion I think Greece is being a little silly. Macedonia has gone out of their way to change its flag and rewrite it’s constitution, but it refuses to change it’s name. And why should it?
I want to hear from you. Tell me what you think in the comments.