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Wednesday, November 17, 2004 

A Country By Any Other Name...

Greece got a major diplomatic slap in the face from none other then the US of A this week. The day after the American elections, United States decided to recognize FYROM (Federal Republic of Macedonia) as just plain "Macedonia".

Now, this doesn't sound like such a big deal, does it? Well, if you're Greek, it's apparently a huge deal. How dare this FYROM 'upstart' of a country try to call itself after Greece's northern province of Macedonia. The birthplace of the Alexander the Great...a name synonomous with Greece itself. They were trying to steal Greece's identity. That's how the Greeks feel. And for 13 years, Greece has refused to even entertain the idea of FYROM having any name for itself which includes the name "Macedonia".

This is a brief history of how the whole problem started. Since the breakup of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991, three new countries were created: Croatia, Slovenia and FYROM. The EU decided on the name FYROM, the UN even got involved and also agreed to call it FYROM and Greece was not happy about it at all. The president of this new country, Kiro Gligorov, only exacerbated the situation by trying to use the Vergina Sun on his country's flag. The Vergina Sun was the symbol of Alexander the Great's royal family. And Gligorov continued to refer to his country as Macedonia and not the agreed upon name of FYROM. And then the whole thing just took on a life of its own from that point on in Greek politics. They became obsessed about it. They even imposed an embargo on FYROM until it dropped the Vergina Sun from its flag in 1995 and since then there has been an arctic freeze on relations between FYROM and Greece.

But now, since George Bush has decided to recognize the name Macedonia, Greek sentiment is boiling over. The 9 billion euro Olympic debt didn't get them this riled up. The fact that Greece cooked the books in order to get into the single currency Euro zone didn't get them angry enough to protest. The fact that the Greek government owes billions to the state healthcare funds doesn't bother them enough to demand action. But a country's name does.

To add insult to injury, the Americans didn't even inform the Greeks that they were going to recognize the name. They found out with the rest of the world the morning it happened leaving the ruling New Democracy party red with embarrassment . They couldn't believe America would do this to them. What did they expect? They have never given the US any support in recent memory and have blamed them for most of the ills in this country and the world..from the military junta to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus to the bombing of Yugoslavia and the war on Iraq. They regularly stage protests outside the American embassy. They've burned the American flag at a soccer match. And then to expect the US to back them on the issue of a country's name.

The Greeks have the right to tell America how they feel about their policies and actions, but they can't expect America to be happy with it and pretend to be best friends with them either when it comes time for Greece to expect sympathy for its causes.

The Fat Lady has sung. Greece should now start cleaning up the mess in its own yard before continuing this prolonged obsession of what nameplate its neighbour chooses to hang over its door.

Best Post ever! I knew i'd enjoy if i kept reading your archives.

But, really, I don't think that the US Government wakes up every day dreaming of ways to screw Greece like many in this country would have us believe.

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