WASHINGTON, DC-On January 31st, AHI sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regarding the administration's failure to properly address the name issue regarding the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as it relates to U.S. interests and that of our most important ally in the Balkans – Greece. The text of the letter follows:
January 31, 2008
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
Re: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Dear Madame Secretary:
On behalf of the nation-wide membership of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) we write to express our strong disapproval concerning the administration's continuing failure to properly address the name issue regarding the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as it relates to our interests and that of our most important ally in the Balkans-Greece.
The U.S. has important interests in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. The projection of U.S. interests in the region depends heavily on the stability of the region. Therefore, the U.S. has an important stake in fostering good relations among neighboring countries in the region.
Greece is of vital importance for the projection of U.S. strategic interests in the region by virtue of among other factors, its geographic location and by being home to the most important naval base in the Mediterranean Sea, Souda Bay, Crete. There are thousands of visits by U.S. military ships and planes to Souda Bay and its adjacent air base annually.
This sentiment has been expressed several times by our government in the past few years, by President Bush and by you, Madame Secretary.
Stability in the Balkans is not only critical for overall U.S. interests, but also because it serves the interests of every country in the Balkans.
Greece is by far the most economic and politically stable country in the Balkans. By contrast, FYROM is of limited significance to the national security interests of the United States.
However, the continuing intransigent and provocative actions by the government of the FYROM against its neighbor, Greece, poses a potential threat to stability in the Balkans, to the detriment of U.S. interests.
Yet, it would seem that Greece has been taken for granted. The sensitivities and concerns of our most important ally in the Balkans and one of our most loyal and long-time ally have not been considered.
Successive administrations from President Clinton to the present Bush administration, have had a habit of taking Greece for granted. These administrations have looked upon Greece as a Western nation and ally that will not rock-the-boat and will follow what the U.S. and the major NATO nations desire. That has been unfortunate and has created unnecessary problems- such as the FYROM name issue.
As you very well know, the FYROM name issue is coming to a head soon. As you are further aware, it is expected that the application of FYROM to join NATO will be discussed at the March 6, 2008 NATO foreign minister's meeting in Brussels. The U.S. supports FYROM's admission to NATO. Greece obviously objects to admission without a resolution to the name issue, and has stated it will use their veto, if necessary, which Greece is within her right to exercise.
If the United wishes to avert this veto, we encourage you to strongly use your influence to bring the proper pressure to bear on FYROM to negotiate in good faith the name issue that satisfies both countries and to cease its provocative actions against Greece. Only in this way will the interests of all parties be satisfied.
To this effect, Greece has recently made a major compromise by proposing "a compound name for the country; a name that will distinguish it from both the Greek and Bulgarian part." Greece's position is unambiguous. It has gone the extra mile. It wants a negotiated, mutually acceptable solution that will be valid internationally, in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. Foreign Minister Bakoyannis publicly expressed Greece's readiness to accept a composite name. This is a serious shift of tremendous importance from Greece's initial position. Unfortunately, this gesture was not reciprocated from the FYROM. The time is ripe for FYROM to demonstrate the maturity and the responsibility that a state needs in order to become a member of the Alliance.
The U.S. can easily turn the situation around by informing FYROM that the U.S. supports the Greek government's major compromise of accepting "a compound name for their country, a name that will distinguish it from both the Greek and Bulgarian" part.
Greece is determined to settle this difference before the NATO Summit in April of this year. However, if FYROM remains unwilling to engage in good faith negotiations, then the issue will remain unresolved. Such a situation will perpetuate the problem.
The immediate settlement of the name issue, in a way that is acceptable to Greece, will allow the United States' strongest ally in the Balkans to be the driving force for FYROM's membership to NATO and ultimately to the European Union.
FYROM's "passport" to NATO and the European Union is Greece.
It is however, FYROM, that is the intransigent party in this regard, and not Greece. FYROM must realize that in order to join NATO, it must focus on the fulfillment of NATO's good neighborly relations principle and the immediate settlement of the difference over the name. Greece is the biggest investor in FYROM and literally helps to sustain FYROM's precarious economy and reduce its large unemployment. Greece is also a leader in investment and economic development in Southeastern Europe, with over 22 billion dollars invested.
Yet, FYROM continues to provoke Greece and who refuses to negotiate in good faith over the name issue. Unfortunately, actions over the years such as distortion of geographic maps, naming its airport "Alexander the Great," revisionist textbooks in schools, and inflammatory comments by top government officials, encourages new generations in FYROM to cultivate hostile sentiments against Greece. Further, this continuing systematic government policy will hinder FYROM's accession to both the EU and NATO. This is the real threat to stability in the Balkans.
Unfortunately, the irresponsible decision by the administration in the fall of 2004 to recognize FYROM as the "Republic of Macedonia" has contributed greatly to FYROM's increasing intransigent stance.
In our view, and many others, U.S. actions since 1992 regarding the FYROM name dispute has constituted an American foreign policy blunder which has damaged U.S. interests in the Western Balkans and damaged Greece, our key ally in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean, for no sound reason.
I emphasize that there is no sound reason for the U.S. to have supported FYROM on the name issue. Further, for the U.S. to support FYROM against Greece, a loyal ally, a member of NATO and the European Union (EU) and the key nation in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean for the projection of U.S. power and U.S. diplomatic, economic and political initiatives, is gross diplomatic negligence.
For the record, there is no unqualified universally accepted rule of international law that authorizes a state to name itself anything it wants.
It is not proper for a country which is part of a region to define itself in an official manner as representing the whole region. Macedonia, like the Americas and Europe, is a region. Just as no country in North and South America would call itself the "American Republic," and no European country would call itself the "Republic of Europe," FYROM in naming itself cannot assume the mantle of all of Macedonia.
Tito changed the name of this area in 1944 from Vardar Banovina to Macedonia.
The usage of Macedonian as a nationality was an invention of Tito in 1944. Tito, the communist dictator of Yugoslavia, created a false Macedonian ethnic consciousness among his south Slavic citizens for a number of reasons, including his campaign against Greece to gain control of Greece's province of Macedonia and the major port city of Salonika. (See article by C.M. Woodhouse, a noted historian, in the Christian Science Monitor, October 28, 1992, p. 19.)
The United States opposed the use of the name Macedonia by Tito in 1944 and we should continue to oppose it now. In a Circular Airgram (Dec. 26, 1944) Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., stated:
This government considers talk of Macedonian "nation," Macedonian "Fatherland," or Macedonian "national consciousness" to be unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against Greece.
Stettinius' airgram was prophetic because Tito and Stalin did initiate aggressive action against Greece.
Therefore, we call upon you, Madame Secretary, to please use your influence with FYROM to impress upon them to negotiate in good faith with Greece to resolve the name issue and to cease immediately their irredentist propaganda against Greece, which violates the UN-brokered Interim Accord, as stated in Article 7 paragraph 1 of the Accord, signed in New York on September 13 1995 between FYROM and Greece.
It is useful to recall President Bush's words and yours regarding U.S. relations with Greece.
On March 20, 2005, during the occasion of Prime Minister of Greece, Constantine Karamanlis' visit to the White House, President Bush stated, "America and Greece have got a strategic partnership. That's important. It's important for our respective peoples, and it's important we work together to spread freedom and peace."
On March 24, 2005, you stated, after meeting with then Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, that, "…the Balkans, a place in which we believe great progress has been made but, of course, there are many challenges yet to meet. … we have no better friend in these challenges than our friends in Greece." And in reference to Kosovo and Greece's role there, you stated, "We believe that this is an area that is ripe for cooperation between Greece and the United States…"
And once again, on March 23, 2006, when welcoming the then new Foreign Minister of Greece, Dora Bakoyianni to the State Department, you said, "We've had a great opportunity to discuss our strategic partnership with Greece. This is a relationship that is first and foremost, of course, based on values. It is a relationship that recognizes the seminal role of Greece as a cradle of those values and recognizes that in the modern era in which we find ourselves now with so many challenges that Greece is a stalwart partner in the spread of democratic values, whether it be in Greece's work in the Broader Middle East Initiative, in which we've all been involved, promoting stability and prosperity in the Balkans, fighting terrorism and, of course, seeking the reunification of Cyprus on the basis of democratic values."
We write this in the interests of the United States and for the support of our long-time and loyal ally, Greece, who is our most important strategic partner in the region and the key country for stability in the region.
Gene Rossides Nick Larigakis
President Executive Director
cc: Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns
Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Daniel Fried
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Matthew Bryza
Director of Southern European Affairs Kathy Fitzpatrick
Greek Desk Officer Gabrielle Cowan