The Canadian Press
"In The Name of MACEDONIA" (The Toronto sun, Thursday, February 27. 1992)
Macedonia II: A Balkan farceBy: ERIC MARGOLIS
If they could, the furious Greeks would sue. It would be history's first case of nationaltrademark infringement.
This latest Balkan fracas concerns Macedonia, a strategic mountainous region that borders Albania, Greece and Bulgaria. The former Yugoslav republic (let's call it Macedonia II) has proclaimed its independence and, like Croatia and Slovenia, wants European Community recognition.
"No way!" thunder the Greeks. "The real Macedonia is in northern Greece. We own the name. The ex-Yugo Macedonians have no right to it. Everyone knows Macedonia dates back to Alexander the Great and is as Greek as souvlaki."
The Greeks have a point. Back in 1945, Yugoslavia's
ruler, Marshall Tito, detached a chunk of Serbia and named it Macedonia.
Athens protested but was ignored. Macedonians II claims they are a distinct
nation with a right to independence. What's more, some of them want to annex
other parts of historical Macedonia that lie in neighboring Albania,
Bulgaria and Greece.
All of this sounds like a Balkan farce. If Yugos can
usurp the name Macedonia, why can't Slovenia change its name to Switzerland?
Think what "made in :Switzerland" would do for Slovenian exports. Why
doesn't North Korea call itself Japan? Iraq could also badly do with a name
Funny and curious, to be sure. But in the hot headed
Balkans, looking at your neighbor the wrong way
can lead to war. So Macedonia is no laughing matter. During 1912 -1913, the
new Balkan nations fought like wolves for control of Macedonia. Today, the
geographical region of Macedonia II is claimed by Greece, Bulgaria and
Albania - not to mention the belligerent Serbs. Macedonia II's neighbors
insist there are no such people as Macedonians. Its two million people are a
hodgepodge of Albanians, Slavs, Turks, gypsies and those mysterious Balkan
people, the Vlachs, originally a Romanian pastoral tribe. The Slavs who now
rule Macedonia II pretend it's a purely Slavic nation, though non-Slav
Albanians make up 40% of the population.
Most worried are the Greeks. They fear an independent
Macedonia will try to annex Greek Macedonia or at least stir up trouble in
the region. It might also make a grab for chunks of Bulgaria and Albania. In
other words, a really nasty Balkan imbroglio. Adding to this mess, the
Turks, who are showing signs of friskiness these days, just recognized
Macedonia II. The once terrible Turks obviously are planning to expand their
influence into fractured Yugoslavia as defender of its four million
Muslims. This, of course, is making their blood enemies, the Greeks, see
red. Athens, so far, has managed to block European Community recognition of
The simplest solution: Carve up Macedonia II and parcel out the pieces to its neighbors. But doing so would be a nightmare. The last time this solution was tried, the result was the Balkan Wars. Maybe the Macedonians II should just change their name to Newfoundland and live happily ever after on handouts from Ottawa.