The small pac

(The Interim Accord)

The "small package"

On 13 September 1995 representatives from Greece and the FYROM met in New York and agreed to the terms of the so-called "small-package or intermediate agreement". This meeting between the two sides came about largely at the urging of the United States which was anxious about the deepening crisis in Bosnia and eager to smooth over other Balkan disputes.

One of the crucial points of the agreement was the obligation on the FYROM to omit the Sunburst from its flag and to refrain from using other Greek symbols, in whatever form, in the future. Accordingly, in the following month, the FYROM adopted a new flag bearing a yellow sun (often described as a curious cross between the Union Jack and the Rising Sun of Japan) on a red background (see page 73). The "small package" also involved clarification and amendment by the FYROM of certain items in its constitution which Greece felt either implied territorial aspirations on the Greek state or provided avenues for interference in Greek internal affairs.

In accordance with the package Greece was required to end its blockade of the FYROM within thirty days from the signing of the agreement. The two states were also to commence normalization of relations and now have official representation in each other's capital cities. Although initially hesitant for some time after the opening of the border, Slav Macedonians soon began to visit Greece

Consequently there has been a general warming between the two sides accompanied by a significant improvement in their economic relations. However, things are far from ideal.

Essentially the '"small package" was an interim agreement designed to lay the groundwork for an eventual resolution of all differences dividing the two sides. It did not grapple at all with the vexed question of the final name of the FYROM other than to oblige the two sides to continue negotiations with a view to a final agreement on this issue at a later date. Thus the scene was effectively set for the major battle that concerning the name - which, at the time of writing, is still continuing. There is little sign of progress towards a final resolution.

The period since the signing of the "small package" has also been characterised by frequent posturing from both sides by way of periodic public statements vowing not to give way on the issue of the name; by equally frequent postponements of scheduled meetings between the two sides and by meetings that have not led to any real progress towards a resolution. Each side is doggedly maintaining its original line: Greece that it will not accept a name for the FYROM which Contains the word Macedonia and the FYROM that it will not abandon its constitutional name.

The comments of Greece's foreign minister, Theodore Pangalos, can be taken as fairly representative of the Greek attitude. On 17 May 1996 in Brussels he told a group of journalists from the FYROM that in view of Greece's adherence to the agreement of the previous September it was now the FYROM's turn to fulfil its duty. This duty, in his words, was: "... to give way on the issue of the name, which does not belong to you, just as earlier the embellishments with the sun of Vergina, which you have now abolished, did not belong to you". Various leaders of the FYROM, on the other hand, including its president Kiro Gligorov, have frequently expressed the conviction that the name cannot be changed because such an action would endanger the national identity of their people.

Compounding the difficulty in finding an acceptable compromise is the inevitable point-scoring of political parties in both countries which readily choose to criticise political opponents for supposedly conceding too much on the name issue.

Through the (usually unfruitful) mediation efforts of special envoys such as the American Cyrus Vance some suggestions have been put forward. So far these suggestions, such as Nova Makedonija (New Macedonia) and the rather awkward "Republic of Macedonia - Skopje" have failed to achieve success. It is noteworthy that all suggested names have been compound ones (containing the name Macedonia) and it would thus appear that a final agreement, if ever reached, would involve a compound name despite Greece's stated objections.

Relations between the FYROM and its other Balkan neighbours have also continued to be strained. Tension with Albania has resulted from the plight of the large Albanian minority particularly over the issue of the creation of Albanian-language tertiary institutions in the FYROM as well as over other allegations of mistreatment.

Relations with Bulgaria continue to be marred by Bulgaria's insistence that the Slav Macedonians are in essence Bulgarians and its official language a Bulgarian patois. Bulgaria has frequently denounced the FYROM's administration which it claims is intent on "de-Bulgarising" its population in order to create a new "Macedonian" nation. Bulgaria's former foreign minister, Georgi Pirinski, made the following characteristic comment on 26 January 1996: "If Skopje did not falsity Bulgarian history in order to set up the 'Macedon ions 'as a nation and to acquire the Bulgarian language [of the region] through impolitic and provocative piracy, our visits to Skopje would not have been put off and our policy would be steady and consistent". The FYROM's jailing of three of its citizens because of a public pro-Bulgarian demonstration (the demonstrators maintained that the "Macedonians" are Bulgarians and demanded the FYROM's union with Bulgaria), provoked a sharp popular response in Bulgaria which included demonstrations of sympathy in the cities of Sofia and Plovdiv.

The FYROM's biggest diplomatic coup during this period was its recognition as "Macedonia" by the new Yugoslavia. However, this achievement came at a price. Recognition was granted only after the FYROM agreed to accept the new Yugoslavia as the legal successor of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This action angered Croatia and Slovenia as both countries are still disputing the new Yugoslavia's claim to the old Yugoslavia's inheritance.

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