Monday, May 09, 2005

What is a FYROM? 

A couple of years ago I did some consulting work in Macedonia. (I actually blogged a little from there on my aborted second blog.) During a weekend on one of these trips I went down to Thessaloniki, Greece, to see some sights like Vergina, the burial site of Phillip II of Macedon and to get some better food. As we drove back to the border I saw signs for "Yugoslavia" (which no longer exist) and "FYROM", which is the name the Greeks give to "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."

The country's own constitution names the country simply as Macedonia, and over 100 countries recognize it under that name, but the EU, bowing to Greek pressure, use FYROM. The US last November, in a move that somehow eluded major media coverage, went from FYROM to Macedonia. The Greek government is very unhappy, but again nobody cares.

An alternative name offered by the UN has been proposed and accepted by the Greeks -- Republika Makedonija-Skopje, which would use the Macedonian Slav language -- but not the Macedonians. Why would they, when the issue is moving in their favor already? (Leave it to the UN to try to stop a snowball rolling downhill.) This is very different from Taiwan, where it is trying to declare independence from China. The Greeks do not have any desire as far as I can see for taking in Macedonia as part of its own, but it has this inordinate fear that Macedonia wants part of its northern border moved. Macedonia has its own issues with ethnic Albanians and unstable neighbors to the north, and has no need to add to its problems with a border dispute with a larger, much more wealthy neighbor to its south.