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Macedonia, and the Bizarre Greeks

by Upstate NY Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 07:27:48 AM EST

I wrote a short response to the morning's news from Spiegel earlier, and will now diary it at length.

Bickering in the Balkans: Macedonia's Identity Crisis - SPIEGEL ONLINE

The reporter takes a very Macedonian-centric perspective (that is, FYROM-centric, so I don't offend Greeks) but in so doing, becomes so confused that he ends up implicitly agreeing with the Greek position--which he assumes is actually the Macedonian position. I want to cut through the history as best I can by only giving very little background. Mostly, I wanted to address the legal issues, and leave the history short.

Promoted by whataboutbob

The reporter has muddled the real issues here:

Greek Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis reemphasized this position last summer, when he said: "There is no 'Macedonian' minority in Greece. And there never was one."

This is a misinterpretation of the PMs words in context. He was not talking about Macedonians in general but about official recognition BY THE STATE of Greece of a Macedonian minority in Greece, under UN and European conventions. The term Macedonian has a specific designation in Greece, so when the PM says there is no Macedonian minority, he's referring to the fact that the state uses the term to refer to inhabitants of its prefecture Macedonia, much as it refers to Cretans to describe inhabitants of Crete. There is of course also a cultural affinity to the term, much as Cretans are proud of being Cretans and self-identifying as Cretans, so too Macedonian Greeks. But this has nothing to do with the state. In fact, the Greek ambassador to the UN stated recently that any citizen of Greece is free to self-identify as they wish (i.e. call themselves a Macedonian, of whatever variety, refer to their language as such, etc.) but that does not require the state to OFFICIALLY recognize that designation. The Spiegel writer is just confused on this issue.

Does this mean that the prime minister in the Macedonian capital Skopje must stand idly by while Athens insists that people like his ancestors, including his father and grandfather, could not possibly have existed?

Logical fallacies are not going to save the article.

If there is no such thing as Slavs who grew up in the Greek part of the historic region of Macedonia and, despite having had to accept Greek surnames, remain faithful to their native language?

Ironically, the writer of the article has now moved close to the Greek position without even realizing it. Greece does recognize a Slavophone minority. They refer to it constantly. Indeed, Greece is not at all averse to or against references to Slavic Macedonians, and has suggested many times that this could be a way to differentiate between Macedonian Greeks and Slavic Macedonians. Amazingly, the writer refers to Macedonians as Slavs, without realizing that his characterization would be considered an insult north of the Greek border. Part of the national mythology of the connection of contemporary Macedonia with Ancient Macedonia is to slough off any association with Slavs, which for many connotes unfortunate etymological correspondences with "Slaves." Kiro Gligorov's admission a decade ago that "We are a Slavic people" is anathema in Skopje.

I realize the arguments and intricacies are complex--though I would not characterize them as bizarre-but when you write about a subject, it's your responsibility to get the facts straight.

As for the intricacies of the controversy, I would say that many Greeks simply hope that the issue goes away. It's frustrating, and sometimes you will get us to admit it's "embarrassing" though I believe even the most generous or anti-nationalist Greeks are deeply bothered by something that most onlookers do not understand. If Macedonia is recognized internationally as such without having to distinguish itself from Greek Macedonia, then inevitably an aspect of Greek identity will be lost. In no time at all, there will be only one Macedonian identity internationally. And that does bug Greeks, all Greeks, a lot, even the ones that want to see this issue DIE, DIE, DIE.

(The best analogy I could give is for one to imagine a part of Mexico on the Texas border incorporating as a new state called Texas. 100 years later, the Mexico-Texans secede from Mexico and form their own country and wish to be known as Texans. If one acknowledges that most nationalities are mythological constructions--Greek and Macedonian too--then the seeming farcical appearance of a new brand of Texan is not so unusual after all.)

I call Macedonians Macedonian because that's what they want to be called. I don't begrudge them that at all. However, I don't lose anything by doing so because I'm an individual. And the truth is, my family does not have ties to the Greek region so I'm less invested. However, the fact that I--as a Greek American--have no trouble referring to anyone as anything they wish to be identified as (on an individual level, on a personal level) is quite different from official recognition by state. States have other responsibilities. States educate their citizens, states recognize minorities, states in the EU even try to retain naming rights over products of origin, etc. Greece can't invent a prefecture named Champagne which sells the bubbly stuff. The state of Greece has quite a different responsibility for the term Macedonia than any individual Greek does.

There are background issues, as well, the historical ones from the ancient past which I mostly ignore (except when I see propaganda from both sides). Then there are the more recent histories of the birth of modern Macedonian consciousness in the late 19th and early 20th century, which occurred along with the concomitant settling of Greek Macedonian lands by Greek refugees from Romania, Russia, Bulgaria, Egypt and especially Turkey. And finally there's the more recent history of WW2 when the Slavic citizens of the region first allied with the Nazis and then Tito's Yugoslavia in attempts to render Greek Macedonia away from the Greek state. This is the background which Greeks and Macedonians always refer to. If anyone wants to ask about how any of these issues impact the current squabbling, I'd be glad to help, though I'd also refer you to Mark Mazower's excellent books AFTER THE WAR WAS OVER and SALONICA. The former shows what happened at the end of WW2 and the Civil War in Greece, and the latter describes the history of the city of Salonica up until that period, a multicultural history of Jews, Greeks, Slavs, Muslims (Egyptians, Turks), Armenians, Franks, Europeans, etc. Up until the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the numbers were almost equally distributed between Slavs, Greeks, Muslims, and Jews, but after the population exchanges, the city was resettled by refugees and became predominately Greek, and the Greek state took over the region of Greek Macedonia from Turkey in the early 1910s prior to World War 1.

The UN negotiations aimed at settling the name matter currently are stuck. Greece is insisting on a name change to North Macedonia, Upper Macedonia, Slav Macedonia, really anything that would differentiate it from Greek Macedonia. However, Macedonia will only agree to that on a bilateral basis (i.e. it will only change its name for dealings with Greece). And so, the negotiations are at a standstill.

One reason is that the Bush White House had given Macedonia assurances that it would join NATO and the EU and that Greek objections would be overridden. Bush showed up at the NATO Bucharest summit last year and he welcomed Macedonia to NATO. Later that day Greece unofficially vetoed Macedonia, much to the shock of many, especially Macedonia which could not believe the USA's interests did not prevail over Greece's. There are a few more cards to play for Macedonia before Greece prevents EU candidacy, so there probably will be no movement in negotiations until then.

This week the FM of Macedonia sent his Greek counterpart a proposal for better relations. http://www.ana.gr/anaweb/user/showplain?maindoc=7418645&maindocimg=5313525&service=94
This proposal received a preliminary response in polite diplomatic language which tended to obscure the lack of seriousness which Greek diplomats ascribe to the proposal. For one, the Macedonian FM suggested a new bilateral accord to treat outstanding issues (even though Macedonia recently sued Greece for not living up to the Interim Accord the two countries signed in 1995). So, here we have two countries in International Court over the terms of one bilateral agreement, with a new proposal coming down the pike that essentially duplicates much of the first proposal. And they are already in deadlocked UN negotiations. It's odd. Another suggestion in the proposal advises setting up a historical commission to set the past straight. Generally, I'm all for this sort of work, though I'd note that I would strictly avoid framing any of this dispute in terms of race and history. It should be seen as a negotiation that secures either group's right to the name Macedonia and prevents the univocal use of the term. History will not allow either group to accomplish that, especially since the Greek side has already made it perfectly clear it does not object to Macedonians being referred to internationally with a qualifier. I would also note that, although I object to the Turkish offer to Armenia for a similar joint commission to study the Armenian genocide (precisely because there are obstacles to academic study of the Turkish archives), I would not object to a commissioned study of the Macedonian past when it comes to Greece and Macedonia since both countries do not have laws which prohibit certain forms of academic research. In Greece, some have objected that such a commission might in fact fan the flames of the existing controversy by having nationalist academicians from either side squabbling in much the same way as the leaders. I would say, however, that this could be avoided simply by having classicists from all over the world engage the issue. Why would it have to be Greek and Macedonian scholars when there are experts on Ancient Greece everywhere??!!

Regardless, a solution exists, and that is differentiating between two distinct type of Macedonians, the Greek type and the Slavophone type. What adjectives should be used to differentiate is a discussion that comes AFTER the decision to differentiate between them at all.

I will settle in and read this more thoroughly later - but thanks for the taking the time and effort to write this up! The Balkans never cease to amaze...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 12:17:28 PM EST
European Tribune - Macedonia, and the Bizarre Greeks
(The best analogy I could give is for one to imagine a part of Mexico on the Texas border incorporating as a new state called Texas. 100 years later, the Mexico-Texans secede from Mexico and form their own country and wish to be known as Texans. If one acknowledges that most nationalities are mythological constructions--Greek and Macedonian too--then the seeming farcical appearance of a new brand of Texan is not so unusual after all.)
Or imagine New Mexico seceding from the US and wanting to call itself Mexico.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 12:39:10 PM EST
Oh it can get wierder than that, and still be a bone of contention.

Consider that a "Yankee" is properly someone from one of the six states forming New England (Maine, New Hampshire. Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Connecticut), a "Yankee" isn't a generic term for just any American, and is most emphatically not a baseball player from New York City! The enmity between the true, original, proudly contrarian New England Yankees and those Big Appleites is real and goes beyond sports. I myself refuse to go there. I don't need to. With me, it's an article of faith that if there was anyone worthwhile in New York City, he or she would move to Boston.

And God help a Red Sox who become a faux-Yankee. Roger Clemens is getting what he deserves.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 10:06:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given that american sports teams like to call themselves after defeated enemies and use them as mascots, what does it tell you that a baseball team from New York calls itself the "Yankees"? <ducks and runs>

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 05:02:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See? Now you're pouring gasoline on the fire. You're not a diplomat or senior government advisor involved with troubled developing nations I hope?

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 07:18:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe that Mexico/Texas analogy has already happened.

Several times.

When world history is written, Texas will appear as a long elaborate joke.

by Pinche Tejano on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 11:57:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me add a few things here:

This whole mess was created firstly by Greek nationalism. A Greek equivalent of a Yugoslav sort of rabid nationalism emerged in the early 90s, motivating people to the streets to demand that the republic of Macedonia be called something else - something which should not include the name Macedonia in it at all. At the time the RoM side was a relatively realist Tito-school lot, which just wanted to stay out of internal trouble (regarding the large and unrestful Albanian minority in their country).

Now this is a period of time in which discourse in Greece regarding national issues was frothing-in-the-mouth absurd. Admittedly this was not helped by the fact that there was a strong wingnut element in RoM politics that claimed that Alexander of Macedon was some sort of pre-slav and (more importantly) that the Greeks indigenous to Macedonia were also of Macedonian nationality but they just didn't know it. The only political force in Greece pushing for a Geographical determination of the name Macedonia was the left - and even they after various hems and haws...

Twice a resolution of the issue (the names Slavic Macedonia and Vardar Macedonia - from the Ottoman name of the area were rumored to be on the table) was close - and twice it was rejected by the Greek side: first the Mitsotakis government and then the Papandreou government, couldn't overcome the political cost in accepting the "unacceptable" inclusion of the term "Macedonia" in our neighbour's official name. They preferred letting the issue fester.

Fast forward 15 years. Not surprisingly the issue has reached a critical point since the RoM is about to be accepted into NATO (and apply for eu membership). The Greek government vetoes this accession and suggests that talks be reestablished to renew discussion on the "name issue". They indicate (and by now the hysteria has somewhat washed off) that they would be willing to accept a geographical determination of the RoM (suggesting Northern or Upper Macedonia).

This would have been a deal 15 years ago, but now the RoM has been recognized by over 100 countries around the world with its constitutional name, and the current government is nationalist (the previous decade's wingnuts) and unwilling to come to any compromise (a stance which is backed by a majority of citizens in the RoM)... Thus the standstill, and thus while the Greek stance now seems reasonable it has subverted its legitimacy by its prior irresponsibility. Still a majority of Greeks, trained into intransigence a decade earlier, declare in polls that they wouldn't accept a term with the name "Macedonia" in it. The only party that holds this position today is the far-right LAOS - and that's not good news.

A note: And finally there's the more recent history of WW2 when the Slavic citizens of the region first allied with the Nazis and then Tito's Yugoslavia in attempts to render Greek Macedonia away from the Greek state
That's not exactly true: while some Macedonian Slavs sided with the Nazis, a large part joined and supported EAM, the communist resistance, and stayed loyal to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) even after the occupation, during the civil war. KKE supported cultural and autonomy rights of the Slavic Macedonians within Greece and the locals had certainly connections with the Yugoslav resistance up North. Interestingly KKE was forced to fight with some of its own radical Macedonian Slav units that looked towards union with Yugoslavia (in 1944 I think) and place the local troops under close party control (even before Stalin's break with Yugoslavia I note). After the communists' defeat, their Macedonian Slav members settled North of the border and were the only ones exempt from the reconciliation amnesty and right of the return and reparations that the socialists issued in the early 80s.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 01:02:07 PM EST
And why don't the Vardarians just accept Vardar as their official name? They have nothing whatsoever in common with Alexander's Macedonia. Why should Greece accept this imposter of a name, backed by a flag which belongs to the heritage of Alexander the Great... who had nothing whatsoever to do with the Vardarians?
by vladimir on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 03:12:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think the Greeks are that bizarre at all.
By Robert Marquand, The Christian Science Monitor, March 20, 2009 edition

2,300 years later, 'Alexander-mania' grips Macedonia


SKOPJE, Macedonia - As part of a stunning new homegrown ideology of history and identity based on Alexander the Great, this capital city's main square may soon boast a huge new statue of the ancient conqueror. Two years ago, the national airport was renamed after Alexander, infuriating Greece. In January, despite a recent Greek nixing of Macedonia's NATO bid over the airport name, the ruling nationalists here changed the name of its main roadway to Alexander of Macedon Highway. In Macedonia, it is becoming all Alexander the Great, all the time. Ahead of Sunday's presidential elections, the ruling party's Alexander ideology is seen as fantastic, even by Balkan standards.

In an intense media campaign, locals are told that ethnic Macedonians are the proud direct descendants of Alexander, and thus a people responsible for spawning the white race of planet Earth, from the Caucasus "to the seas off Japan," according to a public service spot on national TV.


For years, Greek demands were seen as cock-eyed and petty in diplomatic circles. Yet Macedonia has been losing sympathy as it roars out heritage claims on Alexander.


A poll last month showed that 97 percent of ethnic Macedonians favored staying out of the EU if it meant compromising on the name.


Indee, Macedonia's bold claim to be the taproot of Western civilization is daily media fare. Last summer, the government flew in members of Pakistan's Hunza tribe, considered lost descendants of Alexander, to tour the country. Startled and pleased Hunza were greeted at Alexander airport with flowers and treated like long lost cousins as they disported across the nation, cameras in tow.

Even "God" has gotten involved. A nine-minute TV ad starts with a petition from Macedonia to the heavens: "Our neighbors distributed thousands of books across the world, containing false history and portraying a wrong picture about Macedonia. ... Only you know our pain." The Almighty then responds: "From you, Macedonians, descendants of Macedon, I conceived the white race. All that stretches to the seas off Japan is conceived from your genes." Sinisa-Jakov Marusic, a columnist for Balkan Insight, cheekily observed, "So there you have it! What better proof than God himself?"


Alexander is considered one of the greatest military leaders of all time. Born in the Greek city of Pella in 356 BC, his conquests extended to most of his known world by the time of his death at age 32. He opened up Greek civilization from the Mediterranean to India, and is regarded as the first to link Europe, Asia, and Africa.

"Alexander was the captain general of all the Hellenes. He spoke Greek. He went to war on behalf of the Hellenes. No one in the ancient, medieval, or modern world has disputed this," says Michael Wood, a historian and British filmmaker who has produced a work on Alexander and has another in the making.

"The Macedonian state claim has no basis in history; it is a state-sponsored myth. I tell my Macedonian and Greek friends to ignore it," Mr. Wood adds.


by vladimir on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 03:09:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is a pretty amazing article. I've seen the gov't film run on television, and I wonder--despite the fact that the Greeks inflamed the issue a decade ago--if the political culture now north of the border is just too harrowing.
by Upstate NY on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 09:18:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's some more Alexander-related nuttiness for you.
by Gag Halfrunt on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 08:53:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're absolutely right about Greece screwing this issue up in the past. By 1995, Greece had signed the Interim Accord, and the issue laid low. The problem was 1992-1995.

When I talk about WW2 and the Civil War, I refer to all attempts o dismember Greek macedonia from the country, and that refers to the Bulgarian attempt (with some Macedonian help), and later the Yugoslavian attempt (with a lot of Macedonian help). As well, the KKE was totally conflicted when many Greek members saw that the Slavic influence was demanding secession from Greece. Few went along, but this was a huge wedge in the Communist movement. In fact, one wonders what would have happened if Greek Communists weren't from Yugoslavian Communists on the issue of Greek Macedonia. The whole history of the world might have changed were it not for that division, which the Royalists, the USA and the UK exploited.

by Upstate NY on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 03:33:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...if Greek Communists weren't divided from Slavic Communists...
by Upstate NY on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 03:41:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact, up until 1944 the region occupied by what is today referred to as FYROM was called Vardar - or Southern Serbia. It was Josip Broz Tito who gave the region the name Macedonia - mainly in order to spite Greece by giving Yugoslavia some type of "claim" to Greek Macedonia. This was probably part of his grand plan to create a Balkan Federation - which never made it off the drawing board.
by vladimir on Fri Mar 20th, 2009 at 03:06:53 PM EST
Macedonia existed as a name of the region before that, though perhaps not in Serbia - later Yugoslavia - that won most of the early 19th century region of Macedonia in the balkan wars.

Macedonia (region) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe whose area was re-defined in the early 20th century. There is no official recognition of these arbitrary delimitations, especially since they include territories of Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania that are not called "Macedonia". The region in question covers parts of five Balkan countries: Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and minor parts of Albania and Serbia, and covers approximately 67,000 square kilometers (km2) and a population of 4.76 million.

This arbitrary territory corresponds to the basins of (from west to east) the Aliákmon, Vardar/Axios and Struma/Strymon rivers (of which the Axios/Vardar drains by far the largest area) and the plains around Thessaloniki and Serres.

According to geographer H.R. Wilkinson, "it defies definition". Its current 'geographical' limits are nonhomogeneous - either ethnically or geographically - and they were established only in 1899, by the Greek cartographer C. Nicolaides for political purposes.

(With helpful map)

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 09:07:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think he's referring to the official name of the area that is now FYROM under Yugoslavia, and not the total area of Macedonia under the Ottomans.
by Upstate NY on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 09:21:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But a region can carry many names, especially as the name confers identity and guides power structures.

Serbian was one of the competing identities for the population of the region, and in light of that the decision to call it south serbian within Serbia and Yugoslavia utnil 1944 is no less of a political decision then to call it Macedonia afterwards.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 10:11:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with that.

I'm not saying, as some propagandists do, that the name was invented out of whole cloth in the mid 1940s. Not at all.

The historians I've read cite a distinctive Macedonian consciousness from the late 19th/early 20th centuries. This consciousness was itself political since the Slav Macedonian revolutionaries weer trying to carve out a space for themselves against their ethnic kin in Bulgaria and then against the Greeks. 50 years later, by 1944, that ethnogenic idea had already taken root. That being said, the term Macedonian was also in use for Greeks in the 19th century as well, to refer to Greeks and the ancient past.

You also have to acknowledge, however, that even though the Vardar region also may have had the name Macedonia attached to it unofficially prior to the mid 1940s, Tito changed its name to Macedonia for strategic reasons (namely, as a claim on Greek Macedonia). In fact, to this day, Macedonians refer to Greek Macedonia as Aegean Macedonia, which is a term linked to the "carving up" of Macedonia in the Balkan Wars. Never have I heard an official or a journalist or analyst ever refer to the Greek side as Greek Macedonia. This is a hangup from the renaming of the Vardar to Macedonia, and it just fuels the suspicions in Greece that the Macedonians cloak their aspirations for Greek territory.

by Upstate NY on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 10:48:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
namely, as a claim on Greek Macedonia
Well that and his project of adopting and subjecting all southern slav nationalisms to the Yugoslav idea. He would certainly have problems if he went against "macedonianism".

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 08:53:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And here I thought this was an article about the impact of financial derivatives on the (FYRO)Macedonian economy... :-P

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 06:00:12 AM EST
The Greeks are vital tools in risk management.

Without us Greeks, world finance would be fucked.

Oh wait.

by Upstate NY on Sat Mar 21st, 2009 at 09:23:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If one happens to think that the FYROM government is afraid of recognizing Kossovo's independence fearing Serbia's retaliations in spite of the 30% FYROM albanian minority,the question of the state name (Macedonia)should look like a secondary issue, the primary beeing Serbia (just think of Bosnia).      

by juliussodera (paologpensa@hotmail.com) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 06:38:52 AM EST
FYROM is not afraid of Serbia, it's afraid of its own Albanian minority.

You will find very few countries with separatist minorities have recognised Kosovo's independence.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 06:43:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Macedonia has already recognized Kosovo.
by Upstate NY on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 10:25:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Upstate NY on Sun Mar 22nd, 2009 at 10:26:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you tried to contact Spiegel about this? They should be made aware of the misrepresentation.

One reason is that the Bush White House had given Macedonia assurances that it would join NATO and the EU and that Greek objections would be overridden.

For NATO this might be Ok, but the idea that the White house can give assurances about EU accession is beyond ridiculous.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 08:44:44 AM EST
The USA talks to its partners in the EU all the time, and sometimes the Presidency of the EU is more in line with the USA than it is the EU (ex. Slovenia).
by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 11:27:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I wrote a note to Spiegel.

I'm friends with an ex-editor there, so I could probably ask her to contact, but really these articles about this "bizarre" problem are just more of the same. I'm not sure any Greek really expects anyone to get it right.

by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 23rd, 2009 at 11:29:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just came across some Macedonian Alexander nuttiness in a Guardian travel feature about travelling by train from London to Greece:
We cross into Macedonia, a country that has been forced to call itself the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia by its neighbouring state, the Former Ottoman Backwater of Greece.

Skopje station is a brutalist concrete monster, but soon after we are into lovely scenery as the line plunges into the gorge of the river Vardar. At Veles the motorbiking guard talks darkly of massacres and pogroms. "The communists killed everyone who was against them after the second world war, and buried them here."

We pass acres of polytunnels where tomatoes grow. There are peaches, nectarines and apples. "Macedonia is an antique country," he says proudly. "Our language is 8,000 years old. If Alexander the Great were here, I could chat to him."

"What about?" I enquire innocently.

He laughs cynically. "The Kosovar problem."

by Gag Halfrunt on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 08:27:18 AM EST
what is the world coming to?
by vladimir on Wed Apr 1st, 2009 at 04:05:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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