It is never an easy matter, to write down in a way accessible to non-Greeks something of the twists and turns of the Macedonian issue. Which has been moving quite a lot, as of lately.
To start from the last step, yesterday’s rally at Syntagma Square, in centre Athens: it was a massive rally, organized mainly by diaspora Greeks; it gave vocal support to those who oppose any talks of Greece with FYRoM over the latter’s name. Ever-popular composer Mikis Theodorakis addressed a large crowd, while religious authorities participated alongside Greek-American and Greek-Australian groups, with the central message “Macedonia is Greek”.
If a political sum-up can be drawn, there was a thinly veiled call for a referendum to be organised on the issue in Greece. Will this allow for any sort of negotiations to progress now between Athens and Skopje?
After almost one decade lost, the relations of Greece with its small (some 2 million people) and under-developed Northern neighbour – “The Republic of Macedonia” under its constitutional name (recognized as such by 134 countries, among which the U.S., Russia, China), “Skopje” for Greece, “the former Yougoslav Republic of Macedonia” as a provisional name in the U.N. – seemed at last to be taking a better turn. The new, Social-Democrat Government in Skopje made it seem that the mediation undertaken by Mathiew Nimetz (under a U.N. mandate) with Athens to enter a more positive phase. Athens looked willing to negotiate a new, composite name (including reference to “Macedonia”) provided other nationalistic-sounding issues would be solved amicably.
Now, “the day aftrer” the rallies will take some courage for any sort of negotiations to go on.
The crux of the matter will come when the issue of FYRoM being accepted to join NATO (in an effort to further stabilize the Western Balkans and stop Russian influence from spreading there) is debated in the Alliance in June; plus, when the overall Western Balkans issue is debated in an EU Summit in May. In both fora, EU and NATO, the unanimity rule gives Greece the upper hand – up to a point.