US Reference to 'Macedonia' Spurs Protest
Washington (Athens News)--What's in a name? The seeds of a diplomatic protest, if the name is Macedonia. That's the way the United States referred to the Former Republic of Yugoslavia in an agreement signed this week under which the small Balkan nation agreed to exempt US personnel from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. And that ticked off Greece, which is protective of the historic name of the Greek province that was the homeland of Philip and Alexander the Great.
Greece insists on calling the country alongside its border that spun off from Yugoslavia 'the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia', and the State Department usually complies, avoiding a tiff with a friend and NATO ally.
But the White House slipped up in its waiver agreement, and as a result Foreign Minister George Papandreou wrote a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, asking for an explanation.
Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic normalized relations in 1995. They have held talks since then on the name issue, without reaching a settlement.
The use of the name 'Macedonia' in the agreement does not reflect a change in US policy, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on July 2.
"That's the informal name we used in the agreement," he said in response to a Greek correspondent's questions at the daily State Department news briefing. "Recognition policy remains where it was," Boucher said.
If that is so, the reporter asked, why was there no asterisk at the bottom of the page of the agreement that identified the country as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
"I just did an asterisk," the spokesman replied. "That's what I just did."