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What's In a Name?

WASHINGTON DC-- On July 10, 2003, AHI general counsel Gene Rossides sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in opposition to the U.S. bilateral agreement dated July 1, 2003 with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). FYROM was allowed to sign under the name “Macedonia.” The letter requested Secretary Powell to “reconsider the matter and seek a new agreement with the proper recognized name of “FYROM.” The agreement provides U.S. citizens in FYROM with immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) under Article 98.

The AHI reiterates that the internationally recognized name of the former Yugoslav country endorsed by the United Nations is “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and any use of the term “Macedonia” is not recognized under international law. The AHI letter underscores the political and economic implications that this action might have for U.S. interests and the maintenance of stability in the Balkans.

The AHI letter clarifies the historical use of the original Greek term “Macedonia” and underlines the importance of the issue to Greece, a U.S. strategic ally, friend and strategic key for the U.S. in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean.

For additional information, please contact Angeliki Vassiliou at (202) 785-8430 or at angeliki@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.

The text of the letter follows:

July 10, 2003

The Honorable
Colin L. Powell
Secretary of State
State Department
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20522

Dear Mr. Secretary:

On behalf of our nationwide membership, I write to express our strong opposition to the signing by the United States of a bilateral agreement on July 1, 2003 with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), in which FYROM was allowed to sign under the name "Macedonia." The agreement provides U.S. citizens in FYROM with immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) under Article 98.

It is surprising and disturbing that the U.S. ambassador to FYROM was authorized to accept the name "Macedonia" in this official document rather than the internationally recognized name of "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." As you know, the United States recognizes this entity as "FYROM" and we are supporting the United Nations backed negotiations for a settlement regarding the name issue that is acceptable to both Athens and Skopje.

In an attempt to clarify the issue, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "The U.S. formally recognizes Macedonia as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.' We continue to support the ongoing discussions between Greece and Macedonia under UN auspices on a solution acceptable to both sides on the name. Recognition policy remains where it was." In response to a journalist's questions regarding "an asterisk at the bottom of the page to identify who this is," Mr. Boucher replied, "I just did an asterisk.…That's what I just did."

While the asterisk may be helpful, we believe that proper protocol requires an agreement in which the signatory for FYROM is identified as signing for FYROM.

For the United States to accept any name other than "FYROM" in this agreement underscores our insensitivity regarding our good friend and ally, Greece. In fact, this action will only help to strengthen FYROM's intransigence in the negotiations for a bilaterally acceptable name. As FYROM's Prime Minister Branko Crvenkoski stated: "The signing of the agreement with the United States with the name Macedonia, constitutes a very significant development, which comes close to reaching the target we have set" with regard to international recognition of the country as the "Republic of Macedonia."

Mr. Secretary, it would appear by this action that the United States has violated the United Nations action endorsing the name of FYROM. Our action also gives the appearance of compromising our integrity for political expediency.

As reported by AP and AFP, "A senior State Department official said Washington was sensitive to Athens's concerns but Skopje had balked at signing the deal unless it was signed by diplomats representing 'the United States and Macedonia.' 'We wanted an Article 98 agreement and they wanted the name Macedonia,' the official said. 'We both got what we wanted.'"

This diplomatic decision is not in the best interests of the U.S. It harms our long-term interests in the Balkans and is a slap, whether intended or not, to our friend and ally Greece. It was a blunder. The State Department may want to make an internal inquiry as to how and why it happened.

Names have a powerful significance. They are used for territorial claims and interference in the internal affairs of one's neighbors. Any implied recognition of the Skoje regime under the name of Macedonia will prove destabilizing for the region and harmful to United States interests.

Macedonia is a Greek name in origin. Its use in Ancient Greece as the Kingdom of Macedonia of Philip II and Alexander the Great, even then denoted a region, not a nationality. Macedonians, like Athenians, Spartans, Laconians, Cretans, were Greeks.

The northern province of Greece, which borders FYROM, is Macedonia.

The usage of Macedonia as a nationality was an invention of Tito in 1944. Tito, the communist dictator of Yugoslavia, created a false Macedonian ethnic consciousness among his south Slavic citizens for a number of reasons, including his campaign against Greece to gain control of Greece's province of Macedonia and the main prize of the major port city of Thessaloniki. (See article by C.M. Woodhouse, in the Christian Science Monitor, October 28, 1992, p.19.)

The United States opposed the use of the name Macedonia by Tito in 1944 and we should continue to oppose it now. In a circular Airgram (Dec.26, 1944) Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., stated:

This Government considers talk of Macedonian "Fatherland," of Macedonian "national consciousness" to be unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against Greece.

The approved policy of this Government is to oppose any revival of the Macedonian issue as related to Greece.

Greece is of key importance to the national security interests of the United States as demonstrated time and time again in her support of the United States, the most recent with the war in Iraq. The Suda Bay NATO naval base in Crete is essential for the U.S. Sixth Fleet's projection of power in the Eastern Mediterranean, the U.S. Air Force base at Suda Bay, Crete, is of substantial value for the projection of U.S. air power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece authorized the use of these bases and overflight rights during the war on Iraq. Greece is the strategic key for the U.S. in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean.

FYROM is not of any significant importance to the national security interests of the United States.

Although I have not researched the matter, there may be an issue as to the legality of the agreement because FYROM signed under the name "Macedonia" which is not recognized internationally.

Therefore, Mr. Secretary, we respectfully request, in view of the above, that the U.S. reconsider the matter and seek a new agreement under the proper recognized name of "FYROM." The United States should never agree to improper demands by foreign governments.


Gene Rossides

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and its affiliate organizations, the American Hellenic Institute Public Affairs Committee (AHIPAC), the American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF), and the AHI Business Network, a division of the AHI, are working together under one roof, to provide a joint program for strengthening United States relations with Greece and Cyprus and within the American Hellenic community.