New York – By Apostolis Zoupaniotis
The Bush Administration threw on Friday another punch at Greece and the Greek American Community, by accepting the state Skopje as a continuation of the old Kingdom of Macedon and Alexander the Great. A “background Note on Macedonia”, issued on November 26, by the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs of the U.S. Department of State says that “Throughout its history, the present-day territory of Macedonia has been a crossroads for both traders and conquerors moving between the European continent and Asia Minor. Each of these transiting powers left its mark upon the region, giving rise to a rich and varied cultural and historical tradition.
“The ancient territory of Macedon, continues, included, in addition to the areas of the present-day Macedonia, large parts of present-day northern Greece and southwestern Bulgaria. This ancient kingdom reached its height during the reign of Alexander III (“the Great”), who extended Macedon’s influence over most of Asia Minor, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and even parts of India…”
In addition, the Department of State accepts the existence of a Macedonian language and ethnicity. According to the background note, the population distribution of “the Republic of Macedonia” is, “Macedonian 64.18%, Albanian 25.17%, Turkish 3.85%, Roma 2.66%, Serb 1.78%”.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney told Greek News that “Macedonia is Greek and whoever distorts that, distorts history”.
In Greece many prominent political figures reacted angrily to the report, exposed by Alpha Television Station, while the government tried to keep the tones down. A Greek Foreign Ministry Source told Greek News that “Oliver Stone’s movie Alexander the Great gives the right answers to those claiming that Alexander the Great and the Kingdom of Macedon were not Greek”, while Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, in a new letter sent to President Bush, asks the United States to interfere at the negotiating process on the name.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell received last Monday letters signed by numerous key United States Senators and Members of Congress expressing their extreme displeasure with the recent U.S. decision to now refer to FYROM as the `Republic of Macedonia.’ We are quite pleased with the outcome of this CEH-supported effort, which was initiated on November 4, when this new U.S. policy was announced,” said CEH leaders.
Seventy Members of Congress, representing all parts of the country and all ideological perspectives, expressed their great concern with the “sudden, unilateral departure from the long-standing US, UN, EU and NATO policy regarding FYROM,” and called on the State Department to “return to the long-standing policy of referring to FYROM as such.” They emphasized that this “counterproductive” action “contradicts the historical facts about Macedonia and unnecessarily injures the culture of our faithful ally, Greece,” and “interferes with the very successful efforts of our long-time ally, Greece, to bring economic prosperity to FYROM and bring peace and stability to the Balkans.”
These influential U.S. policy-makers stressed that, “this is more than an issue of a name for the Greek people. As you may recall, over 50,000 Greek-Americans attended a May 31, 1992 memorial service in Washington, D.C. for the 42,000 Greek citizens who lost their lives when this part of the former Yugoslavia first tried to create a `Macedonia’ nation. When those lives were lost, our Secretary of State, Edward Stettinius, Jr., called `talk of a Macedonian nation…unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality” and “a cloak for aggressive intentions against Greece.’”
In conclusion, they strongly urged the administration to, “work hard to assure that no other UN countries break with this UN policy and to strongly support, as Archbishop Demetrios has requested, UN-sponsored efforts to reach a solution on the name that is acceptable to both the people of Greece and FYROM.”
In addition, 11 U.S. Senators signed a letter to Secretary Powell also expressing their deep concern with this new U.S. policy, calling it “ill-advised and ill-timed” and urging the Secretary to “reconsider this decision.”
“We would like to thank those who were the prime sponsors of these letters in the U.S. Congress – Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), members of the House International Relations Committee, and Representatives Mike Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the co-chairs of the Hellenic Caucus; as well as Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Below is a list of the 70 Members of Congress and 11 Senators who signed these letters to Secretary Powell.
“I am deeply disappointed that the Bush administration went against prior U.S. policy by unilaterally recognizing FYROM as Macedonia before talks were completed among the nations most directly affected by the outcome,” Maloney said. “It’s interesting that they waited until just after the election for this November surprise. This imprudent action by President Bush is harmful to Greece, harmful to U.S. interests in the Balkans, and harmful to the international process underway for determining an appropriate and non-threatening outcome for the future name of FYROM.”