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AHI Sends Letter to The New York Times Regarding Editorial on “Macedonia”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Nick Larigakis
April 7, 2008—No. 24 (202) 785-8430

AHI Sends Letter to The New York Times Regarding Editorial on “Macedonia”

WASHINGTON, DC—On April 4, 2008 AHI Executive Director, Nick Larigakis sent a letter to the Editor of The New York Times, in response to an on-line editorial titled, “Shame On Greece: Messing With Macedonia” (April 3, 3008) and urged The New York Times to support the U.S.’s long-time and loyal ally, Greece.

The text of the letter can be found below.

April 4, 2008

Letter to the Editor 
New York Times.com

Dear Editor:

On behalf of the nationwide membership of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) I write to strongly protest your editorial “Shame On Greece: Messing With Macedonia.”

Who’s messing with whom?

  • In declaring its independence in (1992), didn’t FYROM choose to name itself in the most provocative way possible?
  • Is it proper for a country which is part of a region to define itself in an official manner as representing the whole region?
  • Didn’t communist dictator Tito change this region from Vardar Banovina to “Macedonia” in December 1944 to create a false Macedonian ethnic consciousness for a number of reasons, including his campaign against Greece to get control of Thessaloniki? And didn’t Secretary Stettinius denounce Tito’s actions as aimed at Greece?
  • Doesn’t FYROM continue to provoke Greece by actions such as distortion of geographic maps, naming its airport “Alexander
  • the Great,” revisionist textbooks in schools, and inflammatory comments by top government officials, which encourage new generations in FYROM to cultivate hostile sentiments against Greece?

On February 6, 2008, I attended at a roundtable discussion, hosted by the German Marshall Fund in Washington, DC. The featured speaker was FYROM’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Milososki. I asked him to explain how his government reconciles these provocative actions. He declined to offer any defense to my assertions.

Leading up to the NATO Summit, Greece, in a serious shift in policy accepted a number of proposals from UN mediator Nimetz, as a basis for discussion. Unfortunately, the editorial failed to state that this gesture was not reciprocated from FYROM.

Clearly, the U.S. has important interests in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. The projection of U.S. interests in the region depends heavily on the stability of the region. Therefore, the U.S. has an important stake in fostering good relations among neighboring countries in the region.

Greece is of vital importance and the key country for the projection of U.S. strategic interests in the region by virtue of among other factors, its geographic location and its very important naval and air bases in Crete. This sentiment has been expressed several times by our government in the past few years, by President Bush and Secretary Rice.

Stability in the Balkans is not only critical for overall U.S. interests, but also because it serves the interests of every country in the Balkans.

Greece is by far the most economic and politically stable country in the Balkans. It is also the largest investor in the Balkans and in FYROM.

However, the continuing intransigent and provocative actions by the government of the FYROM against its neighbor, Greece, poses a potential threat to stability in the Balkans, to the detriment of U.S. interests.

It is significant that Greece was supported in Bucharest by leading European countries, France, Italy, and Spain and that Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, viewed with understanding Greece’s arguments.

On this issue the NYT should support our long-time and loyal ally, Greece, who is our most important strategic partner in the region and the key country for stability in the region.

The editorial board should be advocating for the U.S to use its influence to bring the proper pressure to bear on FYROM to negotiate in good faith the name issue that satisfies both countries and to cease its provocative actions against Greece. Only in this way will the interests of all parties be satisfied.

Respectfully yours,

/S/

Nick Larigakis 
Executive Director

 

Below is a copy of The New York Times on-line editorial as it appeared on April 3, 2008.

Shame On Greece: Messing With Macedonia
By The Editorial Board 
The New York Times 
April 3, 2008

The Macedonians walked out of the NATO summit on Thursday and we can’t say we blame them.

Croatia and Albania were granted membership in the western alliance at a leaders’ meeting in Bucharest, but Macedonia was barred for an absurd reason: Greece doesn’t like its name.

That decision shames Greece and it dishonors NATO, which has far more serious problems and challenges to worry about.

The name “Macedonia,” is shared by the former Yugoslav republic and by northern Greece. From the moment the former-Yugoslav Macedonia declared independence in 1991, the Greeks—reflecting byzantine Balkan politics—vehemently objected to the new state’s use of a name and symbols they regard as theirs.

As a result, the United Nations provisionally designated the country as “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”—or, rather uneuphonically: FYROM.

Athens has since normalized relations and many countries, including the United States, have abandoned the clumsy FYROM in favor of Republic of Macedonia, which is what Macedonia calls itself.

A United Nations mediator tried to work out a compromise but in the end, Greece—a NATO member since 1952—exercised its veto. The alliance operates on consensus.

Tiny Macedonia doesn’t threaten Greece under any name. In fact, bringing it into the NATO fold would enhance regional stability. Now, there are concerns Macedonia’s failure to gain alliance membership could fan nationalism and anti-Western sentiment as well as jeopardize its ability to join the European Union.

President Bush and European leaders should have worked harder at finding a solution to this corrosive problem before Greece exercised its veto.

Now they must ratchet up the pressure on Greece to achieve that compromise so that NATO’s insult to Macedonia is reversed as quickly as possible.

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For additional information, please contact AHI at (202) 785-8430 or pr@ahiworld.org. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site athttp://www.ahiworld.org.