Tuesday 28 July 2009

Errata in Craig Witlock’s Article: Another Rift between Greece, Macedonia

Craig Witlock’s articles in the Washington Post, Another Rift Between Greece, Macedonia Both Lay Claim to Alexander the Great, of July 28th is hardly an objective piece of reporting.

I find it highly questionable, for instance, that Mr. Witlock refers to no less than 6 pro-FYROM sources in the article (Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki; President Gjorge Ivanov, opposition leader Menduh Tachi; Todor Petrov, president of the World Macedonian Congress; Pavle Voskopoulos, leader of the pro-“Macedonian” Rainbow Party; and Mr. Pasko Kuzman, the FYROM’s Director of Cultural Heritage), versus only only pro-Greek source: Deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Valinakis. This is hardly an objective or balanced composition of sources, and I wonder at the validity of the Washington Post’s editorial policy that allowed this.

Beyond this, there are a number of salient facts which are omitted, while other crucial misrepresentations—not to say, propaganda—are accepted as fact:

1. In contrast to the avowed peaceful intentions expressed by the FYROM side, a number of maps, textbook content and speeches in FYROM have made reference to a “Greater Macedonia.” This refers to a Slavic-speaking “Macedonian” political entity which includes parts of the Greek province of Macedonia, including the city of Thessaloniki, as well as parts of Bulgaria. While these had their origin in Tito’s Yugoslavia, and were in part a Soviet attempt to destabilise Greece during the Greek Civil War, their continuation in FYROM on a number of instances since 1991 are regrettable.

2. The argument that Greece is destabilising the region by refusing FYROM entry into NATO is disingenuous, and incorrect. The conflict between the Slavic majority and the Albanian minority in FYROM is an internal matter, and stems from the government’s treatment of the Albanian minority in the recent past. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Greece, or NATO. The article neglects to mention that Greece supported the NATO peacekeeping force in FYROM, and that it has made its general support for FYROM’s entry—subject to a mutual resolution of the name issue—a matter of public record. The article also fails to note that Greece has publicly supported the candidacies of Bulgaria, Romania and other Balkan countries to both NATO and the European Union.

3. Historically speaking, Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II of Macedon, spoke a dialect of Doric Greek. There are over 6,000 inscriptions, epigraphs, coins and other artefacts in museums all over the world as well as the archaeological sites of Pella or Vergina which attest to this. The citizens of FYROM speak an entirely different language, which could be termed “Slavic”. There is absolutely no historical continuity between the Hellenic/Hellenistic culture and influence of the ancient Kingdom of Macedon, and the current state of FYROM.

4. Whether or not the government of Greece recognises the existence of ethnic minorities within its borders is besides the point. In fact, minorities are recognised in Greece, as national policies regarding the Roma or ethnic-Turkish minorities indicate. But this has literally nothing to do with the attempt to create a “Macedonian” cultural identity based on Alexander the Great that is currently taking place in FYROM, or the naturally opposing reaction of that country’s ethnic Albanian minority.

The policy of Greece is to negotiate with FYROM until a mutually-acceptable, exclusive name is found: This has been the Greek position for over 15 years now, and has been clearly and repeatedly expressed by successive governments. Greece joined NATO in 1951, and the EU in 1981, and has made major contributions to both organisations. I see no reason why both Greek policy and history should be challenged or indeed misrepresented in an article which is so biased and one-sided, unless of course the Washington Post has decided to change its long-standing journalistic and editorial policy.

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