Foreign relations of the Republic of Macedonia

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International disputes

Naming dispute with Greece

The Republic of Macedonia (also "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" in foreign relations) is in dispute with Greece over its use of the name "Macedonia".

The Republic contains roughly 38% of the area and nearly 44% of the population of the geographical region known as Macedonia, while the remainder is divided between neighbouring Greece (with about half of the total) and Bulgaria (with under a tenth).

Greece objected to Yugoslavia's use of the name "Macedonia" to name its southernmost constituent republic. When that republic declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and then used ancient name and symbols that Greece considers Hellenic, the Greek government protested and deterred international recognition of the new country. The contentious issues have been:

  • The name: Macedonia was claimed to be a Greek name, already in use for the Greek region of Macedonia.
  • The flag: the sixteen-ray "Vergina Sun" star that was to appear on the flag was a symbol of the ancient state of Macedon, to which Greece claimed to be the sole heir. (For more on this, see Vergina.)
  • The constitution: a reference in Article 49 to the Republic caring "for the status and rights of those persons belonging to the Macedonian people in neighboring countries, as well as Macedonian expatriates, assist[ing] their cultural development and promot[ing] links with them," which Greece interpreted as encouraging separatism among its own Macedonian Slav minority.

To compromise, the United Nations recognised the state under the name of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM) in 1993.

Greece was still dissatisfied and it imposed a trade blockade in February 1994. The sanctions were lifted September 1995 after the Republic of Macedonia changed its flag to an eight-ray sun and not the Vergina Sun, changed the constitution to state explicitly that "The Republic of Macedonia has no territorial pretensions towards any neighboring state".

The two countries agreed to normalize relations but the state's name remains a source of local and international controversy. The usage of each name remains controversial to supporters of the other.

After the state was admitted to the United Nations under the FYROM name, other international organisations adopted the same convention, including the European Union, the European Broadcasting Union, NATO and the International Olympic Committee, among others. Most diplomats are accredited to the republic using the FYROM designation.

Conversely, at least 20 countries have recognised the country by its constitutional name – the Republic of Macedonia, rather than FYROM. These include the United States (in November 2004), Russia, the People's Republic of China, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, the Philippines, Malaysia, and others.

Matthew Nimitz, UN Special Representative for the country, has suggested using "Republika Makedonija-Skopje" (spelled as shown, untranslated) for official purposes. Greece did not accept the proposal outright, but characterized it as "a basis for constructive negotiations". Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski rejected the proposal and counterproposed a "double formula" where the international community uses "Republic of Macedonia" and Greece uses "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". [1] ([2] (

A permanent agreement on how the republic should be referred to internationally has not yet been reached.

Boundary with Serbia

February 2001 agreement with Serbia and Montenegro settled alignment of boundary, stipulating implementation within two years.

Issues with the Albanians

The Albanian government calls for the protection of the rights of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia while continuing to seek regional cooperation.

Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo resist demarcation of the Macedonia-Serbia and Montenegro boundary in accordance with the 2000 delimitation treaty, which transferred a small amount of land to Macedonia.

Issues in the relations with Bulgaria

Bulgaria was the first country to recognize the independence of the Republic. Bulgaria has however refused to recognise the existence of a separate Macedonian nation and a separate Macedonian language. This leads to some complications when signing treaties between both countries. It is argued that the Macedonian language is merely a dialect of Bulgarian and the Macedonian Slavs are Bulgarians. Bulgaria gives the Slavs in the Republic the right to obtain Bulgarian citizenship and about 10% of them have already taken advantage of this. A big part of the population of Bulgaria believes that lands, population, traditions, language of the Republic are historically Bulgarian.

The Republic has very good relations with Bulgaria in the political, economic and military spheres. The governments of the two countries work to improve business relations. Bulgaria also supports entry of the Republic in European structures. Bulgaria has also donated tanks, cannons and military technology to the Army.

Illicit drugs

The country is a major transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin and hashish. It is also a minor transit point for South American cocaine destined for Europe.

Although most criminal activity is thought to be domestic and not a financial center, money laundering is a problem due to a mostly cash-based economy and weak enforcement (no arrests or prosecutions for money laundering to date).

See also

External links


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