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So do the children squabble

Posted by Richard Saturday, November 06, 2004

While Arafat lies dying in a French hospital and the Mid-East is at the point of who knows what, and the US is poised to drive on Fallujha to clean out the insurgents, what is our government – i.e., the European Council in Brussels – getting all worked up about?

Well, as you might expect, it has something much more important on its mind: the "correct" name for the Republic of Macedonia

Formerly, a state within the Yugoslav Federation, the country acquired its independence in 1991 and proudly unveiled a constitution which instils democratic values and celebrates its multi-ethnic composition.

Built into the constitution was it name which drew immediate objections from its neighbour, Greece, which claimed that the new nation adopting the simple name Macedonia implied territorial claims over the Greek province of the same name.

As a temporary solution, in 1993 it was allocated the "official" name of the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", in order to gain the acceptance of the United Nations and the European Union,

However, in recognition of its consistent moves towards democracy, and for its support in the war in Iraq, the USA on Wednesday recognised Macedonia's preferred name, invoking the fury of the Greek Republic, which has even gone so far as to warn the US citizens in Greece of possible violent reaction.

The State Department, however, is unmoved, saying that the recognition was not done to spite Athens but simply to reward Skopje, "not something that's in any way directed at Greece."

Exhibiting the mature response that would be expected of a long-term member of the EU, the Greek government has now threatened to veto Macedonia's possible entry into the EU and NATO and has now called on its pals in the European Council to back it up.

And so it came to pass that, yesterday, taking time off from sorting out the rest of the world's problems, EU President, Jan Peter Balkenende, announced on behalf of the European Council that the EU would continue to refer to Macedonia as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

So much, of course, for the EU (and the UN for that matter) recognising the right to self determination of a democratic state, and its right to draw up its own constitution in its own way, according to the wishes of its peoples.

But then, for a group of nations whose governments are intent on signing away their own rights as they fall over each other in their haste to ratify the EU constitution, it is hardly surprising that little Macedonia's wishes are the least of their concerns. When did the EU ever worry about the democratic wishes of anybody?