Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

A Requiem for a Dream: The Name Issue and the Accession of Macedonia to the EU

Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

A Requiem for a Dream: The Name Issue and the Accession of Macedonia to the EU

Article excerpt


This paper examines the role of the name issue between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece, as a factor ultimately defining the dynamics of the process of accession of the Republic of Macedonia to the European Union. The impact of the name issue as a decisive factor is identified during two key periods of the relations between the EU and the Republic of Macedonia. During the first period, the name issue caused a substantial delay in the process of international recognition of the Republic of Macedonia. As a result of this delay, Macedonia missed the most favorable moment for EU accession - the historic enlargements of 2004 and 2007. During the second period, the resolution of the name issue was imposed by the Council as an additional criterion (outside the Copenhagen criteria) for the start of accession negotiations, effectively blocking the accession of Macedonia to the European Union.

ince the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the Republic of Macedonia has shared a common dream with the overwhelming majority of Central and Eastern European countries - the dream of meeting the standards of the European Union and becoming a part of the united European family in the foreseeable future. The process of Macedonia's integration, however didn't go as smoothly within the EU as was initially hoped. As with other post-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Macedonia faced serious difficulties in the implementation of the political and economic reforms necessary for its transition towards democracy and a free-market economy. The regional context, marked by the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia, further complicated the already painful process experienced in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe. The decade of post-Yugoslav conflicts not only divided the countries of the region (eventually called the "Western Balkans"] from the rest of post-communist Central and Eastern Europe (including their Southeastern European neighbors, Bulgaria and Romania] in terms of security, stability, democratic consolidation and economic performance, but it also fragmented the region, severing the communication, economic and societal ties that existed during the Yugoslav era. (It would not be overstating the matter to say that some of these ties were even older, dating from Ottoman and Habsburg times.]

Unlike the other post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans, Macedonia has faced a very serious additional obstacle in its path towards European Union membership. This obstacle wasn't generated only by the already difficult process of political and economic transition (especially in the post-Yugoslav context], nor by the values and standards of the EU, which were often found to be just as difficult to adopt by other postcommunist candidate countries. Without underestimating the seriousness of the other objective difficulties and problems faced along the path towards EU membership (more or less experienced by the other candidate-countries], the most serious and decisive obstacle which has ultimately defined the dynamics of the process for Macedonia is one that has nothing to do with the standards and basic values of the EU. This obstacle is the refusal of the oldest EU member in Southeastern Europe - Greece - to accept the very name and identity of its neighbor - the Republic of Macedonia.

The essence of the name issue

Undoubtedly, the name issue has deep historical roots, stemming from the perceptions of both sides concerning their own history and identity. Still, it is a relatively new phenomenon, which surfaced as a foreign policy issue during the process of the dissolution of the Yugoslav federation and the consolidation of one of its constituent states, Macedonia, as a fully independent member of the international community.

In the context of the inevitable dissolution of the Yugoslav federation, the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia decided (on August 7, 1991 ] to hold a national referendum on the issue of the independence of the country. …

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