Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bulgaria, Macedonia Wary as Serbs' War Grinds on PERSPECTIVES ON EASTERN EUROPE

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bulgaria, Macedonia Wary as Serbs' War Grinds on PERSPECTIVES ON EASTERN EUROPE

Article excerpt

`CAN the war spread?"

That apprehensive question by a correspondent from Sofia, Bulgaria referred to the tragic conflict over the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Yugoslav Army and Serbian troops continue to press their year-long land grab for a "greater Serbia" in the republic.

The "spread" - if it comes - would certainly involve newly independent Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as the now-independent state of Macedonia. Neighboring Bulgaria could scarcely be indifferent.

Macedonia has become again the potential flash point it so often was in a century of conflict among the Balkan nations of southeastern Europe. Macedonians and Bulgarians both fear that - once the Bosnian war is concluded to Serbia's satisfaction - the latter's eyes, under present leadership, will turn to Macedonia. If that comes about, there can be no doubt Bulgaria would be affected and the Balkans as a whole reduced to a conflict as tangled as the Balkan wars of 80 years ago.

There are good grounds for Macedonian misgivings so far. Having spurned the suggestion by Serbia's communist-nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic that it join a smaller "rump" Yugoslavia dominated by Serbs, Macedonia declared independence last November. It then sought the same international recognition secessionist Slovenia and Croatia gained last year.

Acceptance by the European Community seemed likely until Greece vetoed the move in January with a demand that EC recognition be conditional on Macedonia changing its name. The name implies a territorial claim, Athens says, since it belongs historically to Greece and today still belongs to its northern-most province.

But to non-Greeks as well as Macedonians, the idea is laughable that Macedonia - the poorest of old Yugoslavia's republics - might entertain territorial ambitions toward a well-armed NATO country. For Greeks, however, the name Macedonia goes back to the 4th century B.C. empire of Alexander the Great. Macedonia is as emotive a word for them as is Kosovo to the Serbs, whose outdated claim extends to that province because it was the scene of Serbia's "last stand" against the Turks 600 years ago. …

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