Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UN Recognition of Macedonia Is Key to Restraining Serbs

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

UN Recognition of Macedonia Is Key to Restraining Serbs

Article excerpt

EUROPE and the United States would do well to follow up the United Nations General Assembly's expulsion of Serbia and Montenegro by recognizing Macedonia.

It is the only breakaway, independent Yugoslav republic the West has yet to recognize. Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina have been and are now seated in the UN.

Serb reactions to expulsion from the UN may well be to hasten what has been feared likely all year: Serbia could resume an effort to force Macedonia into its rump federation.

Any such move would surely provoke Macedonia's already restive 400,000 Albanians to revolt. This in turn would surely ignite an explosion in Serb-controlled Kosovo, where 90 percent of the population is Albanian. Then the whole Balkan region could be drawn into the conflict.

Macedonia's recognition has been blocked all year by Greece, which objects to the republic's calling itself Macedonia. Yugoslav Macedonians, the Greeks argue, are Slavs without cultural or historical background on which to claim the name.

The "Macedonian question" is a longstanding one which has kept classical scholars in the West as well as in Athens and Skopje, the capital of Yugoslav Macedonia, busy with debate for a century, for example, as to whether Alexander the Great (who died in 323 BC) was Greek.

The conservative, nationalist government in Athens is precarious and says if it yields on the issue of Macedonia, it will fall.

The government in Skopje has similar problems. It is a coalition of three parties - rightist, Social Democrat, and Albanian - each with strong nationalist feelings about Macedonia.

Apart from Albanians, most Macedonians are Muslim. Recent reports of Serb "ethnic cleansing" of Muslims in the Sendjak region in south Serbia immediately stirred their fears. Sendjak's Muslims have already experienced discrimination in education, jobs, and religious intolerance. …

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