Letter: Territorial disputes over Macedonia

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The Independent Online
Sir: Tony Barber ('A conflagration by any name', 10 July) draws attention to the way that Greece is destabilising Macedonia, the southernmost republic of the former Yugoslavia, which became independent earlier this year.

It is reminiscent of the way that the Colonels regime in Athens pressurised the democratic government of Cyprus, which culminated in its overthrow in 1974, followed by a Turkish invasion and the partition of the island.

This time Greece is a democracy and also a member of the European Community, yet one wonders about the maturity of its political elite when both the right- wing government and the left- wing Pasok opposition insist that Greece has exclusive rights to the term Macedonia and that its use by another state implies a claim on the Greek province of Macedonia.

At Greek insistence, the EC has withheld recognition from Macedonia even though its roving commission in the former Yugoslavia reported this January that it met the requirements for recognition. Instead of backing down before a government that is Slobodan Milosevic's only friend in the Community, should not the other 11 member states be reminding Athens that by signing the Treaty of Rome, she was identifying with the values associated with Franco- German rapprochement?

In the Ardennes, this century the scene of warfare just as bloody as that in the Balkans, Belgium has a province called Luxembourg but nobody assumes that this is part of a long-range bid to annexe the neighbouring Grand Duchy.

What are our sleep-walking diplomats doing when in the counsels of the EC Greece is allowed to get away with such dangerous self-

indulgence? Britain holds the EC presidency and it has a special responsibility to persuade Athens to come to its senses, not least because in 1974, it disregarded its treaty obligations to Cyprus by standing by when brigands overthrew the Makarios government; it is all documented in a most damning 1976 foreign affairs select committee report.

Let us pray that similar spinelessness is not displayed by our Foreign Secretary when he grapples, as he must, with a delinquent EC state whose actions threaten further tragedy in the Balkans.

Yours faithfully,


Bradford, West Yorkshire