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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What A Difference A Few Words Make!

In an article about the FYROM conflict in the Ekathimerini, I came across the following quote: 

"Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras called on FYROM authorities to focus on 'serious problems... that have to do with the functioning of rule of law... respect for the principle of good-neighborly relations, and the country’s democratic deficit... rather than looking for scapegoats and blaming others for the impasse in their Euro-Atlantic perspective.'” 

I had to chuckle. What if the EU re-phrased this comment as follows: 

"The Eurogroup called on Greek authorities to focus on 'serious problems... that have to do with the functioning of the Greek state... respect for good collegial relations in the Eurogroup... and the country's financial deficit... rather than looking for scapegoats and blaming others for the impasse in their common currency perspective.'"

27 comments:

  1. It's quite true that Greece replicates the condescending tone of the EU in its dealings with the country called Republic of Macedonia, and whose name Greece has blocked for more than two decades. This is all about power politics, and nothing to do with any other realities.

    And both the EU and Greece are wrong in their conduct.

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    1. On the other hand, you must admit that what Greece wants from FYROM (basically a compound name like "Upper Macedonia") is far less hard to accept than what EU wants from Greece. It is not like there would be any consequences on the life of FYROM's citizens.

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    2. @ Alexiou at 3.51
      Is this correct? I thought Greece was objecting to any name which included the term "Macedonia".

      Incidentally, the book "Modern Greece" by Stathis Kalyvas, which I have quote a few times, has a section titled "What was the Macedonian conflict". Most interesting. A couple of sentences:

      "This Ottoman province, a mosaik of linquistic and religious groups, became ground zero for the irredentist goals of Serbia, Romania and, especially, Greece and Bulgaria. In its very essence, this was a conflict of the emergent Balkan states over the loyalties (willingly offered or coerced) of Macedonia's Christian population. Macedonia did not fit neatly into the competing Balkan nationalist narratives. Speaking a variety of local languages and largely illliterate, the rural population's loyalties were primarily tied to religion and locality rather than national categories associated with various Balkan states. A Greek activist, for example, observed about the local peasantry: "Whenever I asked them what they were - Romaioi (i. e. Greeks) or Voulgaroi (Bulgarians), they stared at me incomprehensibly. Asking each other what my words meant, crossing themselves, they would answer me naively: 'Well, we are Christians; what do you mean Romaioi or Voulgaroi?'" National identities, in other words, had yet to fully emerge and take hold of people's consciousness."

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    3. @Klaus. I presume that this is a quotation from Brailsford's 1905 book "Macedonia: its races and their future". I managed to buy a first edition (affordable) just two weeks ago. It is the most superlative scholarship and real research undertaken on the Ottoman region prior to Greek invasion. You might also read the Carnegie Commission Report on the Balkan Wars, which had Brailsford as a member of the international commission. Revealingly, the Greek government banned him from Greek territory (despite being a member of the commission) for his scholarly work on Macedonia that did not fit Greek political ideas. Similarly, the Serbs banned another member (a French scholar) from their territory..

      @Nico. Nobody (including the Greeks( has the slightest idea of what Greece wants with the name of the country. An old friend on mine in the European Commission was put in charge of the Rep. of Macedonia for accession negotiations, and he asked me angrily: "what is wrong with the Greeks and this country name? They are completely out of reason!"

      The sad truth is that Papandreou knew the dangers and kept away, at the end of his life, from the mess. The villain is Samaras, who created a stink over the name while he was in ND, formed a stupid new party called Political Spring which failed, then returned to ND to continue to fuck up Greece.

      Greece has always been the biggest investor in the country, and it is actually full of (real) Greeks, plus quite a few people born in the region when it was Bulgarian territory and are rather like the Ottomans described by Brailsford but they grew up in Yugoslavia. Moreover, before the nonsense of Samaras and his career started, the Slavs of the region were so pro-Greek, they even had a better opinion of Greece than Greeks ever did. Samaras and the other political idiots destroyed this positive image, and have got nothing in return. It is incompetent nationalist politics, of the same variety as led to the Asia Minor catastrophe. Samaras would have been a cheerleader for that invasion, if he had been born at an earlier time.

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    4. I had written a long post, but i always seem to have problems and it disappeared. So i will not write it again. I would advice you, if you want to learn history from all sides (greek historiographers and historians, mind you, different categories, are writing history to suit their political beliefs), you should read contemporary sources. It is very easy to pick a small piece of a mosaic and generalize (often without quoting source) for everything. I say this as general rule. A good place to read, is the archives of american newspapers (i think NYT has them) and this:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_history_of_Macedonia

      This way, you won't find yourself in a difficult position, if you happen to say your view to a greek who has read the original sources. I think that the above link should immediately show some conflicts with Kalyvas' blanket statement, if not anything else.

      Your knowledge about the greek position on the name dispute is very outdated.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macedonia_naming_dispute#Interim_accord

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    5. Mr. Kastner and Xenos, the current Greek position on the name issue is that the word "Macedonia" would be acceptable if accompanied by a geographic qualifier (as "Upper"). I really don't see what's so unreasonable about this. The way things are (everybody outside Greece referring to this country as mere "Macedonia"), we are being forced to abandon our own use of the word: I often have to use the generic term "Northern Greece" when talking to foreigners. It is not fair, it is not practical and, given the recent history and the problems of the region, it is not going to ease the tensions.

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    6. @Niko: the reason that the RoM does not agree to change its name is presumably (a) that is the name they had since Tito created the Yugoslav republics after WW2, so it is their modern history; (b) they adopted this name formally as an independent state in 1990, leading to the debacle with Greece and the ridiculous position within the UN and its provisional legal name of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (and not FYROM which only Greeks uses); and (c) they can see that Greece is now very marginalised within the international community and EU, and try to take advantage of it.

      The real issue is the incompetent political management of this at the appropriate time, the early-mid 1990s, and Samaras;s role in creating a massive problem out of a minor historical anomaly.

      It is not widely known that in the distant past there was a near-identical dispute between Britain and France. It was over the name "Britain" as a legal title, as it conflicted with Bretagne a region of France. The compromise reached was that the country (now the United Kingdom of Great Britain and NI) would be called Grande Bretagne (Great Britain) and the region would remain as Bretagne (Brittanny). Something similar could have been done with Macedonia, but the Balkan petty nationalistic squabbling took priority over diplomatic solutions.

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    7. So I suggest "Great Macedonia". But which of the two???

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    8. @Klaus. The Greek region should remain with the name Macedonia. But the problem with Great Macedonia is that it seems to imply the historical region of Macedonia, which excludes about 60% of the northern part of the Slavic country.

      In my personal opinion, the designation Republic of Macedonia has no conflict with Greece's region, has no automatic claim on the history of the region (which was Greek-speaking rather than Greek as such), and maintains continuity with the Yugoslav history.

      Of course, the nationalistic rhetoric of the new country makes claim to far too much concerning Alexander and other aspects of ancient history. On the other hand, the Greek position on this is also historically wrong: Athens and other city states were conquered by the Macedonians, so this country called Greece should really have been called Macedonia in 1832. It was not for several reasons: first was that Macedonia was still under Ottoman rule; second was that the West wanted to celebrate ancient Athens and its literary, political and philosophical heritage when they supported Greek independence. Even the name Greece is a western invention, which recently has been replaced by Hellenic (in English). The country has been Ellada or Ellas in Greek since independence.

      You see with this discussion how the country is caught up not in its own history, but with the West's ideas and demands about the country's history and identity. This has never gone away, and has implications for all foreign relations. However, this mistake with the Republic of Macedonia was a serious one. Greece should just accept the name, and put the whole thing down to bad political management.

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    9. I will definitely not get involved in opinionating about the Greece/FYROM conflict. That is far beyond my mental capacity!

      I had to chuckle when I read your differentiation between a region that is "Greek-speaking" but not "Greek as such". I try my best to believe that today's Greece is the only country in Europe where there have not been migration, mixture of genes, etc. in the last couple of millennia. In other words, the Greeks of today are direct successors of the ancient Greeks, pure and homogeneous. But then there are those who believe, as many Nazis did, that Alexander the Great was actually an Aryan...

      Ever since I started reading books about Greece's history, I have been asking myself the question what the 'just' territory of Greece really was. I guess most, if not all, European countries have a more or less 'just' territory. I guess the territory of Greece has evolved around the themes of where Greek was spoken (regardless of ethic origin), where people shared the Christian-Orthodox religion and where the intellectual ellites remembered Hellenic culture.

      An eye-opener to me was Mark Mazower's book about Thessaloniki, the "City of Ghosts", because I had thought that Thessaloniki was a classic Greek city. Well, if Mazower is to be believed, Thessaloniki was the opposite of a homogenous city. Arguably the most cosmopolitan city in the world. There were equal thirds of Greeks, Muslims and Jews, and the Greeks may even have been the smaller third. And prior to the population exchange, Greeks were in a minority in what is today Macedonia (about45%).

      Given the territory with which modern Greece started in 1832, Greeks have done extremely well for themselves since then. But I can't follow what the difference is between regions where Greek is spoken and regions where "Greeks as such" live. Fiorina is a Greek city, isn't it?

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    10. The only Greek-speaking people who were not considered ethnic Greeks were those who had been Islamized during the Ottoman period (and, therefore, had become "Turks"). On the other hand, some non-Greek speaking minorities (like Arvanites) did become part of the Greek nation before fully adopting the Greek language. But those were only temporary exceptions. Speaking Greek has always been an integral part of Greek identity.

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    11. @Klaus. You are right that this debate requires a lot of knowledge (not so much intelligence, though). The whole idea of the nation-state is historically new, and comes from northern Europe. It does not suit the Balkan region, for clear historical reasons which predate the Ottoman period but were further cemented by that occupation of 400 years or more.

      I do not accept the ludicrous nonsense of Greek racial purity going back to the classical period, and there is plenty of genetic research showing that the Greek population is as diverse as anywhere else, has the highest proportion of Arabic and African genetic material in Europe, and is regionally also very different. In other words, genetically there is no such thing as a Greek.

      That brings me to the question about Greek speaking versus Greek identity. First, throughout the Ottoman period most educated people spoke Greek: that did not make them Greek. Secondly, there was a sizeable proportion of people who self-identified as Greek but were Islamic -- especially on Crete. There was also a large number of Christians in Turkey who did not speak Greek, or spoke a version that was incomprehensible to Greeks in Greece. Speaking Greek was not a sufficient criterion for being identified with the new Greek kingdom, which is why many of the revolutionaries could not speak Greek. Many were Albanophones -- and until about 1900 the Greeks were insisting that all Albanians were really Greeks, and the territory that eventually became Albania should be part of Greece. In 1922, the Exchange of Populations used religion as the criterion for relocating Christians to Greece and Muslims to Turkey. The problem with Bulgarians was that they too were Orthodox Christians; and if they spoke both Greek and Bulgarian, their national identity was actually negotiable.

      So, Greek-speaking did not correlate well with being Greek. The traditional classical idea is that a Greek is one who has had a Greek education: that is why Alexander's father, who spoke Greek, was not accepted as a Greek. Alexander was taught by Aristotle, and accepted fully as a Greek for that reason alone.

      You can read my discussion of some of the modern issues about Greekness, ethnicity and migration here: http://www.mmo.gr/pdf/publications/other_publications/migrance31Abd.pdf

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    12. Sorry Niko: you are just wrong.

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  2. Both quotes seem only a matter of perspective, but:
    .
    The majority of the Euro countries and the rest of the world only reads what the EU wants them to read. What Greece has to tell is left out completely, framed, or at best a side quote. As with all EU things we are mass manipulated in a mindset the EU wants us to be in.
    .
    The Euro creates unsolvable serious social problems;
    The Euro creates a democratic deficit, Greek parliament is not allowed by the EU to make decisions. Normally that would be caled imposed dictatorship;
    The Euro group scrutinize and force Greece which are not good-neighbourly ways;
    The Euro countries aided by the EU willingly created problems for countries to impose their pre-cooked "solutions" which are no solutions but steps toward a totalitarian system.
    .
    Bottom line is that the EU brought nobody prosperity except a handfull of poiticians, lobbyists and CEO's of multinationals. Everybody else just pays deerly for for nothing but negative impact.
    .
    Everything good in Europe comes from the EEG, the trade Union which has nothing to do with the EU or Euro. By clinging to the Euro in this aggressive threatening dictator-like way the EEG will be compromised.
    .
    Let Greece leave the Euro nicely and save the EEG (the only good thing created in Europe)

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    1. What Greece has to tell is left out completely? Well, FinMin Varoufakis has told about his Blueprint for Greece and some fellow economists from the rest of the world have commented.

      http://www.politico.eu/article/varoufakis-puzzles-economists-with-abstruse-lecture/

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    2. @kleingut,
      .
      You quoted me the wrong way. I wrote: "What Greece has to tell is left out completely, framed, or at best a side quote."
      Generally that is te case with this issue.

      Everybody good in financials knew beforehand that the Euro would fail.
      It was even meant to fail. When it failed prepared solutions would be punt in place which under a proper democracy could not have been implementend. That is the way the EU operates from the beginning. Undemocratic and with deception.
      .
      It is time to end the Euro failure swiftly and peacefully and save what is left of goord-neighbour relations and the EEG (which is not the EU or the Euro but a seperate thing)

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    3. Did the Euro fail?
      Or did simply Greece fail to live with the conditions of a hard-money-currency?
      I see the second happening, not the first.

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    4. To Roger:

      The euro did not fail. There were and still are problems within the blueprints but can not be considered a failure nor a success.

      As for Greece. Yes we have failed in many aspects unfortunately. We are as divided as our ancient forefathers were. Just a complex mess. Ofcourse we will survive and move on but it is our curse/privelage to always be as we are. Where our failure is attributed to, requires analysis by a conglomerate of university professors researching for an extended period of time.

      Regardless though of the hatred we have acquired by our fellow european citizens, i am still proud of my heritage with both good and bad aspects of who we are.

      As for the FYROM issue, it can not be discussed in a blog, although (Xenos) has a good summarization of thoughts. Personally, the secific part of Yugoslavia, should have been split by three surrounding countries. Albania, Greece and Bulgaria. More specifically as Macedonia as a whole not by language or people were a hellinistic (Greek) city state. But that would never happen. And as such the the name should be Upper/Northern/Slavo Macedonia. In the end we will fck that up too and they will be called Macedonia. The irony will be that in 50 years from now they will request to annex northern greece which is southern macedonia.

      Sincerely,
      V

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    5. @V: I agree that the name Northern Macedonia would have been ideal, in the early 1990s. But Greece (and Samaras specifically) played nationalistic political games instead of solving the problem. Now is too late for Greece to impose a name.

      I also agree about the dangers of the nationalistic rhetoric of the Republic of Macedonia and their claims to northern Greece down to the Aegean Sea (basically, the part of northern Greece that was occupied by Bulgaria in World War 1). This was the thing that Greece was entitled to resist with anger and aggression -- not the blanket exclusion of the word Macedonia from the country's formal name.

      It is really nothing more than political incompetence -- not so different from the eurozone mess that Greece is now in.

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    6. Agreed Xenos,
      There is alot of incompetence out there, or maybe there is a lack of logic or fear to take hard decisions. Not just in greece but everywhere. unfortunately the weakest links always break first. Greece is that link.
      Sincerely,
      V

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  3. "Greek parliament is not allowed by the EU to make decisions". What nonsense!

    If the Greek parliament decides to give all Greeks a new car, why not? They can do that, but then they also will have to find the money to finance such a scheme. Where's the problem?

    If the parliament decides to hire 500 000 new civil servants or cleaning ladies, fine. Again ... they will have to find the money to finance that. Where's the problem?

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    1. That is no nonsense.
      Remember that the EU put a Greek parliament out of power. The parliament was replaced by the EU with un-elected officials.
      Some of the puppets had a banking background and fraudeulently operated for the EU before.

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    2. Not quite so. If the greek goverment says to give a new car, the troika will say "no, we don't like this and we will not give you a loan tranche, so you will default. Do you still want to give a car?".

      This is how things go. Just like now the whole impasse between SYRIZA and the EU is about the famous "reform" of "how much to cut the pensions" and "how much to raise the VAT". One could argue that these aren't really reforms, but rather means of internal devaluation. But, for the media's sake, let's call them reform. They sound better to the ear and to the masses.

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  4. "Remember that the EU put a Greek parliament out of power. The parliament was replaced by the EU with un-elected officials."

    Yeah, yeah ... and the country was sprayed with chemicals by the EU to sedate the Greeks to accept austerity measures.

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  5. There are many reasons not to give them cars.
    They are lousy drivers, they will complain about the size and brand, they will demand that you to pay the petrol and repairs, there is too much traffic as is, they will claim money compensation to those without driving license, they will demand more EU funds for roads, they will demand their share of the bulk price reduction.
    And finally, they have enough, car sales have gone up for the last 20 months. With April 15 increase of 47%. See that's what I call humanitarian crises.

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  6. If the time and efforts spent on this ridiculous naming question would have been invested in a modernization of the Greek administrative infrastructure, all economic problems could have been solved.

    H.Trickler

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